Borussia Dortmund host Leipzig on Saturday in the first of two matches in five days against the Austrian soda company. After both teams punched their ticket to the DFB Pokal Final last weekend, the sides have entered into a critical juncture of the season that will decide whether the year was a success or failure.
For BVB, both games will play a massive role in how their season will be judged, but the Bundesliga game on Saturday should be heavily prioritized. As wonderful as it would be for the club to come away with a trophy after such a turbulent season, making the Champions League will play a far greater role in the club’s ability to sign new players and keep key members of the current squad. This obviously doesn’t mean that Dortmund should throw away the cup final, but if key players who’ve had fitness issues recently, such as Thomas Delaney, Gio Reyna, or the suddenly revitalized Lukas Piszczek can only play one game this week, it should be the league game.
RB Leipzig, on the other hand, will focus on winning the cup. After failing to push Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title and having an underwhelming Champions League campaign, the East German side will certainly want to come away with some silverware this season. Not to mention, departing manager Julian Nagelsmann will want to be the first head coach to bring the club a major trophy. The club, however, is in the midst of a rather tepid run of form, and against a Dortmund squad that is currently firing on all cylinders, they may be running into the wrong team at the wrong time.
Obviously, the black-and-yellows would love to have Erling Haaland on the pitch for Saturday, but after the big Norwegian missed training on Thursday, it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be in the starting eleven. In his absence, We’ll almost certainly see a line-up eerily reminiscent of the one we saw in the cup game on Saturday. The front four of Thorgan Hazard, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, and Gio Reyna proved to be effective against Holstein Kiel, and though Leipzig is obviously a far better side, it doesn’t seem like BVB have any other option but to stick with them. Players like Steffen Tigges and Ansgar Knauff are also options if need be, but Eden Terzic would be wise to favor players with more experience for such a critical game.
The only changes likely to be made from last Saturday’s match are in the midfield, where Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud replace the out-of-form Emre Can and the red-carded Jude Bellingham. Thomas Delaney’s return to the starting line-up should give Dortmund the extra defensive stability they need to break up Leipzig’s intricate passing plays, and in replacing Can, he should help cut down on costly turnovers in the midfield.
Even without Haaland starting, Dortmund are the side in better form heading into this match, and the Red Bulls lack proper motivation due to the fact that they’ve essentially secured their spot in the table already. There may even be a high likelihood that Leipzig sit some of their key players for this match in order to keep them rested for Thursday. If all things were even, this game would be much harder to predict, but due to the circumstances surrounding it, I think this match will end in a Dortmund victory.