Through all the emotional turmoil Dortmund fans have been through the past few days, one can be forgiven if the match-up against Hamburg this weekend slipped their mind. It's a game that doesn't mean much for Dortmund in regards to their league placement, but it's more about getting back on track and beating a team that they've struggled to beat.
Hamburg were one of the few teams that beat in the Hinrunde, and flat out outplayed Dortmund at the Volksparkstadion. The BVB defense was all over the place, with mistakes from Matthias Ginter, Roman Bürki, and Mats Hummels gifting Hamburg all three goals.
Dortmund have had a difficult go of it against Hamburg in recent times, and are winless in their past four matches against them (3 losses, one draw). In fact, they've only won once in the past seven games against "the Dino", despite the fact that Hamburg have been battling relegation the past few seasons. Hamburg is Dortmund's proverbial "bogey team", and there always seems to be a struggle when they come to town.
This time around, Hamburg are faring a little better, and sit in tenth place, five points behind Ingolstadt. Credit where credit is due, though, head coach Bruno Labbadia has gotten Hamburg playing much better than previous seasons, even if it's not where they'd ideally like to be in the standings. They've lost key players like Hakan Calhanoglu, Heung-Min Son, and Jonathan Tah in recent seasons, but are now finally starting to recover from those losses.
Every player is fit for Hamburg, except for Aaron Hunt, per ESPN's Stefan Buczko. This means we're likely to see Sven Schipplock start at striker, who's yet to score this season, with Nicolai Müller, Lewis Holtby, and Ivo Ilicevic also in attack. Holtby and Ilicevic both made spectacular runs through our defense off some mistakes in the reverse fixture, setting up the first two goals.
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images
Hamburg are an incredibly average Bundesliga team across the board. From their league position, to the number of goals they've scored and conceded, nothing is outstandingly bad or good. However, a strong defensive performance from them could trouble a Dortmund team who could still be down after Thursday's shocking collapse.
To prevent a Europa League hangover, it wouldn't surprise me if Thomas Tuchel opted for some legs we didn't see on Thursday. Christian Pulisic could get another start after a strong first half in the Revierderby, and it might be about time we see Ilkay Gündoğan in the starting line-up once again.
As discussed in yesterday's article, Tuchel might use the Bundesliga to give some fringe players a chance to prove their worth. Nuri Sahin's name especially comes to mind, as the midfield has been lightly used since returning from injury, partly due to Julian Weigl, but also because of poor form. Sahin could use a pick-me-up, and so could Erik Durm, who's struggled mightily recently, despite having some good performances earlier in the year. Moritz Leitner could be another guy who's in the fray, and after an impressive Revierderby with an assist, he could find himself in the line-up again if Gündoğan isn't risked.
With an important semifinal in the DFB Pokal on Wednesday, Tuchel could once again rest some of his superstars, but probably won't keep them all on the bench this time. Unfortunately, no one really cares too much about this game at this point in the season. A win here isn't going to cheer anybody up, but a loss could do more damage. It's important to rebound after a gut wrenching defeat, especially when there's a month left in the season.
Any dreams of a title race seem gone now, as Bayern will surely take care of Schalke in good fashion, something Dortmund failed to do. The season is nearing it's end, and it feels pretty empty in all honesty. It'd be nice to win out, but that sour taste from the Europa League is going to linger around for a while.
Dortmund: Bürki, Piszczek, Bender, Hummels, Schmelzer, Weigl, Castro, Durm, Pulisic, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan
Hamburg: Adler, Diekmeier, Djourou, Spahic, Sakai, Ekdal, Holtby, Müller, Gregoritsch, Ilicevic, Schipplock