BERLIN (Reuters) - Borussia Dortmund appear to have shrugged off the departure of Mario Goetze as last season’s runners-up go into Sunday’s encounter against Eintracht Frankfurt full of confidence and in search of a fourth league win in as many matches.
Goetze, a product of Dortmund’s youth system and one of the most gifted youngsters in Germany, joined Bayern Munich for 37 million euros ($49.36 million) in the off-season but coach Juergen Klopp is convinced his team, dubbed “the young wild ones”, has lost none of its quality.
Dortmund’s perfect start to the new campaign represents a vindication of Klopp’s assessment with several youngsters stepping up to the plate as the Ruhr Valley club seeks to take the fight to Bayern for Bundesliga honours.
Teenager Marvin Ducksch and 21-year-old Jonas Hofmann have quickly made a name for themselves with scintillating appearances, supplemented by goals in the German Cup and league respectively.
Erik Durm, also 21, saw his contract extended to 2017 this week as Dortmund continues to build a solid foundation for the future.
“One can say that there is a chance the team will play even better,” Klopp told reporters earlier this week.
“Mario’s transfer has not had a negative impact on us. It would have been nice if it had not happened but from a sporting point of view, his loss is already irrelevant.”
The comments regarding one of the most highly regarded players in Europe could be considered bold but Klopp’s reign at Dortmund has never been conventional.
He spent 50 million euros on transfers in the close season, boosted by the revenues from Goetze’s departure, and early signs indicate his purchases were astute.
Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck a hat-trick on his Bundesliga debut while Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan has settled well in his attacking midfield role.
Greece international Sokratis Papastathopoulos is also a valued addition to the defence as Klopp’s swashbuckling style left them exposed a little too often last season.
“We have a very good squad,” Klopp said. “Now it is up to us to make our fans forget last season and Mario.”
So far Dortmund, who also finished runners up in the Champions League last season, have delivered on their promises.
Even leading striker Robert Lewandowski, who saw his transfer to Bayern blocked, has settled his differences with the club and is starting to hit the target.
It was his goal that saw them edge past Werder Bremen last week. Frankfurt, however, will be equally difficult to break down with Dortmund unable to call on the services of influential midfielder Ilkay Guendogan because of a back injury.
After two defeats, including a 6-1 demolition by promoted Hertha Berlin in their season opener, Frankfurt finally picked up some points last week with a 2-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig.
However, Thursday’s Europa League playoff round second leg tie against Azeri side Garabagh Agdam could be seen as a hindrance, although Frankfurt already hold a 2-0 lead and will be hoping to rest a few players ahead of Sunday’s encounter.
They will likely be without forward Srdjan Lakic, who is still recovering from a back problem, while captain Pirmin Schwegler remains short of form after returning from a long injury absence.
“It will be very, very tight for Lakic,” Frankfurt coach Armin Veh said. “Schwegler is looking better. He is making a good impression.”
Treble winners Bayern Munich top the table on 10 points from four games, one ahead of Dortmund, after drawing 1-1 at Freiburg on Tuesday ahead of a trip to Prague to compete in the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea on Friday.
Editing by John O'Brien