The heady days of the late 1990's must have felt like a long dead relative to supporters of Borussia Dortmund.  Mid-table Bundesliga was hardly a meteoric fall, but there were points when it looked all over.  Greg Keane looks at a significant return?

This Sunday could care to enlighten and provide us clearer understanding on whether Borussia Dortmund have what it takes to mount a serious challenge for the Bundesliga crown for the first time in seven previous underwhelming campaigns - as they take on a flattering to deceive Bayern Munich outfit at the Westfalenstadion.

Jurgen Klopp's boys currently lay second in the table, 3-points behind unheralded early pacesetters Mainz (Klopp's former side), on 15-points after chalking victories against some of the Bundesliga usual title suspects including Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and humiliating Schalke in the Revierderby.

It's been mooted that BVB's young, talented side have what it takes to go all the way- especially as no other side appears willing to take heed of Munich's faltering start by putting some serious daylight between themselves and the former Champions; Thomas Tuchel's plucky Mainz side volunteering to be the exception of course.

Not that Klopp himself is envisaging any siege for the title, confirming after his side's derby win that they have already achieved their only set goals this campaign.

Klopp, the 2008 Spectacle Wearer of the Year said, "We reached the group phase of the Europa League and have won a derby. Now we will just continue to play our football and see in the end what we get from it."

"We have already fulfilled two of our objectives for the season".

Their impressive early showing is also a complete reverse of last years awful start which ultimately cost them a place in the Champions League- Dortmund only winning one from their opening seven league matches.

Steve McClaren is one Bundesliga manager to have made forthright claims regarding BVB being genuine title contenders; however, Klopp is far too canny to be lured into saying likewise.

Dortmund are still fighting the cost of their 1990's domestic and European success.

"In 2005 the club was more or less bankrupt and was almost wiped from the map of German football", recalls Jens Weber, from the Dortmund Supporters group schwatzgelb.com.

"CEO Hans Joachim Watzke made it clear- 'We were in the lobby of the pathology already'- so BVB is still on the road to recover from that financial crash and has to pay back debts from these times. So the club can not use its full financial potential to strengthen the current squad."

The Dortmund team of mid to late nineties, which won three Bundesliga Titles (95, 96, 02) plus the Champions League in 1997, had big established stars with astronomical pay-cheques for that time- including the likes of Matthias Sammer, Andreas Möller and manager Ottmar Hitzfeld.

At the same time the Westfalenstadion was enlarged from a capacity of 55,000 to over 80,000 and while the team still plays in the ground named after its home region of Westphalia, it was leased and renamed 'Signal Iduna Park' in 2006, after a local insurance company in a bid to raise capital.

"But there should be money available for the winter transfer window", explains Weber.

"The qualification for the Europa League group stage created revenue that could not be taken into account before the season and it is likely that some players like Florian Kringe and Tamas Hajnal will leave BVB in winter.

"Generally the club has changed the hazardous financial behaviour of the Niebaum/Meier years for a much more conservative approach.

"And that is a good thing, since no BVB supporter wants to live through 2005 again."

Since Klopp's tenure began in May 2008, Dortmund's game has been based on high levels of fitness from their collection of highly rated youngsters which allows them to implement a high pressing game and by attacking their opponents straight from the whistle.

Joachim Löw is said to considering handing to call- ups to Mats Hummels, Kevin Großkreutz and the hugely impressive Mario Götze for the national team.

A statistic shows, that Dortmund would have been champion last season, had the games ended at 60 Minutes. Now, with improving fitness levels, BVB supporters may dare to dream the dream.

Their most impressive performance of the campaign so far undoubtedly came in their 1-3 mauling of bitter rivals Schalke. It was Dortmund first win in the Revierderby for three years and they won all three points with a combination of high pressing and crisp passing which completely bamboozled their shocked opponents.

Dortmund play a basic 4-2-3-1 formation and rely heavily on their overlapping full-backs to provide width, 22-year-old Marcel Schmelzer has particularly come into his own this season from his left full-back position whilst 22-year old Turkish International Nuri Sahin and perhaps been BVB's outstanding player at this early stage, playing alongside Sven Bender or Salwart Sebastian Kehl in the middle of the park.

The opening day defeat at the hands of Leverkusen apart, where Dortmund failed to offer enough going forward, Klopp's cadets have looked every bit genuine title challengers, typified no less in last weekends 5-0 obliteration of Kaiserslautern. However, Dortmund supporters including Jens Weber won’t be taking anything for granted.

"I do not see that happening this year. The long season with hopefully lots of European and German cup matches will take its toll on our squad. We do not know if the squad has the depth to cope with further injuries or the dips in form that are to be expected with young players.

"So the realistic outlook makes us a contender for the European qualification once more and maybe even for the Champions League. But if the season continues to go this well, nobody knows what the outcome will be".


Many thanks to Jens Weber from schwatzgelb.de for his help and be sure to check out the outstanding
Dortmund supporters site (in English) @ http://www.schwatzgelb.de/index_com.html

Greg writes regularly for both the BBC and Sky.  You can catch his Bundesliga updates right here on IBWM.

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