DORTMUND • It was just three months ago when Borussia Dortmund were revelling in the Christmas cheer, having entered the winter break with a commanding nine-point lead in the Bundesliga.
That feel-good factor has since eroded as the cushion vanished, following a shock 2-1 loss at relegation-threatened Augsburg last Friday that allowed German champions Bayern Munich to pull level at the top on 54 points.
With just one win in their last seven matches, it could get worse for Dortmund, who have to overcome a three-goal deficit against Tottenham for their Champions League last-16 return leg today.
Only Barcelona, Deportivo La Coruna and Roma have managed to overturn a deficit of three goals or more in the knockout phase of the Champions League era.
And, while Spurs have gone without a win in their last three games, the margin will enable Mauricio Pochettino's men to sit back and hit Dortmund on the break.
With glaring defensive errors increasingly creeping into the home side's game, captain Marco Reus has admitted "this is a phase we need to stabilise quickly or things will get very tight".
German league goals for Dortmund captain Marco Reus, who missed the first leg against Tottenham.
Goalkeeper Roman Burki added: "We keep conceding strange goals, which are actually easy to defend. I had to pull myself together not to tear anyone's head off."
Despite the Augsburg defeat representing the low point of their season, Dortmund will be able to call on Reus, their joint-top scorer on 13 league goals, against Spurs after the German international missed the Wembley game through injury.
While coach Lucien Favre remains hopeful, he knows his players cannot give away any chances.
He said: "We must stay calm and not make another mistake."
Former Germany defender Matthias Sammer, an external adviser at Dortmund, has also urged the team to show more character, insisting they had to "put in 90 to 95 per cent (focus), (as) it's not enough to be (at) 60 or 70 per cent".
DORTMUND V TOTTENHAM
Singtel TV Ch110 & StarHub Ch214, tomorrow, 3.55am