Three days after a disappointing 3-3 draw against league-leaders RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund have the opportunity to redeem themselves against TSG Hoffenheim, and position themselves well for an all-out brawl for the title come springtime. To do so, BVB will need to notch their first victory in Hoffenheim since 2012.
Hoffenheim are currently in the “mid-tier” of Bundesliga clubs. While they’re definitely strong enough to avoid becoming entrenched in a relegation fight, they’re also out of contention for the Champions League spots, and are in a dogfight just to make it into the Europa League. This is Hoffenheim’s first season without Julian Nägelsmann, and you can tell that the club as a whole has suffered. They sit in ninth place, and have largely subsisted thus far on low-event, defensive football. Their most “prolific” offensive threats thus far have been Andrej Kramaric and Jürgen Locadia, both with four goals apiece.
How Will Borussia Dortmund Line Up?
With injuries to key players like Marco Reus (muscle) and potentially Jadon Sancho (ankle), Lucien Favre will have to adjust the 3-4-3 that has been at the center of Borussia Dortmund’s revitalization in recent weeks. This probably means that Paco Alcacer, who has spent the bulk of the last month on the bench, will be given a chance to take back a spot in the starting lineup. Axel Witsel is still out with the facial injury that he suffered at his home, so Julian Weigl will once again need to step in and play as the sole defensive midfielder.
There is one other possible development that might have USMNT fans on the edge of their seats. Jadon Sancho was subbed off against RB Leipzig with an apparent muscle injury. If he doesn’t start, it could mean that Gio Reyna, the 17 year-old American from New York City F.C.’s youth academy, could see his first match with the senior squad. I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up because Sancho could be fit for the match tomorrow, but us Americans might just get a special treat.
Keys to the Match
- Schulz against his former club: After a poor showing from Raphael Guerreiro at left wing back on Tuesday, Lucien Favre will likely start Nico Schulz against his former team. Schulz has also had some tepid performances recently. The wing backs are a crucial point of attack in Favre’s 3-4-3, meaning the match’s result could depend on Schulz’s performance.
- A bounce-back from Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt: Hazard and Brandt have been at the forefront of Borussia Dortmund’s mid-season revival, which made both of their poor performances against RB Leipzig disappointing. Even though Brandt’s goal was a highlight of the season, his performance in other areas left a lot to be desired, with far too many turnovers and missed tackles. He’s an offensive dynamo, but he needs to learn that he has other responsibilities in midfield as well. Hazard was also mostly invisible on the pitch on Tuesday. If he can return to form, Hoffenheim will surely have their hands full.
- Just find a way to score: Hoffenheim have found goals to be pretty hard to come by this season, with only 23 goals through 17 games. If Dortmund can find the back of the net twice, they could probably break give themselves a pretty good chance of winning.
Despite three costly errors, Borussia Dortmund played pretty well against RB Leipzig, and I think that they will bounce back nicely against Hoffenheim. This isn’t the same Hoffenheim that challenged for the top-four under Julian Nägelsmann. I predict a 3-1 victory, with a brace from Thorgan Hazard, and a third goal from Paco Alcacer.