Thankfully, the international break and we can all return to watching our beloved Borussia Dortmund compete in league action. Unfortunately, our first game back from the break is Der Klassiker at the Allianz Arena against league-leading Bayern Munich.
While they still have yet to lose a league match under Peter Stöger since his arrival, they haven’t played as well offensively at times as they did at the beginning of the season. Whether its injuries, fitness, or tactics, there have been times where they looked straight-up awful to watch. Defensively they’ve looked ok, but offensively it looks like they find that final ball sometimes. And when they do find that final pass, their finishing has been lacking. It reminds me a lot of when the US National Team played under Jurgen Klinsmann with just a little higher possession; moving the ball around, getting it into the opposing team’s half, but just lacking that decisiveness in the final third to put their opposition away. If it wasn’t for outstanding goalkeeping from Bürki and solid defensive plays from our back four, I can’t imagine how many goals we’d have given up or where we’d be in the table.
Thankfully on offense, we have Michy Batshuayi. Batshuayi, who continued his scintillating form with a goal for Belgium against Saudi Arabia in friendly on Wednesday. He’s scored eight goals for the club since arriving on loan from Chelsea, and I don’t see him stopping any time soon. Whether his current form, how he fits into how Dortmund are playing now and beyond, and what Chelsea do at the striker position moving forward will ultimately affect whether he stays at the club, but you’ve got to think Watzke and Zorc are figuring ways to keep him as we speak.
We’ve also got the return of Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic, and André Schürrle to fine form plus the return of Maximillian Philipp from injury to help strengthen the winger position. There’s also been the emergence of Mahmoud Dahoud in central midfield, which I’m all about. Him not being used by Peter Bosz over Sahin or Castro was inexcusable, and I couldn’t be happier to see a player as talented as he is succeeding. I can feel his first goal for the club coming any game now.
As for Bayern? Well, they’re Bayern, so we already know they’re going to bring their absolute best when they play us. Unsurprisingly, they have a lockdown on their 28th league title and their sixth consecutive Meisterschale. Even with a loss against RB Leipzig last match-day, a win on Saturday would clinch the title for them. I don’t think the squad needs any more motivation to beat Bayern, but Stöger has to be hammering this point home. I mean, would you want to see your hated rival clinch a league title against you? Plus, a win here moves us closer to guaranteed Champions League competition next season, so you’ve got the makings of a nerve-wracking Saturday afternoon if you wear the black and yellow.
There shouldn’t be many surprises as far as line-up selection goes regarding Bayern. Robert Lewandowski is the guy our backline has to watch at all times; same goes for Müller, Robben, James, Vidal… basically every one of their attacking players and some of their defensive players need tight marking.
I don’t expect Stöger to make many changes from the 4-2-3-1 formation thrown out against Hannover two weeks ago. With Toprak still out, that means Sokratis and Akanji will be the centerback duo in front of Bürki with Piszczek and Schmelzer the fullbacks. I know I was down on Akanji in the Hannover preview, but he really impressed me with his defensive work rate, and especially his passing. The center-midfield duo should remain Dahoud and Castro, while the attacking midfield should be Reus-Götze-Schürrle, and Batshuayi the lone striker.
I predict a 2-2 come-from-behind draw with Reus and super-sub Philipp scoring for BVB.