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Match Preview: Borussia Dortmund Face Urs Fischer and Union Berlin

Can BVB get past the Bundesliga’s fourth best defensive squad?

Borussia Dortmund v 1. FC Union Berlin - Bundesliga Photo by Friedemann Vogel - Pool/Getty Images

After two straight matches on the road, Borussia Dortmund return to the Westfalenstadion tomorrow to face Urs Fischer’s Union Berlin. A win would be BVB’s third in a row in all competitions, and would push BVB back into third place behind Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg. Doing so, though, will require achieving victory over a club that has slowly been rising in prominence in the Bundesliga over the past few seasons.

One of the potential dark horses to challenge for the Europa League and maybe even the Champions League, Union Berlin have been one of the better sides in the Bundesliga so far this season. Just as they’ve been in previous years, Urs Fischer’s Union Berlin is characterized by an extremely well-organized defensive approach to games. Despite playing four difficult matches against Leverkusen, Gladbach, Hoffenheim, and Augsburg, Union have gone undefeated with a win and three draws, and with the fourth best defensive record in the league prior to the start of match day four. Their offensive record, on the other hand, is less than impressive, with only five goals across four matches. They will also have played more recently, having faced Slavia Prague in the UEFA Conference League on Thursday.

This has all the ingredients to be a difficult match for BVB. They’ve shown repeatedly over the last few seasons that teams like Union Berlin that are well-organized, physical, and aggressive can pose a challenge, preventing them from breaking into the attacking third and generating quality scoring chances. Dortmund’s match against SC Freiburg earlier in the year is an example of this; I could easily see Union following the same formula.

Borussia Dortmund will have the superior squad, so a win should be expected. Unfortunately, the club’s injury situation has hardly improved. Julian Brandt will likely miss the game following his injury against Besiktas on Wednesday, and could be hurt for a week or two more. Emre Can, Gio Reyna, Nico Schulz, and Steffan Tigges are all injured, Furthermore, while Thorgan Hazard might be able to come off the bench, he won’t make the starting XI.

With all the injuries, there are hardly many variations to the lineup that Marco Rose could conceivably come up with. Barring something strange like starting youngsters Ansgar Knauff or Youssoufa Moukoko, Rose’s lineup will probably be similar to what he started against Besiktas:

Other than swapping in Witsel for Brandt, the lineup should be the same. Axel Witsel playing in defensive midfield led to some disastrous sequences against Bayer Leverkusen, but the tactical matchup against Union Berlin could be more advantageous to starting Witsel in this position. BVB will most likely have the lion’s share of the possession tomorrow, and will need to focus on breaking down Union’s stubborn defensive setup. Union lack the blistering pace that Leverkusen did, so hopefully Witsel won’t be exposed quite so much.

Prediction

This game could pose a real problem for BVB. I watched Union Berlin play Hoffenheim and Leverkusen earlier in the year, and my impression was that they would be an absolute nightmare for Borussia Dortmund. They’re the type of opponents that have been thorns in BVB’s side for years. If Marco Rose can lead his side to victory, then it will demonstrate that he’s pushing the squad in a direction that could lead it back to a title.

Unfortunately, I don’t see it right now. BVB’s squad is too injury-riddled, and the players are still getting used to Rose’s system. I see a frustrating 1-1 draw, but I hope to be proven wrong.