BERLIN (AP) - After hitting its first bumps of 2023, Borussia Dortmund needs to recover quickly to keep the Bundesliga title race exciting before facing Bayern Munich.
Schalke ended Dortmund's perfect league record since the turn of the year with a 2-2 draw on Saturday. It came after the club was knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea the previous Tuesday - a 2-0 loss in the second leg that ended Dortmund's 10-game winning run since the winter break.
There's concern now that tiredness and injuries are taking their toll just when the season enters its decisive phase. Ten matches in the Bundesliga remain. Dortmund next hosts Cologne on Saturday before visiting Bayern for "der Klassiker" on April 1.
The two rivals were level on points, but Bayern has pulled two points ahead thanks to the favor from Schalke. The Bavarian powerhouse appears to have weathered its own drop in form and doesn't look likely to gift Dortmund any more opportunities as it chases a record-extending 11th consecutive league title.
Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl blamed a lack of focus and efficiency for the draw at Schalke. Dortmund was clearly the better team but failed to make more of its goal chances, while the home team twice drew level thanks to some uncommitted defending from the visitors.
Injuries have played a role, though Dortmund coach Edin Terzic should still have had enough quality players to beat Schalke, a team that only recently pulled itself out of last place and has only four wins this season.
Germany midfielder Julian Brandt was arguably in the best form of his life before he had to go off injured against Chelsea, and forwards Karim Adeyemi, Youssoufa Moukoko and Marco Reus were all missing for the match against Schalke. Goalkeeper Gregor Kobel is also injured.
"We had a completely full (substitutes) bench in the first weeks of January," Kehl said. "Still the squad was capable of winning today. It's not a question of quality, also not the players who came in."
Kehl referred to the impact of substitutes after coming on in January and February, when Gio Reyna (twice) and Reus scored late goals to clinch wins.
"Today it was probably a case of less influence from the bench," Kehl said.
Reyna has had a limited role this season, making only five starts, but he was still the player with most goals (five) available against Schalke because of the injuries among Dortmund's forward line.
Sebastien Haller had been expected to help fill the gap left by Erling Haaland's departure for Manchester City, but the Ivory Coast striker has struggled since returning in January after six months out for testicular cancer treatment.
Haller has one goal in 12 appearances in all competitions.
"The only way he can get back to his top form is by being on the field. We want to support him in that," Terzic said before the derby, where Haller again failed to score.
Haller will get another chance against Cologne on Saturday. Perhaps more importantly for Dortmund, Reus - the team captain - is expected to return.
Bayern visits Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports