Difficult period means extra motivation to beat Sevilla: Meunier

Published on Feb 16, 2021 02:39 PM IST

Thomas Meunier said there is added motivation for his team to do well in the Champions League.

Thomas Meunier. (Getty Images)
Thomas Meunier. (Getty Images)
ByBhargab Sarmah, New Delhi

It has been a difficult season for Borussia Dortmund, one that has seen them lose eight games in the Bundesliga and prematurely drop out of the title race. After head coach Lucien Favre’s sacking in December, the team’s form has not improved under interim coach Edin Terzic.

This week, however, Dortmund have the chance to redeem themselves somewhat as they travel to Seville for the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 clash against Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla. The mid-week European clash will then be followed by the Revierderby against struggling rivals Schalke at the weekend.

Speaking to a group of reporters from Asia in an online interaction, Dortmund right-back Thomas Meunier said there is added motivation for his team to do well in the Champions League. “Champions League is always something special. Those games are something that players are looking at with much more interest than the Bundesliga and the (DFB) Pokal because winning the Champions League is like being the king of Europe. This week, I think there is also some extra motivation for the team (to beat Sevilla) in this difficult period,” said Meunier.

Asked about Dortmund’s struggles this season, the Belgium international said closed door games were a reason. “I think we have missed a bit of consistency and also the supporters are missing. They really bring something to the team – they bring the extra motivation, the extra adrenaline in the kind of difficult games against small defending teams. And also, the situation with the coach – the new things that the coach is trying to put into the group, I think we just need time to get into our best level,” he said.

The 29-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) defender said he too needs to get back to his best after injury troubles. A torn muscle last November kept him out for 17 days and he missed 18 days due to a knee inflammation in January, according to transfermarkt.com. “I am expecting a bit more from myself. I didn’t play for seven months during the coronavirus period and I needed much more time than expected to be back to my real level. It was coming back till I injured myself at the beginning of this year. But now, I will be there with the group and I really believe that we will get to see a really good Thomas Meunier in the next few weeks,” said Meunier.

The Belgian added that despite Schalke’s struggles – “Die Knappen” have won just one game in the league this season and are rooted to the bottom of the standings – Dortmund are expecting a difficult derby. “Schalke are in a really bad situation at the moment, they are flirting with relegation. But playing a derby is totally different and winning it is a boost for the rest of the season. We will have to deal with it. It will not be an easy game, that’s for sure,” he said. The top four remains Dortmund’s priority in the league this season, he said.

HAALAND, MBAPPE, THE FUTURE

Asked to comment on teammate Erling Braut Haaland’s rise as one of the best young strikers in Europe, Meunier said the Norwegian forward, along with former PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe, will be among the best players in the world in the future. “He (Haaland) has that in his blood. For me, he is an old school striker in his way of playing. He is strong, he is fast, he has two good feet; I think he can improve his header. But he is only 20 years old and he has a bit of time in front of him to be one of the best in the world. And I really believe that in the few upcoming years, he will be a kind of Lewandowski, Lukaku, scoring 25-30 goals every year. And without a doubt, he will be one of the best,” he said.

“Kylian is someone who is looking for the one vs one (situations). He is technically really, really, really good. He has a bit of everything. It makes me think a bit about Thierry Henry, for example. Erling is more of a killer in the box. If he gets the ball on his left foot, for example, and he protects the ball, he can beat any goalkeeper in the world. In the coming years, they will take the steps needed to be the best in the world.”

LAST CHANCE SALOON

With the European Championship scheduled for the summer, Meunier was asked whether this would be the last chance for Belgium’s “golden generation” to win a major title. “We called them the golden generation like 10 years ago. And so, everyone is getting old – you have some players like (Jan) Vertonghen, (Thomas) Vermaelen, they are getting like 34-35 by the Euros. I think it’s time for a new generation. But if we want to wins something with the golden generation, the Euros are the deadline,” he said.

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