Omer Toprak is adamant Borussia Dortmund are not viewing the Europa League as a “losers’ cup” as they bid to atone for their Champions League disappointment.
Dortmund suffered an early exit in the continent’s premier club competition, finishing third behind Tottenham and Real Madrid in Group H with just two points from their six matches.
Third in the Bundesliga, trailing leaders Bayern Munich by 19 points, and out of the DFB-Pokal, the Europa League represents Dortmund’s only realistic hope of silverware this season.
They host Atalanta in the first leg of the round-of-32 on Thursday, and defender Toprak insists Dortmund are highly motivated to reach the final in Lyon on May 16.
“We don’t see the Europa League as a “losers’ cup” when you see the opponents in this competition,” he said at a media conference.
“We want to show that we are Dortmund and want to go to Lyon.”
Should they defeat Atalanta, Dortmund’s path to the showpiece appears set to be a tricky one, with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Napoli and RB Leipzig dropping into the competition from the Champions League and joining the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan and Marseille in the draw.
But coach Peter Stoger is not looking beyond their immediate opponents, who finished top of Group E ahead of Lyon and Everton, thrashing the Premier League side 5-1 at Goodison Park, and are eighth in Serie A.
“Atalanta are very well organised. They make the midfield tight,” Stoger said. “Atalanta might not be a big name in Germany but they have showed that they can defeat big teams.
“I always have great respect for teams that are well organised and fight as a unit.
“We all saved the date [for the final]. Despite the great opposition, you can always advance in two games.”
Forward Marco Reus made his first appearance of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Hamburg having recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in last season’s Pokal final.
Asked about Reus’ condition, Stoger replied: “Marco Reus makes a good impression. He looks like he’s feeling well and normally means that he can play.”