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Four reasons to Root for Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04, and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League

They may be our enemies in the league, but Dortmund, Schalke, and Leverkusen are our friends in European competitions

Lars Baron

Going into the last two matches of the UEFA Champions League Group Stage, FC Bayern München is one of three clubs to secure a spot in the Round of 16.

The Champions League prospects of the other three German clubs are a little more, well, tenuous.

Borussia Dortmund's path may be the toughest. It will play host to Napoli on Wednesday with a decimated back line, a must-win having dropped a game in Naples and a home fixture against Arsenal.

The other two situations are relatively manageable. FC Schalke 04 will look to take care of business against Steaua Bucureşti while hoping Chelsea can beat FC Basel on the road. Bayer 04 Leverkusen get Manchester United at home before making the trip to Real Sociedad next week.

In the Europa League, Eintracht Frankfurt are atop their group while SC Freiburg's chances to advance are gloom at best.

These sides may be the rivals in the Bundesliga, but sometimes it's best to keep your enemies closer, and European competition is the place to do it.

1. Stretching Squad Depth

The competition does not add too many games – seven possible games depending on how deep each club goes – but it is still a midweek game that has a good chance of relatively long travel. Managers will probably put out the best side they can, especially considering the extra revenue potential, which means more mileage on starting squads.

Consider the trouble Schalke had in the Bundesliga last season, or Bayer 04 Leverkusen's trouble in 2011/2012. It took FC Bayern's deep squad from the last few years to win the treble or go far in each competition. If managers of these clubs puts emphasis on the Champions League, there is a high probability the two front battle will affect them in the Bundesliga. That means an easier time in the Bundesliga for the Rekordmeisters.

2. UEFA Coefficient

Germany ranks third behind Spain and England in the UEFA Country coefficients in 2013/14. Still, seven German teams qualify for the European competitions, with six German sides currently in European competition. FC Bayern has power in their own hands to affect the Coefficient if they win the Champions League again, but in the case that scenario does not come about, die Roten will need a little help.

The expectation and hope is for FC Bayern to win the Bundesliga every year for the rest of time, but unfortunately life does not happen that way. There could be years like 2010/11 where the club finishes third, or like 2006/07 where it finishes fourth. Thus, if German clubs keep the country coefficient above countries like Italy, Portugal and France, the chances FC Bayern qualifies for the Champions League stays high in the dreaded "down" years.

3. Desirable Opponents

Clubs from the same country cannot meet in the Champions League until the quarterfinals, so this point is rather moot until the later stages. However, considering FC Bayern's unbeaten run in the Bundesliga of 38 consecutive games, plus two losses at home in all competitions in the past year and a half, wouldn't it be better to face a German side in the Champions League?

FC Bayern had trouble against Eintracht Frankfurt in the late 1970's in the UEFA Cup, but they have only lost one game in six in all iterations of the Champions League as part of a two leg affair against Borussia Dortmund. Considering FC Bayern 3-0 win in Dortmund this past weekend, the Schwarzgelben might be a more appealing opponent than Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or even Juventus.

4. Respect

Fußball fanatics should not need to ask for it, but in any case...

Many arguments against the dominance of FC Bayern based on their Bundesliga performance is that the German top flight must not be very strong. Push the altercation aside for the moment, and ponder what would happen if German teams pushed farther and farther into the Champions League, or even the Europa League. Those arguments would carry a lot less weight, wouldn't they?

Of course, those arguments will never go away. Look at Real Madrid and Barcelona. Both teams have reached the semifinals in each of the last three Champions League competitions, yet their dominance in La Liga is frowned upon because people don't consider the other teams up to snuff. What helps their case is that Málaga reached the quarterfinals earlier in 2013, and three of the four teams in the 2011/12 Europa League Semifinals were Spanish.

Germany was proud of all seven clubs in European competition to get out of the group stage, so at least that is headed in the right direction.

It would be bold to expect all four Champions League teams to reach the quarterfinal, but there are reasons to root for them nonetheless.

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