Football: Dortmund feel the heat

The reigning champions of Europe, Borussia Dortmund, face a daunting trip to Turkey as they start the defence of their crown. Transfers, injuries and suspensions have weakened the Germans, who are feeling the weight of expectation. Tommy Staniforth report
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The Independent Online
Borussia Dortmund travel to Galatasaray in their opening Champions' League match today without the two players who scored the goals that won them the European Cup last May.

Karlheinz Riedle is now at Liverpool and Lars Ricken is suspended, but the biggest headache for the new coach, Nevio Scala, may be the absence of Matthias Sammer, the international defender who plays such an important part in the Dortmund gameplan.

Scala's problems do not end there, however, as Stefan Reuter and Andreas Moller are also injured, while Paulo Sousa is suspended. With the core of the side missing it is little wonder that Dortmund have not made the best start to the Bundesliga. Sixth after six matches is not the form of European champions and the pressure of expectation is clearly starting to tell.

But Ottmar Hitzfeld, the man who coached the club to victory over Juventus in May before becoming the club's director of sport, is keen to try to put their task this season into some perspective.

"We are among the favourites because we won the Cup last season, but we don't have the history and the experience of success that clubs like Real Madrid, Juventus or Barcelona have. To win a competition like the Champions' League, you need consistency and you need to be able to rely on your best players. At the moment, we can't but it's only starting," he said.

While the European Cup has never been easy to win, this season it will be more difficult than ever with a competition expanded to 24 clubs and including some of last season's runners-up. Only the six group winners are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals next spring, with the best two second-placed teams joining them.

Galatasaray's Romanian midfielder Gheorghe Hagi is in no doubt that Dortmund are fallible and believes the Turkish champions can win. "We are in a difficult group, but we really want to get through to the quarter- finals and we have the power to achieve that," Hagi said.

But Galatasaray are not without their problems as the team's trio of Romanian international midfielders will be broken up by the absence of Iulian Filipescu, carried off with a calf injury during a 2-1 win over lowly Antalyaspor at the weekend. Indeed, the Istanbul side has not had the best start to the season, languishing in - for them - a lowly fifth position and losing out 3-1 to arch cross-town rivals Fenerbahce last week.

As always, though, Galatasaray will be relying on the infamous atmosphere of their Ali Sami Yen stadium which worked in intimidating teams such as Manchester United and Paris St-Germain.

"They will be a very intense atmosphere for the Dortmund game, but we will really need the backing of our supporters. With their help we'll bring a smile to Turkey," said Galatasaray's top goal scorer, Hakan Sukur.