The clock is ticking down at the Westfalenstadion. Borussia Dortmund hold a slim 3-2 lead against Niko Kovac and Bayern Munich. Franck Ribery holds the ball in the center of the pitch and plays the ball out to the wing where Joshua Kimmich, in acres of space, receives the pass. Kimmich looks up and whips in a low cross pass the outstretched Axel Witsel to Robert Lewandowski, who stretches his right leg back and redirects the ball into the net with an expert backheel. BVB fans everywhere have hearts in their mouths, and the Bayern fans in the north corner are jumping in jubilation, but... wait, no! It’s offside, it won’t count! Robert Lewandowski charges towards the linesman demanding for VAR to check the goal, but to no avail. The decision stands and the score remains 3-2. Only seconds later, the final whistle blows, and the entire yellow wall erupts in celebration.
It’s been almost exactly two years to the day that Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Since then, BVB have been outscored 10-0 over three consecutive defeats in the league. Now, Borussia Dortmund will have another chance to right the ship and get one over on Bayern Munich, when the Bavarians come marching into the Westfalenstadion on Saturday.
So how exactly should Borussia Dortmund go about beating Bayern Munich? Over the last year, seemingly every team in Europe from Chelsea to Barcelona to PSG has stepped up to the plate against Bayern only to be nonchalantly brushed aside (well, other than Hoffenheim), so it’s much easier said than done. If there is a way for Borussia Dortmund to beat Bayern, I believe it can be found somewhere in the tape of the DFL-Supercup.
The 3-2 loss was disappointing and obviously places a dark cloud over BVB’s performance, but ultimately there were a few lessons that Dortmund could learn and improve upon. First and foremost, when Bayern make mistakes, you have to punish them. I wrote about this a bit when I answered some questions in a Q+A for Bavarian Football Works, but I’d like to expand on it here.
BVB’s best offensive chances in the Supercup came from creating turnovers in front of Bayern’s back line and quickly playing it forward, either into the feet of an attacking forward between the lines, or as a through ball to Erling Haaland, who has the pace to get in behind Bayern’s high line, The first goal an example of the former. Manuel Akanji jumped in front of a lazy pass to Thomas Muller. His challenge blasted the ball out to Marco Reus, who one-touched it to Haaland, who played a ball to a wide-open Julian Brandt.
The second goal was off an interception in the middle of the pitch. Once again, Akanji stepped up and picked off a pass to Lewandowski. Thomas Delaney picked up the loose ball and immediately played a perfect through ball to Haaland, who was able to stay onside and get in on Neuer and smash the ball past him. In both instances, by applying pressure at the right moments, BVB were able to quickly create turnovers and get the ball into the net before Bayern even had a chance to react.
Borussia Dortmund’s defense has been stalwart this season, but against Bayern Munich, you simply have to assume that you’re going to concede a few goals. If BVB’s player plugging and putting Bayern’s back line under pressure, chances will come. If you concede first, keep your chin up and fight tooth and nail to get back into the match. We’ve seen what happens when BVB get demoralized after conceding early, and it usually isn’t pretty.
Right off the bat, the big X-Factor for Borussia Dortmund is Mats Hummels. BVB’s star center back has been the mainstay of BVB’s backline, but sat Wednesday’s match against Club Brugge with a thigh injury. He will surely need to be healthy if Dortmund are to have the slightest chance of victory. Will he be fit to play? Well... I don’t know. As of my writing this, Ruhr Nachrichten have reported that Hummels finished an individual running session, but did not practice with the squad. This means that he may be fit to start on Saturday, but BVB’s doctors may also decide that it isn’t worth risking aggravating an already-existing injury.
Emre Can, who missed the prior two weeks with Coronavirus, has also resumed training with the team. It also remains to be seen whether or not he will be fully fit. I doubt that he will start against Bayern, because he missed several matches and was reportedly suffering mild symptoms of COVID, but we won’t know for sure until Saturday.
Given Favre’s rotation on Wednesday against Club Brugge, I expect the squad to look something like this:
Once again, this lineup hinges on Mats Hummels being healthy. For all I know, we may see Axel Witsel play as a CB again, or maybe Favre will decide that Hummels isn’t fit but Piszczek can play in the back four.
Even though Mahmoud Dahoud has been in good form recently, he played a full 90 minutes against Brugge while Jude Bellingham only played a handful of minutes, so I expect the young Englishman to start. The same could be said for Marco Reus and Thomas Meunier. Julian Brandt and Gio Reyna were also rotated against Brugge, so I could see either one of them starting as well. The good news is that if this were the lineup on Saturday, Favre would have several attacking options on the bench including Thorgan Hazard and Gio Reyna.
Nope, not doing it. Enjoy the game.