Our next opponents: Who will replace Batshuayi?

Bayer 04 face a team next to them in the table in the Bundesliga for the third time in succession – and once again Heiko Herrlich's team could take a big step towards the Champions League away to a direct rival. The situation ahead of Saturday night's top game (21 April, 18.30 CET), which absolutely applies to the Werkself playing Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park – sees a meeting with top opponents who have recently gone through less happier times…


The expressions said it all after the final whistle. Sheer disappointment was written on the faces of the Dortmund players and management after the derby defeat at Schalke. Ignoring the fact that defeat in the most important game of the year for the fans is considered to be a catastrophe for everybody involved, there was another reason why the 2-0 defeat away to the arch rivals on Sunday was more of a setback to the Black and Yellows. In the first meeting earlier on in the season, BVB ended up with a a 4-4 draw after Dortmund had been  4-0 in the lead in one of the most memorable derbies in recent years. Revenge did not come against the Royal Blues and, perhaps more significantly, they are now four points behind second-place. A win for BVB would have seen them go above Schalke into second spot but instead the Werkself moved above Dortmund on goal difference. Going into the Saturday night game, the two teams are level on points in third and fourth place


There was more bad news in the BVB camp after the derby defeat. The match was in added time and Schalke were set to win when Michy Batshuayi was left prostrate on the ground after a challenge with Benjamin Stambouli. He had to be carried off on a stretcher and fears were confirmed the next day: According to a BVB announcement, the 24-year-old striker is "probably ruled out for the rest of the season"- an injury that hits Borussia Dortmund hard. Since Batshuayi was signed from Chelsea  on loan on the last day of the transfer window following the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), he has proved his worth in terms of goals scoring seven in ten Bundesliga appearances. The injury suffered at Schalke could mean the Belgian will not play in a Dortmund shirt again. The loan expires at the end of the season and Batshuayi has made the case to get a chance at his parent club in London. Whether BVB can hold onto the striker remains just  as unclear is whether he will be back for the final run-in. The only remaining true central striker in the squad  is the 18-year-old Swede Alexander Ishak who has not even been on the bench recently. Everything points to an unusual solution to the problems facing the  highly talented BVB attack. Andriy Yarmolenko, returning after injury, and Maximilian Philipp (pictured) have the best chance of playing up front against Bayer 04. Also because the BVB coach Peter Stöger, speaking at the pre-match press conference on Thursday, said it was "rather unlikely" André Schürrle would be able to play. The former  Leverkusen player was kicked on the foot in the game against Schalke 04 and has not been able to train since.


Batshuayi and Schürrle are not the only players Peter Stöger is missing at the moment for the run-in. His squad is also weakened in other areas – above all in terms of depth: In Raphael Guerreiro (torn muscle), Dan-Axel Zagadou (rehab after muscle injury) and Erik Durm (torn ankle ligament) there are reduced options in the full-back positions, where Jeremy Toljan is now the only alternative to the established duo of Schmelzer/Piszczek. Sebastian Rode (groin) as another missing alternative in the susceptible BVB defence. Shinji Kagawa, who was on top form up to his ankle injury in February, could make his comeback against Bayer 04. The Japanese  midfielder's joy in playing would definitely represent a boost for Stöger's attack as, in spite of the large number of outstanding individuals, they have stumbled a bit after clocking up 57 goals so far this season and the creativity evident early in the season is no longer there.


Even though the euphoria in Dortmund has suffered a severe blow after the recent derby defeat: BVB are still in with a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League. However, Dortmund are in a state of upheaval: It is unclear whether Peter Stöger will still be the coach of the Black and Yellow is next season – and if not, who will be his successor. And the millions of euros made from the sale of Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona) are waiting to be reinvested. An exciting summer awaits.


In spite of the recent away defeats against the two top teams in the league from Munich and Gelsenkirchen: The record under Stöger is decent overall. With the exception of the 6-0 defeat at Bayern at the end of March, the Austrian was unbeaten in his first 12 league games as BVB coach – a club record. For that reason too, the concern at Dortmund of slipping out of the race for the Champions League is not necessarily unfounded after recent performances but it does appear to be somewhat  exaggerated. Following this weekend's game against the Werkself, there are two comparatively straight-forward fixtures against Werder Bremen and Mainz 05 before a tricky away game on the last day of the season at Hoffenheim. Given the four-point lead over fourth place and the significantly better goal difference compared with their rivals - provided the derby defeat does not throw them off course – they are in with a chance of playing in Europe's premier club competition again next season.


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