With Michy Batshuayi likely to miss the remainder of the season, more salt has been rubbed in Dortmund’s wounds. The question is, how big is the impact on their top-four hopes?Scoring nine goals in 14 outings in all competitions quickly endeared Michy Batshuayi to the BVB faithful, and that’s before the Belgian’s antics on social media are even considered.
As fans come to grips with the fact this may be the last they see of the 24-year-old as a Dortmund player, the real question is whether they can hold onto UEFA Champions League qualification.
“We have to make sure that at the end of the season we qualify for the Champions League, and I don’t really care how that happens,” Marco Reus told Bundesliga.com after the 2-0 loss to Schalke.
BVB currently have a four-point cushion over Leipzig and, in light of Batshuayi’s injury, the pressure is continuing to mount ahead of next weekend’s home clash with Bayer Leverkusen.
Head coach Peter Stöger has a reputation for being one of the least adventurous tacticians in Germany’s top flight, but he may now be forced to think outside the box as he seeks to ease mounting concerns over where Dortmund will finish the season.
First choice: Maximilian Philipp
Some questioned whether Philipp could make the step up at Dortmund on the back of one good top-flight season at Freiburg, but he has silenced his critics emphatically.
The 24-year-old was one of the standout performers as BVB won their opening seven games of the season and, while a patella tendon injury proved a setback, Philipp is the most logical choice to replace Batshuayi.
The Berlin native isn’t an out-and-out striker, but with 16 goals in 32 Bundesliga games to his name, he’s best set to profit from the service provided by the likes of Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic.
Like-for-like: Alexander Isak
Brought in during the winter break, there’s little pressure on the young Swede despite being the only recognized striker that Dortmund have on their books.
No one is expecting the unproven 18-year-old to carry this side to a top-four finish, but he will likely be afforded more playing time in the final four games of the season having made just one league start (in the 0-0 draw with Wolfsburg on Matchday 18) this season.
Four-goal hauls in pre-season friendlies against Rot-Weis Essen aside, Isak is still too rough around the edges to replace Batshuayi, but he’s a useful option to have on the bench.
Long shot: Mario Götze
Andre Schürrle and Marco Reus can, and have, played the lone striker role in the past and could be called upon to plug the gap. Götze should not be overlooked, though.
Yes, he’s out of form and if local media reports are to be believed he’s also out of favor. Nevertheless, he’s accustomed to filling the role having done so on several occasions for the German national team, works well in tight spaces and has added motivation with a World Cup place up for grabs.
With just two goals in 20 Bundesliga games this season, choosing Götze would be a gamble uncharacteristic for Stöger, but one that could pay off at the business end of the season.