Borussia Dortmund are set to return to Bundesliga football Saturday afternoon with a 6:30 CET matchup against Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Westfalenstadion.
BVB enter the match day in eighth place in the Bundesliga, but only four points behind Borussia Mönchengladbach, who currently occupy the sole spot on top of the Bundesliga table, one point ahead of Wolfsburg in second place.
While being four points out of first place is hardly a disastrous position to be in, the lack of results and quality of play that characterized the matches leading up to the international break left plenty of reasons for BVB fans to be worried. BVB’s efforts have resulted in three successive 2-2 draws in the Bundesliga. While an optimist would call this “a three-match unbeaten streak”, the fact is that dropping six out of nine potential points is not good enough for a title contender, and the quality of play coming from other Bundesliga power players leaves little room for error. BVB’s play has been characterized by fragility on set-pieces and lackluster play when holding a lead. BVB haven’t had a shortage of offense: with 19 goals, Dortmund are second in the league, only behind Bayern Munich.
Borussia Mönchengladbach, on the other hand, have climbed to the top of the table on top of a rock-solid defense that has only conceded six goals through seven matches. While the foals are over-performing expected goals by a significant margin (10.86 xGA vs 6 GA), they’ve also under-performed their expected goals for (17.26 xGF vs 15 GF), meaning their success can’t simply be chalked up to good finishing: Mönchengladbach are a legitimately good team. They’ve benefited from re-emergences of several key players who have disappointed in past years. Breel Embolo has finally started to score consistently, and Alassane Pléa has continued where he left off last season, with four goals and four assists through seven matches. Denis Zakaria finally looked like the promising midfielder he was projected to be for years. Manager Marco Rose has got his squad firing on all cylinders, and the foals will pose a significant threat to Borussia Dortmund.
The news from the injury front is mixed. While left back Nico Schulz has recovered from his foot injury, Paco Alcacer and Lukasz Piszczek are still out with achilles tendon and muscle injuries, respectively. The return of Nico Schulz will bolster BVB’s back line, and should provide a boost to Dortmund’s left side, which has looked well off the pace over the past few weeks. This means that BVB should line up with a back line of Schulz, Hummels, Akanji, and Hakimi. Paco Alcacer is still injured, so expect either Mario Götze or Thorgan Hazard to lead the line up front. The rest of the squad should be healthy, so expect Lucien Favre to line up all of his favorites in a 4-2-3-1 with Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel and midfield. Delaney has been at his best against teams that like to possess the ball. If Borussia Mönchengladbach try to play through the midfield like Leverkusen and Barcelona did, Delaney could actually have a positive impact on the match.
Prediction: BVB 2-2 BMG
The draws, they’re never going to end. BVB will look like a group of nobodies for the first 25 minutes until Witsel or Hakimi score a screamer, and Sancho will pull a miraculous goal out of nothing after playing like trash for the first 40 minutes. During the second half, BVB will play like 2016 Darmstadt and Mönchengladbach will play their way back into the game, notching a goal off a set piece as a result of poor zonal marking, and a counter-attack from a delaney turnover in midfield. Favre will receive a contract extension by Wednesday.