- Borussia Dortmund
- PAOK FC (Greece)
- FC Krasnodar (Russia)
- Gabala SC (Azerbaijan)
“Wir folgen dir egal wohin es geht!” (We follow wherever you go) Borussia Dortmund fans chant every match day. Words that will be tested now, as Borussia Dortmund enters a long distance relationship with the Europa League. The trips will be far and tricky. How tricky? Henrikh Mkhitaryan might not be able to attend the away match against Gabala SC, because Armenians cannot obtain a visa in Azerbaijan due to the state of war between the two countries.
— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) 28. August 2015
After cruising past Wolfsberger AC and Odds BK in the Europa League qualification stages, the Schwarzgelben have been rewarded with a group that will crank up the mileage. As some people are considering Borussia Dortmund as the best football team in the world based on current form, they are obviously favourites to top the group. Yet, winning the group is the minor worry for fans. For every winnable point (18) BVB will have to travel around 1,000 kilometers. Borussia Dortmund is one of the best supported clubs in the world, but it won’t be easy to for their fans to make the trip, given the great cost and distance they will have to cover. On top of that Borussia Dortmund have a fan friendship with Aris FC, PAOK’s hated rivals. The Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki is also referred to as “Black Hell”, as PAOK’s fanatic fans seldom make nice with opposing fans. The trip to Greece might not only be costly, but also a health risk.
But this group will not only take a toll on Borussia Dortmund’s fans. The long trips are far from ideal for with the Bundesliga matches just three days later, which is – from a sportive perspective – the biggest worry for Dortmund. While they are favourites to comfortably win their group, they might drop points in the league in consequence of the strain.
The Black and Yellows will have to play against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena three days after their away game against PAOK. Thankfully, they will have their home leg against Gabala SC ahead of the Revierderby against Schalke. (Click here for an updated season schedule)
It can be hardly prevented that players are fatigued and more prone to injuries after lengthy trips. Once the Europa League kicks off, Thomas Tuchel’s Belastungssteuerung (read this for explanation) will really be tested. The coach has a deep squad at his disposal and needs to make use of it between mid September and December. It’s important for Dortmund fans to remember that the excellent stretch of form early in the season hardly means anything. A crammed preparation and a load of fixtures early on might have BVB on a limp, as they could eventually run out of steam.