After two weeks of enthralling World Cup Qualifiers and much less enthralling international friendlies, club football returns with a clash between two of the Bundesliga’s heavyweights, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig. These two giants sit in second and fourth in the league respectively. While BVB are arguably out of the title race and sit comfortably in second place, RB Leipzig are dogfighting for a Champions League qualification spot, and will have much to play for tomorrow.
Much like a canker sore that won’t go away, RB Leipzig have stuck around in the top four despite their calamitous start to the season. Under Domenico Tedesco, Leipzig have rebounded in the second half, going 7-1-2 since the January restart, with their only defeat coming against Bayern Munich. Leipzig’s recovery has been lead first and foremost by Christopher Nkunku, the Bayern transfer target who has been tearing up the Bundesliga, with 15 goals and nine assists in ~2,200 minutes so far this season. You only need to look at the reverse fixture to see Nkunku’s class:
Borussia Dortmund stumbled into the international break an injury-riddled mess, and after two weeks, the situation has hardly improved. Erling Haaland suffered an ankle injury resulting from a nasty slide tackle against Armenia, and seems doubtful to play tomorrow. However, Thorgan Hazard should be ready to return, as will Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels, who missed a few matches with COVID-19 before the international break.
BVB haven’t looked too convincing over the past few months. All the injuries obviously haven’t helped, but I also get the sense that the squad has been running through the motions with nothing much left to play for. However, tomorrow they will be playing their first game in front of a full Westfalenstadion in more than two years. I sure hope that the players are able to dig deep inside themselves and find a strong performance, because otherwise they could get an earful from the fans.
I’ve become quite a fan of Marco Rose’s 3-5-2. In case anyone remembers, BVB’s last resounding victory, the 6-0 thrashing of Borussia Mönchengladbach, featured a back three with Emre Can, Mats Hummels, and Dan-Axel Zagadou. While Big Zag is out, It’s hard to argue that adding Manuel Akanji wouldn’t make the formation even better. With Marco Reus back in traning, he should be an easy choice to make the squad, as will Mahmoud Dahoud. Meanwhile, with Thomas Meunier still injured, Marco Rose will probably ride the hot hand with Marius Wolf at right back.
I’m optimistic that the players will respond to the Westfalenstadion’s atmosphere and will rise to the occasion against RB Leipzig. I predict a 2-1 win.