Saturday’s match at the Westfalenstadion against SV Darmstadt is shaping up to be far more important than when the fixtures were released for the upcoming season. What had been looked at as a pretty simple match has rapidly shifted to a critical opportunity to self-arrest following the unconvincing display against Mainz to open the campaign and the dismal performance they followed that up with in Leipzig. Thankfully, the performance at Warsaw, against an admittedly pretty dreadful side, surely must have done wonders to restore the confidence of Tuchel’s Jungs.
The good news is that Darmstadt are even weaker than they were last year and are considered relegation fodder by nearly all pundits and analysts alike. Furthermore, Darmstadt do not play in a high press that Ralph Hasenhütel used to great effect against Dortmund last week. The bad news is the Lillies still play a very good, tight, compact defense led by their captain Aytac Sulu. In the previous year’s fixture, Darmstadt confounded Dortmund’s high octane offensive machine, holding the Schwartzgelb to two goals and stealing a point in BVB’s first hiccup of the season. This time around, though, the Hessens are not being coached by Dirk Schuster who always got an absolutely top, inspired performance from his back six. Darmstadt will look offensively for set pieces as their primary mode of putting points on the board. Aytac Sulu will be key to those plans. Secondly, Darmstadt likely over-performed on their ability to counterattack and the departure of Sandro Wagner to Hoffenheim over the Summer makes this even lesser of a threat, though with the only link from the defensive six to the striker being Jerome Gondorf, whoever lines up at right full-back will have to be mindful his threat to track down balls cleared out of the area. Darmstadt hopes their hole at striker due to Wagner’s departure can be filled by promising young Croatian Antonio-Miro Colak, on loan from Hoffenheim. Colak pied his trade last year in the 2nd Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern, knocking in five goals and bagging one assist across five matches. Colak has yet to start in the Bundesliga but exploded with a hat trick against fifth tier side Bremer SV in the DFB Pokal. Darmstadt have also brought on Sven Schipplock from Hamburg and Änis Ben-Hatira from Eintracht Frankfurt.
Well, as of Wednesday evening, Tuchel figured out what went wrong against Leipzig, and fielded a highly creative, positive lineup, dropping Rode, Castro, and Schürrle (for injury reasons) for Guerrero, Dembélé, and Pulisic. This midfield quintet of the aforementioned plus Götze and Weigl decimated poor Legia Warsaw in the Champions League. Darmstadt can be expected to play a similar style of laying back and defending in depth, though they must surely show better ability than the impotence the Polish side demonstrated. Due to the similarity of opponent, I would expect virtually the same lineup unless Tuchel feels the need to rotate his squad for fitness reasons. But, with such a YOUNG squad fielded in Warsaw, I find it hard to believe the kids haven’t already regenerated to complete fitness. Schmelzer had a mean ankle twist in the Champions League tie but managed to shake it off. Tuchel stated in his press conference he would be available, but this match would be the perfect opportunity for him to rest. And Schürrle’s status is doubtful.
Summing up the presser: Schmelzer fit, Schürrle doubtful, Merino not a CB, Guerreiro a starter. #bvbd98— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) September 16, 2016
Predicted Lineup: Bürki, Passlack, Sokratis, Bartra, Schmelzer, Weigl, Guerrero, Pulisic, Götze, Dembélé, Aubameyang.
As for Darmstadt, it’s anyone’s guess who will line up as their coach Norbert Meier and the Lillies have been a bit guarded on information. Sulu is still questionable with a calf injury having ruled him out of last week’s Hessenderby.
Prediction: 3-0 Dortmund. I don’t see BVB overlooking the Lillies again, nor do I see Darmstadt able to pull off a smash and grab like they did last year.