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What is going on at Borussia Dortmund and can Marco Rose survive it?

The six fixtures played by Borussia Dortmund between January 18 and February 20 did a lot to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of Marco Rose’s team. The run started with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to St Pauli, but was followed up with a 3-2 away win over Hoffenheim. Then came a catastrophic 5-2 loss to Bayer Leverkusen before 3-0 win over Union Berlin.

Last week, Dortmund were thumped 4-2 by Rangers in the Europa League just days before putting six past Borussia Monchengladbach in a 6-0 victory. The Black and Yellows sit second in the Bundesliga table just six points off the pace being set by Bayern Munich, but Rose is under pressure due to the gross inconsistency of his team.

There is no doubting the individual talent currently at the Westfalenstadion. Erling Haaland is the best young goalscorer in the European game having netted an incredible 80 goals in just 79 appearances for Dortmund over the last two years. The Norwegian striker is a difference-maker and gives his team a chance in essentially every match he plays.

18-year-old Jude Bellingham is another exceptional young talent at the club. Indeed, the England international is mature beyond his years and provides Borussia Dortmund with drive and presence through the centre of the pitch. Much like Haaland, Bellingham is expected to move on at some point in the future, but for now he is one of the best players Dortmund have.

Gio Reyna has struggled for fitness this season, suffering another injury setback in the win over Gladbach on Sunday, but the American’s technical ability is clear to see. Many believe Reyna will ultimately step into the void left by Jadon Sancho when he left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United last summer.

Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels, Donyell Malen, Raphael Guerreiro, Manuel Akanji and others are also proven at the top level of the German and European game. Rose certainly has the talent and resources to build a successful side, but the 45-year-old has so far failed to make his mark.

At the time, Dortmund’s appointment of Rose was widely seen as a coup. Rose had built a dynamic, entertaining team at Borussia Monchengladbach, taking the Foals into the Champions League. The 45-year-old was considered one of the best coaches in the Bundesliga and his upward trajectory was expected to continue at the Westfalenstadion.

So far, though, Rose has toiled. He wants Borussia Dortmund to be a hard-running, quick transition team, and there are occasions when they play in this manner very well, but there are other times when they fail to control matches. There is an imbalance to their approach and Rose has yet to come up with answers on how to solve it.

Defensively, Rose’s Dortmund have also been extremely vulnerable, as demonstrated by the number of goals they have conceded recently. Individual errors have been a factor in many matches, but the Black and Yellows’ structure hasn’t helped them either – Hummels and his central defensive partner are often left isolated.

Expectations are always high at Borussia Dortmund, but they are particularly high right now. With talents like Bellingham and Haaland on the books, the club feel they should be closer to challenging Bayern Munich at the top of the German game. Not since the days of Jurgen Klopp have Dortmund won the Bundesliga title.

Thursday’s Europa League second leg against Rangers could be a make-or-break moment for Rose at the club. An exit at such an early stage of the competition after a group stage exit from the Champions League would deepen doubts about the 45-year-old’s suitability for the Borussia Dortmund job.

“I’m poking the hornet’s nest,” Rose said ahead of the trip to Glasgow. “We’re working things out and we’ll keep at it. We’ve been an absolute disappointment up to this point, especially in the cup competitions. In part we’ve delivered results, we’ve played almost half of the season without our top-scorer [Haaland].”

Even without Haaland, Dortmund should have enough quality to get past Rangers, but on the basis of last week’s first leg Rose’s team face an almighty challenge to overturn a 4-2 deficit. An even bigger challenge might be achieving a level of consistency between now and the end of the season to prove Rose is still the right man to take the Black and Yellows forward.

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