Gonzalo Castro has urged his Borussia Dortmund team-mates to focus on their Europa League match against PAOK with Der Klassiker looming on the horizon.
Dortmund take on long-time rivals Bayern Munich in a top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash at the Allianz Arena on Sunday, three days on from their forthcoming assignment in Thessaloniki.
As a precaution, coach Thomas Tuchel has left first-teamers Mats Hummels, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ilkay Gundogan, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shinji Kagawa out of the travelling party.
Midfielder Castro, who was handed a start as Dortmund began their Europa League campaign with last-gasp 2-1 win over Krasnodar earlier this month, believes their Greek opponents will be ready to capitalise on any hint of distraction among Tuchel’s squad.
“Everyone in Germany is looking ahead to the match against Bayern, but we will have to be focused on tomorrow’s match,” the close-season signing from Bayer Leverkusen told a pre-match press conference.
“As a professional you have the ambition to win every match, especially when playing for Dortmund.
“PAOK will want to impress us especially in such a heated atmosphere. We need to stay cool and play our own game.”
“We want to dictate the pace of the game. It’ll be tough for the opponent if we’re able to do that.”
Dortmund have already played 13 competitive matches this season and Tuchel, who could hand a debut to 16-year-old defender Patrick Fritsch, cited this heavy workload as a reason – along with the Bayern fixture – for his decision to rotate.
“We expect to be challenged 100 per cent tomorrow and on Sunday, which is why we took that measure,” he said.
“Against PAOK we’ll need a team that is fresh and fully in shape – not a team that already has 15 games in their legs.
“I’m looking forward to the match and to the atmosphere. It’ll be a European night that will stretch us to the limit.”