Dortmund face FC Red Bull Salzburg tomorrow in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 16 trailing 1-2 on aggregate. The Black and Yellows showed last Sunday against Eintracht Frankfurt they are indeed capable of playing exciting football, even if Marco Reus said after the game that most of the second half was “scheiße.” To be fair, most of the second half was scheiße, except for a few minutes of glory involving Christian Pulisic and Belgian sensation Michy Batshuayi.
A lack of leadership continues to plague Dortmund, along with a trainer who’s not willing to physically or at least verbally threaten (kidding) his players in the locker room if they don’t start playing with passion. Marco Reus must be made captain, since no one comes close to him when it comes to being the kind of leader BVB needs. At this point no one questions Dortmund’s talent; nearly everyone questions their fire. Ultimately, this increase in passion must come from the players themselves, and players like Marco Reus, Lukas Piszczek, Sokratis, and Christian Pulisic seem ready to lead by example.
Last Sunday’s game displayed form from young players like Mahmoud Dahoud and Christian Pulisic that needs to continue if Dortmund are to beat Salzburg. Watching Dahoud in the first half against Frankfurt made one thing abundantly clear: He should start every game. He’s the most talented midfielder on the pitch. He’s not the smartest (he still makes terrible decisions one can attribute to nerves), but these smarts will come with increased playing time and trust from Peter Stöger. Christian Pulisic, similarly, has been enjoying a return to form everyone seems to be commenting on. He was involved in all three goals against Frankfurt, and his form tomorrow against Salzburg (regardless of whether or not he starts) could prove critical.
Christian Pulisic has been restored to Dortmund’s starting 11 after impressing in the side’s Europa League defeat vs Salzburg. And on queue, in his first start back he creates chances and Batshuayi scores twice in a 3-2 win.— IKE Sport Report (@IKE_SportReport) March 12, 2018
Takeaway: play Pulisic. #TheAmericanPlaymaker ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/UHg8q57ZKi
Ultimately, Dortmund will show up to tomorrow’s game in Austria armed with the kind of firepower most teams could only dream of: Götze, Batshuayi and Pulisic aren’t even guaranteed starters. They’re an arsenal of anti-aircraft weapons fighting against teams armed with stones, but half the time these weapons aren’t even pointed in the right direction. This is partly Peter Stöger’s responsibility, but ultimately the players’. If Dortmund can figure out how to click tomorrow for a full 90 minutes they’ll destroy Salzburg. But if they play well for 10 minutes and passively for the other 80, as they’ve done so many times, they’ll head home to Germany with their tails between their legs and fresh expletives for the press.
Other keys to the game:
— He wasn’t bad against Frankfurt, but Gonzalo Castro must never start again, ever.
— Götze will see minutes against Salzburg. He must be quicker and more passionate.
— Ditto for Julian Weigl.
— Get Batshuayi good service (and Reus too, since Basthuayi doesn’t pass).
— If he plays, expect a goal from a recently revived Maximilian Philipp.
Bürki — Schmelzer, Torpak, Sokratis, Piszczek — Dahoud, Weigl — Pulisic, Götze, Reus — Batshuayi
Salzburg 1-2 Dortmund (Dortmund win 5-4 on penalties)