Forget Der Klassiker, the Revierderby, or the Champions League. Tomorrow’s match between Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt could be the single most important match of the season for both clubs. Only four points separate the two clubs, with Eintracht Frankfurt holding the slight edge in the race for the coveted final Champions League spot. If BVB win, they’ll be within a single point of Frankfurt, with plenty of time to make up the rest of the distance. If they lose, however, the gap will increase to seven points, which would put the Champions League out of reach, for all intents and purposes. If that were to happen, BVB would miss out on the revenue that the Champions League provides, would lose an incentive to leverage when scouting talented players, and would lead players like Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho to leave early.
So yeah, it’s important.
While Borussia Dortmund’s season has been marred by inconsistency, Eintracht Frankfurt’s has been characterized by a slow start with a meteoric rise to follow. Adi Hütter’s men won only two of their first 11 games. Led by star goalscorer André Silva (who’s tied with Erling Haaland, by the way), Filip Kostic, and Daichi Kamada, Frankfurt have turned their season around, winning 10 of their next 14, outscoring their opponents 34-14 over the same stretch.
Frankfurt’s re-emergence has been driven by a very effective and very direct system that focuses on patient buildup and crosses. Frankfurt has three efficient ball-playing center backs in Evan Ndicka, Martin Hinteregger, and David Abraham, and two midfielders in Sebastian Rode and Makoto Hasebe who can easily drop into the back line, giving the defenders plenty of passing options while allowing wide backs to push further up the pitch. Attacks flow through the wings or up the middle, with Daichi Kamada dropping into space before distributing the ball forward.
Once they’re in the attacking third, Frankfurt take the Bayern Munich approach and send in a barrage of crosses. They’re second in the league in attempted crosses, trailing only the Bavarians. Andre Silva excels at finding small spaces in the box and getting shots off, but he isn’t Frankfurt’s only offensive threat, as Kamada and Kostic also pose threats.
To defeat Frankfurt, BVB will need to exploit their forward-playing wing backs and try to get Erling Haaland into one-on-one duels with Hinteregger, Abraham, and Ndicka, who he should be able to get in behind, while also preventing Silva from latching onto the ball inside the box. This will mean preventing Kamada from receiving the ball in central areas in the attacking third, while preventing the wide backs from launching uncontested crosses into dangerous areas.
With Jadon Sancho and Youssoufa Moukoko injured, Borussia Dortmund will need to rely on Erling Haaland now more than ever, at least when it comes to finishing. Thankfully, Marco Reus has returned to the squad, as has Raphael Guerreiro. Both players should be able to contribute in the buildup, and Marco Reus’ playmaking adds another component to the attack.
On defense, reinforcements have arrived. Manuel Akanji and Mateu Morey have both returned to training, with the former even appearing for Switzerland during the World Cup qualifiers. Morey’s return will prove especially vital.
Here’s my predicted lineup:
Julian Brandt has been having a season to forget, but with Sancho and Moukoko out, there aren’t many other options on the left. Akanji’s return means that Can no longer needs to fill into the back line and can move forward into midfield, where he can play in a holding position with Dahoud playing in a box-to-box role.
What are your predictions for tomorrow’s game? Leave your thoughts below.