After a grueling two-week period against high-quality opponents, Borussia Dortmund will now host a club that has had a much more difficult season, Hertha Berlin. Over the last few weeks, Dortmund progressed in both the DFB Pokal and UEFA Champions League, but a defeat to Bayern Munich has left Die Schwarzgelben four points behind their coveted Champions League qualification place. A win against a struggling Berlin side is a must to keep pace with the league leaders.
Berlin come into this match with one win in their last five outings, a 2-1 victory over FC Augsburg last weekend. Krzysztof Piątek and Dodi Lukebakio were on the scoresheet for that one, with Piątek delivering a thumping header in what has been an otherwise dismal season for the once highly sought after forward. His woes have mirrored the team, who despite a massive cash injection and the arrival of some high profile names, have not been able to string together the European push that was expected of them as early-season hopefuls.
As for Dortmund, a slight hiccup last weekend interrupted a set of back-to-back league wins, and the boys should look to continue this form this weekend. Dortmund will remain without several key figures going into the matchday, with Sancho expected to return from his injury in April. Manuel Akanji remains sidelined, and Raphael Guerreiro is major doubt. The last time the two teams met, a certain Norwegian figure plundered FOUR goals against the opposition to the tune of a 5-2 scoreline. Expect that man to look to continue his fine form against the Berliners.
Dortmund’s twitter published this lineup for the game tomorrow, which I find... unsettling.
The idea of linking Brandt and Schulz on the left wing is frankly miserable, given the form of the former and the style of the latter. Schulz’s tendency to spring high for an attacking cross will likely not be covered by a Julian Brandt who has looked more than apathetic this season. I also continue to fear this long stretch of games without rest for our captain, who could be forced to shoulder even more load on the right with Julian Brandt doing... whatever he does on the left. Against a struggling opponent I would hope to see Terzic opt for a little more rotation, maybe getting some of the kids involved or even consider a formation change to surprise the opposition.
We have seen Terzic stick to what works over the last month, so despite my qualms I expect things to stay the same. With Hazard only a few weeks back from injury I agree with the Twitter account that he will probably be rested. Hopefully Terzic opts to give Reinier a runout in Reus’s place, but that new look forward line may be too uncomfortable for a manager who knows his side needs points.
As for Berlin, expect some variation of a 3-5-2. In defensive setups they will drop a midfielder deeper to sit in front of the center backs, and in attack, players like Lucas Tousart or Matheus Cunha shift forward. Unfortunately for Hertha, Cunha, along with Dedryck Boyata and Sami Kedhira will likely not be fit for the game.
Unlike other lower table teams, Hertha may not sit deep and compact around the box like Dortmund have often seen this season. Berlin have lots of talent in their team and should be expected to attack Dortmund when possible. That said, they are missing critical elements of their defense, midfield, and attack, meaning they may approach the game more conservatively.
I expect Dortmund to ride the momentum from their midweek victory and keep the attacking play flowing. A weakened Berlin side floundering above the relegation zone should be a manageable challenge for Die Schwarzgelben, so long as they have enough in the tank.