Borussia Dortmund's preparations for Wednesday's Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid have been hit by news a star player wants to leave after the season.
On the eve of what it calls "the most spectacular home game in Borussia Dortmund's history," the first leg has been overshadowed by Mario Goetze's decision to join Bayern Munich on July 1.
Bayern, which is triggering Goetze's reported release clause of 37 million euros ($48 million), said on Tuesday it wanted to delay the announcement "out of consideration" for Wednesday's game, but Dortmund was left struggling to minimize its impact.
Goetze's Facebook page quickly became a target for abusive messages from disappointed fans, and Dortmund appealed to supporters to continue to support the 20-year-old midfielder "unconditionally."
Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp concluded Tuesday's news conference with a direct appeal to fans.
"Let's have a great night tomorrow. Leave all the negative emotions at home, come to the stadium, and let's beat Real Madrid," Klopp said.
"Borussia Dortmund is above everything. We have a chance to show it. We have the chance to show that we can deal with this extraordinarily well. We have the chance to show we can go on despite this blow. And I think we should take it."
Earlier, he said Goetze was not leaving because of his teammates or the club but was joining Bayern to work with an "outstanding coach" in Pep Guardiola.
"I can't shorten myself by 15 centimeters and start learning Spanish," Klopp joked.
Excitement has been palpable in Dortmund for another clash between last season's German and Spanish champions. Dortmund beat Madrid 2-1 at home in the group stage, and claimed a 2-2 draw away before topping Group D.
"We've a lot to gain, nothing to lose," said Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.
Some Dortmund fans queued over two nights for tickets after a limited number were made available on Tuesday, and police had to intervene after scuffles broke out when suspected ticket scalpers sent their own people to try to jump the queues. All 65,829 tickets for the game are sold out.
Klopp hopes their enthusiasm hasn't diminished.
"If there's someone who hasn't realized by tomorrow how important this is to us all, how much we've dreamed of this, then, really, they shouldn't come," he said.
Dortmund, the only undefeated side left in the competition, completed a remarkable comeback in the quarterfinals with two goals in injury time to defeat Malaga 3-2, and is looking for a hat trick of home victories against Spanish opponents this season.
Continue reading this story on the...