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Opposition Analysis: Hamburger SV vs Borussia Dortmund

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Can Dortmund survive on the road this season?

Hamburger SV v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga Photo by Oliver Hardt/Bongarts/Getty Images

Off the back of a 5-0 blowout victory on Sunday over FC Koln, Borussia Dortmund continues its busy schedule as they travel to face Hamburger SV on Wednesday. After starting the season with a pair of victories, Hamburg has lost consecutive matches to RB Leipzig and early-season surprise contenders Hannover 96.

What to Watch for: Small Ball

When Hamburg has been successful this season, it’s a credit to the way they operate in tight quarters. Rather than attempting a big, home-run pass, Hamburg creates offensive opportunities by connecting multiple short passes to methodically dissect the defense. Another redeeming quality is the team’s ability to win the ball when outnumbered and to create chances almost immediately.

Take, for instance, Hamburg’s win over FC Koln. The first goal came off a corner. Hamburg won the second ball and immediately forced a shot through traffic that found the net. Goal number two again came after Hamburg won the second ball, strung together three passes in close range before Bobby Wood fired in a goal. The third was the result of a counter attack that ended with a sweaty, 10-yard pass across the face of goal for an easy tap-in.

Hamburg’s ability to operate inside the 18-yard box is dependent on the way they win first and second balls and carve out opportunities in crowded areas of the field. Hamburg has been limited in their ability to do this over the last two games. Against RB Leipzig, they almost found the breakthrough but Peter Gulacsi’s glove was just enough to keep the ball out of the net.

Key to the Game: Long Through Balls / Crosses

Hamburg is actually a team that’s difficult to solve. In one game, the team’s defensive issues are outlined by giving up too much space. Yet in their latest defeat to Hannover, poor goalkeeping and interior defending plagued Hamburg. But the one common issue comes from Hamburg’s inability to deal with passes into the area.

For Dortmund, having speedy forwards makes it easier for midfielders to send in long through balls and crosses between opposing defenders. Dortmund’s forwards are skilled enough to not only catch up to these lead passes but also take a few touches before attempting a shot. The addition of Andriy Yarmolenko and Max Philipp also adds an aerial threat element to the front three for Dortmund.

For Dortmund to break down the Hamburg defense, they’ll need to employ the opposite strategy on offense as Hamburg and play big. Long through balls and crosses from the wing to have made life for Hamburg defenders difficult. The club’s inability to deal with these balls the first time has plagued them over the past two weeks with no visible sign of change coming.

Player to Watch: Bobby Wood

The U.S. international is at his best when given space between defenders. Although Dortmund’s injury-plagued defense stonewalled Koln on Sunday, the Billy Goats lacked the quality that Hamburg have up front with Wood. The Hawaiian is speedy while in possession of the ball and creates space for himself and for teammates to attack. Wood can exploit the smallest of gaps between defenders, making him one of the most dynamic and difficult players to mark in the Bundesliga.

Projected Lineup

  • Formation: 4-2-3-1
  • Goalkeeper: Christian Mathenia
  • Defenders: Gideon Jung, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Gotoku Sakai, Dennis Diekmeier
  • Midfielders: Andre Hahn, Luca Waldschmidt, Walace, Lewis Holtby, Albin Ekdal
  • Forward: Bobby Wood

Prediction: Dortmund 2-1

This shutout streak has been fun and all, but it looks like it might be coming to an end with Wood on the other side. Regardless, Dortmund should earn the victory on Wednesday afternoon as they’re simply the better team. It will be a struggle early on, and Dortmund may even trail. Yarmolenko will have a significant impact in this one.