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Still reeling from a contentious loss to Bayern Munich in the “Klassiker,” Borussia Dortmund now has a very different task — shutting down an upstart neighbor with a formidable home record.
Recriminations from the 3-2 loss to Bayern, decided by a penalty, have continued all week as Jude Bellingham was fined 40,000 euros ($45,000) for questioning the league's choice of referee Felix Zwayer, who in 2005 was given a six-month ban in relation to a match-fixing scandal centered on another referee.
It was hard not to see Dortmund's 5-0 demolition of Besiktas in the Champions League on Tuesday as a way of letting off steam in a largely meaningless game that couldn't affect the standings.
Next up comes a different challenge.
Normally, Bochum wouldn't be a serious rival to Dortmund, but the promoted team from a city just 11 miles (18 kilometers) away has been quietly turning its home stadium into a fortress.
On Saturday, Bochum will host Dortmund aiming to extend its three-month unbeaten record at home. That run has helped lift the team away from the relegation zone and up to 10th in the Bundesliga, ahead of big names like Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha Berlin.
Dortmund's home form is strong, even if the Bayern loss spoiled its 100% record, but away from home Marco Rose's team has been shaky, with three wins and three defeats. What remains to be seen is how severely Germany's new coronavirus restrictions, which cap Saturday's crowd at 13,799, will hush Bochum's loud and intimidating atmosphere.
Bayern opened up a four-point lead at the top of the table by beating second-place Dortmund and backed that up with a surgical 3-0 win over Barcelona to eliminate the debt-burdened Catalan giant from the Champions League on Wednesday.
Bayern has to play in an empty stadium because of the pandemic rules in its home state of Bavaria, but that didn't stop Bayern cruising to victory against Barcelona and likely won't stop a win over Mainz on Saturday to continue the march to a 10th consecutive title.
Mainz is seventh in the league at the end of a turnaround year for the club since appointing Danish coach Bo Svensson in January when under threat of relegation. Since then, he's won 17 of 36 games and drew another nine.
Leipzig has a new face on the touchline after hiring former Schalke and Spartak Moscow coach Domenico Tedesco to replace Jesse Marsch, who departed on Sunday after failing to build any momentum with a squad in the middle of a rebuild.
The 36-year-old Tedesco tended to prioritize defense at Schalke and may seem an odd fit for a Leipzig team molded by the high-intensity, high-risk style of Ralf Rangnick and Julian Nagelsmann. His career highlights look better in retrospect, though. Schalke was relegated the season after he took the team to the Champions League last 16 and Spartak is ninth in the Russian league after finishing second under Tedesco.
Tedesco's first opponent is the one Bundesliga team even more inconsistent than Leipzig. Borussia Mönchengladbach was riding high after hammering Bayern 5-0 in the German Cup in October for the champion's worst loss since 1978. Now Gladbach is trying to bounce back from its own crushing defeat after being torn apart 6-0 by Freiburg on Sunday.
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