Borussia Dortmund’s congested late February schedule continues on Monday with a match inside the hollowed grounds of Signal Iduna Park against eighth-place FC Augsburg (8-7-8, 31 pts.).
Despite not losing a league match since December 9 against Werder Bremen, having won the last three matches thanks to that fantastic Belgian Michy Batshuayi, and currently sitting third in the Bundesliga table, things still aren’t all peachy in the Westfalenstadion. We’re a staggering 20 points behind Bayern for first place while only two points separates us from sixth-place Leverkusen. It’s going to be a tight battle the rest of the way for the remaining three Champions League spots, with or without Dortmund lifting the Europa League trophy. Plus, we’re still dealing with injuries at key positions, although players like Philipp and Yarmolenko are returning to full strength, so it might be a while until we get to a point where we don’t have to rely on grinding out victories.
Still, even with injuries and ugly wins lately, we’re still in a position to hold off challengers Schalke and Frankfurt with humungous away fixtures against Leipzig and Frankfurt on the horizon mixed in with Europa League Round of 16 action against Red Bull Salzburg. The wins haven’t looked pretty, with a lot of our goals coming in the second half, but we’re getting key results which is what should matter at this point in the season.
I’m expecting a mostly rotated squad on Monday after the hard-fought draw over Atalanta on Thursday. A grueling draw in Italy, plus travel there and back, will surely force Stöger into playing non-regular starters like Castro (ugh) and Isak (yay?). With Schmelzer back we might see him start at left back over Toljan with Piszczek at right back, and Akanji and either Sokratis or Toprak our centerback pairing. I’d like to see a combo of Dahoud and/or Weigl over Sahin (aka Captain Backpass) in central midfield with Götze playing ahead of them as the attacking midfielder, Reus and Schürrle out on the wings with Pulisic still struggling to regain form, and Batshuayi as the lone striker.
Augsburg are definitely overachieving this season, sitting pretty at eighth after finishing 2016-17 in 13th. The 2-1 win over them at the WWK Arena in September right before the bad times started, with Yarmolenko and Kagawa both scoring first-half goals, wasn’t a 100% domination like other matches before up to that point. I honestly don’t know much about Fuggerstädter other than they’ve gotten four points from their last five matches and have been shut out twice since hammering Frankfurt 3-0. Alfred Finnbogason would be the man to watch if he weren’t out with an injury, so the main focus will fall to Brazilian playmaker Caiuby. He scored the last time these teams met, and I bet he’ll be looking to do that again while wreaking havoc with his ball movement and off-ball positioning.
I predict a messy 2-0 win over Augsburg. Let us know how you think Monday’s match will go below.