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Bayern Munich not Dortmund’s biggest worry

SINGAPORE — Borussia Dortmund’s rivalry with Bayern Munich may be one of football’s most bitter, but the reigning German Bundesliga champions are not their biggest concern, said defender Neven Subotic and former star Lars Ricken.

A match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen on April 4, 2015 in Dortmund, Germany. Getty Images file photo

A match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen on April 4, 2015 in Dortmund, Germany. Getty Images file photo

SINGAPORE — Borussia Dortmund’s rivalry with Bayern Munich may be one of football’s most bitter, but the reigning German Bundesliga champions are not their biggest concern, said defender Neven Subotic and former star Lars Ricken.

Dortmund, who are in Singapore as part of their pre-season tour of Asia, are aiming to bounce back after a hugely disappointing season that saw them flirt with relegation before finishing seventh, while seeing Bayern romp to a record 25th Bundesliga title.

Relations between the two clubs have been strained as well, following the sale of Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski to the Bavarian giants in successive seasons.

But speaking at the 1-Altitude Gallery and Bar late yesterday night (July 8), Ricken, now a youth co-ordinator at Dortmund, said: “It is not the most important thing to catch Bayern Munich because they have such a strong team, maybe their best squad they had in their history.”

The former Germany international, who turns 39 today, added: “Our aim is to catch up with Wolfsburg, Schalke, (Bayer) Leverkusen and Borussia Moenchengladbach. They must have the aim next season to maybe to win the League and come as far as they can in the German Cup and play in the Champions League in 2016.”

Subotic also said: “Bayern is not our only opponent, there are a lot of other teams, like Wolfsburg, Leverkusen and Schalke, who want to qualify for the Champions League and among them are us.”

Their comments could be seen as a snub to German football’s traditional giants Bayern, whose rivalry with Dortmund became more pronounced in recent years, especially after former coach Jurgen Klopp led them to the Bundesliga tile in 2011 and the 2013 Champions League final.

However, Dortmund were powerless to stop Bayern from luring Gotze and Lewandowski to the Allianz Arena. It led to Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke saying in 2014 that “Bayern Munich want to destroy us”. Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer upped the ante earlier this year, saying Gotze was better off there than at Dortmund.

With the hugely popular Klopp gone, new Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel’s immediate task is to make them title contenders again.

The 41-year-old, who like Klopp also made the switch from fellow German club Mainz, got his tenure off to a strong start with a 6-0 rout of J-League side Kawasaki Frontale on Tuesday. Dortmund are in action against Malaysian Super League side Johor Darul Takzim in a friendly in Johor Baru this evening.

In a further boost for Tuchel, captain Mats Hummels and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan — both linked with moves to Manchester United — also committed themselves to the club for at least for another season.

Ricken is quietly optimistic about Dortmund’s future. “In 2005, we were broke and what he (Klopp) and the team created in the recent years was marvellous,” said Ricken, who scored in Dortmund’s 3-1 win over Juventus in the 1997 Champions League final. “(However) last season didn’t go so well, so maybe it’s time for a new coach.”

Subotic added: “In a few days that we got to know Thomas, he has made a great impression on the team and you can tell he has a clear plan.”

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