(Reuters) - When Thomas Tuchel took over at Borussia Dortmund in 2015 he was hailed as the country’s top coaching talent who could carve out his own era at the Ruhr Valley club just like his predecessor, Juergen Klopp, did.
Less than two seasons on, however, Tuchel’s team is battling to secure an automatic Champions League group spot with two games left in the season amid an ongoing dispute between the 43-year-old coach and club bosses.
Neither the club nor the coach himself have said Tuchel would definitely be seeing out his contract to 2018 at Dortmund, who are preparing to defend third spot and their two-point advantage over Hoffenheim with a trip to Augsburg on Saturday.
“I am the head coach of Dortmund in Augsburg, that’s for sure,” is all Tuchel would say earlier this week when asked if he would be coach next season.
The cause of the dispute between CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and Tuchel is the decision to play last month’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against AS Monaco a day after it was postponed due to a bomb attack on the team bus that injured one player.
Dortmund played the game the following day, losing 3-2, and then went out following another defeat in the away leg.
Tuchel had argued at the time the game should not have been set for the next day with his team still in shock while Watzke said there was choice given the busy match calendar towards the end of the season.
“It is his right (to say it), he is the boss,” Tuchel said. “I do not comment on this. We have two more games to play as well as a (German) Cup final.”
Club officials have tried to play down the dispute, saying disagreements were part and parcel of the daily operations at a club but have not said whether Tuchel would stay on.
“We are all working professionally and hard together, especially at this crucial phase of the season,” said Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc.
”We never discuss about the coach in public. We did not do it over seven years with Juergen Klopp and not since Tuchel has been in charge either.
“We will sit down together after the end of the season and analyse it and rate it.”
Second-placed RB Leipzig, six points clear of Dortmund and already sure of a top three finish, host champions Bayern Munich, who secured their record-extending fifth straight league crown two weeks ago.
At the other end of the table, former European champions Hamburg SV, sitting in the relegation playoff spot, travel to Schalke 04 in desperate need of points to protect their unbroken 54-year Bundesliga presence.
Editing by Peter Rutherford