In the first match of what will be a very busy and important February, Borussia Dortmund will take on Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow at the BayArena, in a match that could have huge implications both for Bundesliga title race, and the chase for the top four Champions League slots.
- While the title race is limited to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen have arguably been the “best of the rest” this season. They currently sit in third place, have the third best goal differential, and have the third best offensive record in the league. The point gap between Die Werkself and Bayern looks to be too big to overcome, but Leverkusen will surely want to increase the gap between themselves and the cluster of clubs chomping at their heels for the coveted top four spots.
If tomorrow’s match will be anything like the reverse fixture from the Hinrunde, then it will be a real pleasure to watch. When these two clubs clashed in September, BVB fell behind 3-2 in the second half, but a pair of late goals from Haaland and Raphael Guerreiro helped turn the tide and produce a vital 4-3 win:
It’s hard to argue against the idea that it was a lucky win for BVB. The penalty, drawn by Marco Reus, that secured the lead for Dortmund was definitely very soft. Something tells me BVB won’t catch a similar break tomorrow.
Bayer Leverkusen Player to Watch
Several Leverkusen players have had breakout years under new manager Gerardo Seoane, including Moussa Diaby and Florian Wirtz, but none have exploded more than Patrik Schick. The Czech striker has transformed from a moderately reliable striker to one of the Bundesliga’s biggest stars. He’s averaged more than a goal per game this season, and is currently second in the league behind Robert Lewandowski. In fact, if you remove penalties from the equation, Schick is scoring at a higher rate than both Haaland and Lewandowski. As his goal compilations show, Schick is pretty much a threat to score from anywhere:
It will be an immense task for BVB’s center back to stop him tomorrow.
Unfortunately, BVB will have to face the Bundesliga’s second highest goalscorer without their own top goalscorer. While Erling Haaland may be eager to return to the squad as quickly as possible, he will have to wait at least one more week. Ruhr Nachrichten has reported that Haaland will miss tomorrow’s game with a muscle injury. In addition to Haaland, Emre Can and Mats Hummels will miss the game with injuries of their own.
The news isn’t all dire, though. Gio Reyna should finally return to the squad. While I doubt he will start, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t appear as a substitute.
There are quite a few reasons to be pessimistic about tomorrow’s game. Losing Haaland is clearly a major blow, but missing Emre Can and Mats Hummels is also a killer blow. Leverkusen have the ability to move the ball very quickly on counter attacks, and Axel Witsel has struggled consistently to cover enough ground in his role as a defensive midfielder. Further, the attacking role that Meunier and Guerreiro prefer will play into Leverkusen’s hands, as Moussa Diaby and Florian Wirtz will want to occupy the space they leave vacated.
Sorry to be a debbie downer, but I really don’t see a win tomorrow. I predict a pretty resounding 3-1 defeat for BVB.