Stuttgart vs. Borussia Dortmund: 6 Things We Learned
Borussia Dortmund overcame a two-goal deficit on Saturday, beating Stuttgart 3-2 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
The relegation-battling hosts had a dream start, with Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik each scoring in the opening minutes. But Marco Reus pulled one back on the half-hour mark and completed his hat-trick in the second half to lift BVB to victory.
Especially given the nature of the result, there were many take-home messages from Saturday's action. Click on for a rundown of the major talking points.
Marco Reus: Ready for Real Madrid
Dortmund take on Real Madrid on Wednesday in what is being billed as a rematch of the 2012-13 Champions League semifinals. The accuracy of that billing is debatable—given how few BVB players from last season's tie will play against Real—but in any case, one player who gave Real's defense nightmares will be on hand this week: Marco Reus.
Reus, who opened the scoring at the Bernabeu in the group stage last year, has struggled with injuries as of late but proved he's fully fit with a virtuoso display in Stuttgart, netting all three of his team's goals. The 24-year-old was also on target in Hannover a week ago, which gives him four goals in three games since returning from a muscular ailment.
BVB's hopes of success against Real rest heavily on the performance of their world-class star. To their good fortune, the Germany international appears ready to give his all at the Bernabeu.
The Kirch Experiment Has to End
There is something to be said for "automatism"—the term Jurgen Klopp uses for the ideal play of his midfield. But this automatism cannot be valued over all other things, particularly class.
Dortmund indeed have few options in central midfield, and as a result, Oliver Kirch made a rare start on Saturday. The 31-year-old also played 90 minutes in Hannover a week ago and came off the bench in Freiburg.
He has been a Dortmund player for the majority of two seasons and by now is well-acquainted with Klopp's system. But that doesn't make him a great player. On Saturday, a minute after he won the ball before passing to precisely no-one, the ex-Kaiserslautern man inadvertently played a well-weighted through-pass to Christian Gentner for Stuttgart's opener.
Kirch later was fortunate not to be red carded after already once being booked, and he was substituted on the hour mark.
Although he only has been a Dortmund player since the end of January, surely Milos Jojic must be a better option to play in defensive midfield. Klopp would be wise to consider the Serb, who has an abundance of class and potential—if not yet automatism—to offer.
Erik Durm: Curb Your Expectations
Since Marcel Schmelzer was sidelined with his third muscular tear of the season, Erik Durm has been deputized at left-back. The former Mainz man earned plaudits for playing well against Hannover and Schalke, but his performance in Stuttgart left more to be desired.
With BVB already a goal down, Durm let Ibrahima Traore skip past him with ease to assist Martin Harnik with a goal that doubled the hosts' lead. It was a simple move—deceleration followed by acceleration—that left Durm in the dust behind Traore. It's a move that Schmelzer, though not as quick as Durm, would likely have been able to stop or at least hinder.
Durm until recently played his entire career at striker or as an attacking winger. He's not used to playing at left-back, so when he actually has to defend, he can be beaten with the simplest of moves.
Life won't get any easier for him, who will go head-to-head against Gareth Bale on Wednesday. If that clash is anything short of a rout, BVB will be fortunate.
Stuttgart Are Still Struggling for Identity
Even Huub Stevens is finding it hard to manage a Stuttgart team that continues to defy the odds in spiraling toward improbable relegation.
The veteran trainer's experiment with 18-year-old Carlos Gruezo and Christian Gentner behind Daniel Didavi in the center was more despair than inspiration, especially given that Didavi had not played a single minute of Bundesliga football in 2013-14 due to a knee injury before this game.
Saturday's experiment was no more successful than his previous attempt against Nurnberg. Despite a win against Hamburg two weeks ago, Stevens' Stuttgart remain seemingly hopeless and stuck in 17th place, with teams ranked 12-16 all having a game in hand. VfB absolutely need a sense of identity if they are to survive.
Dortmund Can Win Ahead of Champions League Fixtures, After All
Heading into Saturday, Dortmund had lost four consecutive Bundesliga matches on weekends that preceded midweek Champions League fixtures. That streak appeared to be on its way toward an extension on Saturday, but BVB emphatically recovered form and overturned an early 2-0 lead to claim three points.
It's natural to have one eye on the grand stage of the Champions League, especially with the quarterfinals beckoning. But if BVB want to be serious contenders in three competitions in the coming years, they're going to need to do more in pre-Champions League fixtures.
Stuttgart Really May Be Hopeless After All
In the opening minutes, it seemed that Stuttgart were going to follow Hamburg in being the next relegation-battling team to hammer Dortmund. But it wasn't to be.
The Swabians faced tough opponents in Dortmund, but their inability to hold onto a two-goal lead at home is rather damning of their prospects of avoiding relegation.
Six matchdays remain for VfB to climb to 15th place or better. They'll need so much more to avoid sinking to the German second division.