Good news. The international break is almost over!! The boredom will finally subside and BVB will finally return to the field.
A return to action really couldn’t come sooner, especially with the poor taste left in all our mouths following Dortmund’s 2-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. On Friday, BVB will try and rectify that against Hertha Berlin.
But before they do, here are five questions that BVB will have to answer over the next few weeks.
Can Dortmund win the Bundesliga matches they’re supposed to win?
Berlin, Ingolstadt, Schalke, Hamburg...these are our next four Bundesliga matches. Hertha will be tough as always, but the other three teams make up the bottom of the league table.
If Dortmund are going to even come close to competing with Bayern for the league title, they can’t settle for anything less than three points against teams like these. There’s no question that the team will be fired up to face Schalke, they always are. But the games against Ingolstadt and Hamburg can not be approached casually by players or by management. Poor results against similarly beatable teams have held us back in recent title campaigns.
The Bayern game comes on November 19th after the international break, so it’s even more crucial that Thomas Tuchel’s team pick up all the points they can before they host the champions.
Will the defense recover with Bartra back in the team?
Bartra’s injury against Wolfsburg was unfortunate. He’d started quite nicely in his first few games for Dortmund, but the adductor problem forced him out of BVB’s last three matches.
Matthias Ginter, and the defense as a whole, has not been good in Bartra’s absence. Madrid always tough to defend against, but a sturdier/Bartra-ier defense might have been the difference between a tie and a Dortmund victory. And we all saw what happened in the Leverkusen game, the defending for the goals was just not good enough.
The Sokratis-Bartra partnership won’t be perfect yet. They’ll still need time to grow and to learn to play together. But we should be excited by what we’ve seen from them so far. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a shutout or two as we face some of the lesser teams in the league.
Unfortunately, Sokratis has now picked up an injury on international duty. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out for, but it’s apparently an adductor problem that is similar to what Bartra dealt with. He certainly won’t be available against Berlin, and after that it’s unclear.
No one is healthy right now, but when we’re healthy we’re getting closer to something resembling a solid defense, which Dortmund hasn’t had in a while.
Which wingers will emerge as first choices?
It’s still unclear when Marco Reus will be fit to play again, and Andre Schurrle’s health seems to come and go quite quickly. This means our other wingers will need to step up and display consistency that they have not shown yet.
We’ve got three incredibly promising youngsters in Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, and Emre Mor, but none of them are the established week-in/week-out starters that Reus and Schurrle are when healthy. Dembele and Pulisic have been better than Mor, who has yet to show a final product.
The Leverkusen game was frustrating for all three, but that was partially due to the winger’s defensive responsibilities in the 3-2-4-1 that Tuchel set-up. Dembele and Pulisic do not have the size or the experience to have significant defensive roles at the moment. Surely Tuchel has now realized that, and I don’t think we’ll see a lineup like that again.
Dembele and Pulisic have each had moments of brilliance in this young season. Their respective assists against Freiburg and Madrid stand out. But if neither player can show consistency, and Reus and Schurrle can’t stay healthy, don’t be surprised if we’re in the market for a winger in January.
Can BVB avoid the same struggles Madrid had against Sporting?
The general thinking among Dortmund fans is that we’ll advance from our group in the Champions League, but I’m not sure it will be as easy as some people think.
Look what happened to Madrid when they over-estimated the club from Lisbon. They went behind and had to rely on two late goals to take the three points.
If the defense returns to form with Bartra back, we should be able to better SCP in both upcoming matches. But if we are asleep and have two bad results against the Portuguese-side, we’d likely need a win against Madrid at the Bernabeu to get second place.
On the other hand, two wins against Sporting would position us to take advantage of any slip from Madrid. Topping the group instead of finishing second would be huge for our knockout stage draw prospects.
Will Mario Gotze continue to improve?
Did you see Gotze playing striker for Germany? Surely he won’t feature there for us, but it was good to see him back and impacting the game. It was also just good to see a smile back on his face. More confidence may be just what he needs to really kick on in the Bundesliga.
What I’ve seen from Mario, so far in his return to Dortmund, has been slow but steady growth. The player who was so great for us a few years ago is clearly still in there. He just needs time and support so that the brilliance will shine through in more than just the odd moment against Freiburg.
One thing that would really help would be if the fans would stop booing him. A goal would shut the remaining haters up quite nicely.
What say you? What questions would you like to see answered from the squad in the next few weeks?