In an ominous warning to Bayern Munich and other Bundesliga title contenders, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel believes his side are stronger now than they were last season, having come from behind to thrash Augsburg 5-1 on Saturday.
It did not always look like that would be the case, though. Augsburg were always going to be the underdog at a packed Signal Iduna Park on Saturday but took a shock early lead after just 31 seconds.
Witsel was just as surprised as everyone, but helped BVB keep their heads: “It was similar to Leipzig last season [when they went behind inside the first minute], but, in the end, we said ‘come on, guys, we have a lot of time still.’ And we knew as soon as we scored the first goal it was going to be okay.”
That confidence stems in large part from Witsel’s unwavering faith in Dortmund’s attacking capabilities – with the midfielder himself grabbing two assists on the day: “We know we’re going to have opportunities to get goals and guys like Paco [Alcacer] and Marco [Reus]don’t need 10 chances to score.”
Indeed they don’t. Dortmund scored five of their 24 efforts on goal, with Alcacer hitting a brace and Reus also on target as Lucien Favre’s men equalised almost instantly, before adding four more without reply in the second half to sit top of the table.
Yet it was not only BVB’s prowess in the final third that impressed Witsel; the sight of star striker Alcacer tracking back and helping out in defence was also of great significance for the Belgian international.
“I don’t know what’s happened,” he joked. “It’s the first time I’ve seen Paco come back into the place of the right-back and win the ball back. It’s a good sign for the team. When you speak about defence, it’s not only the defenders; everybody, even the strikers, has to do their job defensively. I think, from this point of view, we are better than last season.”
Asked what his main takeaway from the game was, Witsel spoke of the positive spirit surrounding the club, and noted that the home fans played a role in spurring the Black and Yellows on. Even when his side had let in such an early goal, did Witsel ever doubt that Dortmund would prevail?
“No. You always have to be careful because the Bundesliga is not an easy championship – anything can happen. But we’re at home and we knew that once you score the first goal, you keep going and you put more pressure on the opponent, and then when it’s two or three, the game is over.”