With their hopes of continuing in Champions League over, Borussia Dortmund returns to Bundesliga play as they host Stuttgart on matchday 25.
It’s been a rough go for BVB since the start of the Ruckrunde. They’ve been knocked out of both the DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League in embarrassing fashion, and they’ve seen their once-strong nine-point lead over Bayern Munich vanish. Thanks to a number of big wins early in the season, they still maintain their place at the top of the league on goal differential, but a resurgent Bayern could wipe away that goal differential in an instant if the team continues their poor run of form.
While Dortmund are performing well against the top-half teams in the league, which is expected of a title-contender, they’re struggling against teams near the bottom of the league. Like struh-guh-ling; according to that graph Sean linked in his article this week, Dortmund has dropped 18 points this season, with seven of those points coming against teams towards the bottom of the table. Teams are learning how to defend against the lethal counter-attack Dortmund presents, and are managing to punish Dortmund’s miscues with goal-scoring opportunities. Both the players and Lucien Favre need to clean up these mistakes and make tactical adjustments to break down teams in non-counterattacking situations.
The team has been hit hard by injuries during the second half of the season. Akanji, Diallo, Toprak, Piszczek, Pulisic, and Reus were all injured for various lengths during the first few months of the Ruckrunde. Although Piszczek is still on the mend, it’s nice to have so many first-team players back on the pitch. Hopefully the team chemistry will improve back to the way it was during the first half of the season.
I could see Dortmund rolling out the same formation and player selection against Stuttgart with a few changes. Dortmund saw a lot of early success against Tottenham, even if they weren’t able to find the back of the net. Götze in particular played exceptionally well on Tuesday as the creative force in the midfield, while Witsel did more than enough as lone defensive midfielder.
I’d definitely move Wolf out of the rightback spot for Hakimi. Ideally, Piszczek would be swapped for Wolf, but he’s still hurt so it will be Hakimi instead. And other than selfishly putting Pulisic in the starting XI because ‘Merica, there’s not a whole lot I’d change.
While Stuttgart currently sit in the relegation playoff spot with 19 points and a -28 goal differential, they just recently spanked Hannover in a 5-1 win. Die Roten have only secured five points from the first two months of the Rückrunde, and their demolition of Hannover was their first win since December 15 against Hertha. Stuttgard aren’t a strong road team, as they’ve only picked up four points this season away from the Mercedez-Benz Arena. Still, Dortmund will have to find a way to break through their packed-in defense while not allowing old-ass Mario Gomez any room to get a shot off.
I’m hopeful that the performance against Tottenham will light a fire in the players this Saturday. With no more competitions other than the Bundesliga to focus on, there shouldn’t be any reason why the players don’t get up for this one, not with Bayern breathing down their necks. I’m predicting a tough 2-0 win for the Black and Yellows