Once upon a time, Borussia Dortmund was the most exciting team in Europe. With a host of young stars, an upstart maverick of a coach and one of the most iconic stadiums in the world, watching BVB play was always a tantalizing experience.
How times have changed. The 2-1 loss to Zenit St Petersburg was one of the worst performances BVB has produced in the Jurgen Klopp era, and entirely in keeping with a season which has had more than its fair share of difficulties.
Despite the defeat, Dortmund's 4-2 win in Russia three weeks ago ensured qualification for this edition's quarterfinals. However, BVB is about to receive a massive dose of reality about its future in the competition.
It looked like a fairly inconspicuous incident when Robert Lewandowski went flying at a corner into the Zenit box, but a slight nudge in the back forced him to handle the ball and pick up a harsh yellow card from referee Alberto Undiano.
|DIRE DORTMUND LIMPS THROUGH |
Match stats | BVB 1-2 Zenit
The Polish striker's suspension for the last eight leaves his team with a predicament. All season long, Klopp's side has coped with a multitude of injuries - more than any side normally has to endure, but the one constant has been Lewandowski and, crucially, the team has precious little cover for him.
The display BVB produced against the Russians was dreadful. Zenit is going through a horror season of its own, which cost long-standing coach Luciano Spalletti his job in between the two legs, yet Dortmund was unable to craft clear-cut chances, despite its territorial advantage. And that was with Lewandowski.
It leaves one to wonder how Dortmund would cope with a better team than the St Petersburg side. Last term, BVB failed to win a single knockout game away from home, but was able to rely on its home form. This time, the side has already lost four games at Signal Iduna Park in the Bundesliga and two in the Champions League.
Dortmund has always been a team capable of upsetting the odds and turning up when its backs are against the wall. The last three years have been littered with victories over Bayern Munich and few will forget the 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in last season's semifinal.
But BVB has been rattled this term it deals with numerous high-profile sales and injuries, and Lewandowski's suspension is the last thing it can afford. Soon enough, BVB will have to cope without him on a full-time basis as he nears his free transfer to the Allianz Arena. The quarterfinal will be a harsh glimpse of what awaits BVB next season.
During their run to the final last season, the club's social media team was using #Fairytale at the end of every tweet. #Nightmare might be more apt for what lies ahead.
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