Berlin: Marco Reus` decision to commit to Borussia Dortmund was a catalyst to reviving the Bundesliga strugglers` form ahead of Tuesday`s Champions League clash at Juventus, according to defender Neven Subotic.
Serie A leaders Juventus are clear favourites for the last 16, first-leg clash, but Borussia are buoyed by three straight league wins since Germany star Reus signed a contract extension on February 10 to keep him in Dortmund until 2019.
Despite qualifying for the Champions League`s last 16 as group winners ahead of Arsenal, a dire series of results in the first half of the season left Dortmund bottom of Germany`s Bundesliga at the start of the month.
News of Reus` signature ended weeks of speculation that another top player was poised to quit Dortmund and he has scored in each of Borussia`s last three league wins to lift them to mid-table.
After stars Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski quit Dortmund for rivals Bayern Munich in recent years, Borussia`s ability to hold onto a prize asset has boosted the squad, says Subotic.
"Everyone was very happy with his decision. I know I was, because he is a very special player," Subotic told AFP.
"It has given us a lift. We saw that in our win against Mainz when he produced a wonderful pass off the outside of his boot to (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang to score.
"It`s always tough to see our best players go, which is what has happened in recent years.
"It`s a big step for the club to be able to keep players like him."
After weeks of struggling for either league points or goals, Dortmund`s attack has finally clicked with Reus, ex-Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa and Aubameyang in impressive form.
But Subotic admits it is hard to find a reason for the upturn in domestic fortunes.
"I can`t really tell you what has changed, we have always tried to do the same things," he said.
"What really helped was that we had the winter break in January, when we could train as a team for a fortnight.
"Everyone got on the same page in terms of tactics and meant we can now play the football we want to.
"Before that, everyone was trying hard and running a lot, but more often running the wrong way and not doing the right thing.
"We had a lot of heart, but not much head, now we have both which makes the difference."Alongside Reus, Aubameyang has played a key role in reviving Borrusia`s form with four goals and two assists in his last three games.
Subotic says the fleet-footed Gabon forward could become a rich-source of goals, after 18 months in Dortmund, to replace Lewandowski, who netted 74 times during four years for Borussia, but spent most of his first season on the bench.
"Because our football is a little different, it takes time to find a new player and to bed them in, especially if they come from a different country or have a different system," explained Subotic.
"Take Lewandowski, he`s a perfect example of that.
"In his first year, he didn`t do so much, but in the second year he hit form, once he knew what was expected of him and how to do it.
"Aubameyang`s a very special player, his running ability makes him very hard to catch.
"I wouldn`t want to defend against him, and I am sure the other defenders feel the same way.
"He has that speed which only a few are born with and is very hard to defend against.
"He has progressed while he`s been here and we hope he stays."
Having pulled clear of the German league`s relegation places Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp says his side can now focus to the Champions League with clear heads.
"This is a totally different competition," Klopp told BVB.de.
"It will take a while before the situation in the Bundesliga changes much, so the pressure remains high there.
"The Champions League is something different.
"Juventus are multiple-time Italian champions and we aren`t going there as favourites, but we want a good result out of the game.
"The Bundesliga is our priority, but these games don`t come along very often and no-one has to worry about whether it will disturb our concentration for the next league match."