With their foray into Europa League over with a whimper, Borussia Dortmund returns to Bundesliga action when they host Hannover 96 bright and early on Saturday.
Look, I don’t want to bring up the disappointment from our defeat against Red Bull Salzburg. They were drab, lifeless showings from most of our players and our manager and I think less said the better. There are writers on this website who can pinpoint our problems better than I can, but from my novice opinion it just looks like they’re too timid on offense. As bad as they were at times under Bosz, at least they could get forward and attack the opposing backline with confidence. Just look at Christian Pulisic; he’s not looked like himself playing under Stöger. The defense has been mostly solidified under Stöger with the occasional lapse in concentration, but offensively I haven’t seen a performance yet where they completely dominated a match from start to finish. I hope they can get out of their collective offensive malaise before the clubs below them overpass them, but I’m personally not holding my breath.
With Frankfurt winning today and clubs like Leverkusen and Leipzig just outside the top four, a win against 12th-place Hannover is crucial. The last time we played them back in October was where the cracks started to form in the short-lived Bosz era. Down 2-1 at halftime, we would claw back to level with a Yarmolenko goal before defensive slips and shoddy ball control allowed Die Roten to score two goals in the final thirty minutes to pull away with a 4-2 win at the HDI-Arena.
Swap out Castro for Weigl and maybe Schürrle for Reus with Götze in the middle and I really like this line-up. Pulisic has definitely earned his starting position back after his performance against Frankfurt. That 5-2-3 formation looks like space in the back will be tough to find, so I’d like to see our more creative players leading the attack. I can see Philipp and Schürrle coming in as super subs late if we need to find a goal.
I’m not crazy about Schmelzer or Piszczek as our full-backs, but there aren’t many options for us at the moment at those two positions. Raph is still on the mend with his multitude of injuries that has kept him out since October, and Toljan has been sick since the beginning of the month. I’m fine with the centerback pairing, although the last time I got a good look at Akanji I wasn’t too impressed with him overall.
As for Hannover, they are on a run of horrible form as of late. They’ve lost their last three matches and have only earned nine points since the start of the Ruckrunde. Still, no matter how badly they’ve been playing, they can’t be overlooked or else we’ll get beaten. Niclas Füllkrug is Hannover’s leading scorer with 10 Bundesliga goals, while Ilhas Bebou will also need close marking or else he’ll put another two goals into our net.
I predict a drab 2-1 win with Reus and Batshuayi getting the goals on Sunday.