Borussia Dortmund has not enjoyed a positive close to the first half of the season, and their loss to Hertha Berlin this weekend leaves them nine points adrift of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga table heading into the winter break.
Borussia Dortmund only won four of their last nine matches across all competitions, and their win over Besiktas on the final group stage match day in the Champions League wasn’t enough to see them progress out of the group, as their fate had already been determined. For a good portion of that run, they were without Erling Haaland, but he marked is return to action a week before the 3-2, Det Klassiker loss to Bayern.
Hertha Berlin has not had the best of seasons itself, but it has done well to navigate out of the relegation zone. Still, Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said that he felt Dortmund’s fatigue was clearly evident at the end of what was a lackluster “English Week” for them. “We didn’t have a drop of fuel left in the tank. You saw it with Erling, with Marco, nothing worked,” Watzke told Bild (via Sport1), adding that his side had “four-fifths of the defense” missing and saying that Berlin’s pitch was “unworthy of a Bundesliga team.” Pitch conditions were just as poor for Bayern’s midweek trip to Stuttgart, as it seems to be a bit of a consistency that opposition grounds don’t seem to be in the best shape when either Bayern or Dortmund come to town.
The result in Berlin was the last thing going into the Bundesliga’s winter break period that Dortmund would’ve wanted. While it will be a great opportunity for some rest and regeneration for the players in the squad, the nine point gap behind Bayern will be increasingly difficult to make up in the Ruckrunde, especially having already lost to their rivals once. After the loss to Berlin, Watzke wasn’t interested in trying to congratulate Bayern for ending the first half of the season with the nine point gap. “It depends on the claim. We wanted to get closer. But that also means that and Bayern have to come a little closer. The way they play, you can’t get close,” he explained.
Watzke has also been outspoken before about his admiration of Joshua Kimmich and feels that players of his caliber, and having more of them, is the big difference between Dortmund and Bayern. “80 million difference in salary, of course you can sign ten world-class players more. Moreover, they do it well, have the most money and do it well,” he said. He knows just how vital the dual pivot of Kimmich and Leon Goretzka is for Bayern as well as the German national team, but realizes you’d have to pay “20, 25 million euros salary” to have them. “From this quality, it’s hard to do,” he said, even though he knows they’re “top, you simply have to say that,” in his own estimation.
Dortmund has a history losing some of its top stars to Bayern, and with the financial gaps between the two clubs, Watzke knows that if Kimmich and Goretzka were both at Dortmund, they would’ve left by now. “At Bayern they extended, at us they probably would have been gone again,” he said, suggesting that they’re success would’ve resulted in them leaving for Bayern.