I almost feel like I don’t have to write anything. Each Daily Bee this week has essentially been a mini match preview. There were my incoherent ramblings on Monday, Zac’s attempt to ignore the stress by travel blogging, Paddy’s quixotic efforts towards making the Daily Bee actually respectable and informative content, Paul’s performative analytics nerdiness, and my... other incoherent ramblings. You can read each one, but they all boil down to the same point: Borussia Dortmund can leave tomorrow’s match against Mainz 05 as Bundesliga champions, or they can leave in second place, and whichever one it is will be entirely up to them.
A wise philosopher once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” While from 30,000 feet a second-place finish might appear respectable, in reality, when you have the chance to win it in one game like Dortmund will tomorrow, second may as well be last.
That’s really all there is to it. It’s almost beautiful in its simplicity: win, and you’re champions.
To do that, they will have to face Mainz 05, a team that has lost four straight games, is 9th place in the league, and ostensibly outside of pride, has nothing to play for. It doesn’t matter. Mainz could frankly be a group of 11 literal gerbils scurrying around on the pitch and I would still feel knots in my stomach tomorrow.
So who is this team, this Mainz null vier that stands like one last foreboding mast in the fog ahead?
Mainz’s second half of the season has been a rollercoaster, featuring the highest of highs and the lowliest of lows. They’ve smashed multiple teams from the Bundesliga’s upper echelon to pieces: 3-1 against Bayern, 3-0 against Leipzig, and 3-2 against Leverkusen. Unfortunately, they are not in a spot to compete for Europe because they also were railroaded by Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, and even committed the pathetic cardinal sin of losing to Schalke. Now they’ve lost their last four matches, and have basically nothing to play for tomorrow.
According to Mainz’s pregame press release, they will be without Jonathan Burkardt, Silvan Widmer, and Alexander Hack due to injuries, while Ludovic Ajorque is serving a suspension with five yellow cards. Burkhardt has been Mainz’s best player this season, so his missing out will be much to Dortmund’s benefit. Of Mainz’s remaining threats, Karim Onisiwo and Jae-Sung Lee seem the top candidates for player to watch.
Injuries, poor form, all of this means nothing. In the reverse fixture, BVB only won by the skin of their teeth thanks to a stoppage-time winner by Gio Reyna:
Unfortunately, according to Ruhr Nachrichten, Jude Bellingham is but a slim hope for tomorrow’s match, as he only just returned to training following his knee injury. This means that, in all likelihood, we’re going to have to ask for one more midfield masterclass from Raphael Guerreiro. Meanwhile, while Nico Schlotterbeck did make a brief emergency appearance on Sunday for Mats Hummels, who suffered that kick to the face that gave him a big beautiful shiner, I’m still not sure that he will truly be ready to make the starting XI.
Other than that, it will be all hands on deck. Sébastien Haller, Karim Adeyemi, and Donyell Malen have been wonderful as a front three in 2023, and will hopefully lead the boys to a title tomorrow. Julian Brandt will need to ensure his form is at the level that made him Bundesliga Player of the Month, and Emre Can will need to demonstrate the type of poise and control that, while uncharacteristic of his career, has typified his play down the stretch. While Marco Reus should probably start on the bench, he will probably come on at some point, whether Dortmund need a goal, or simply to see out the rest of the game.
That’s really all there is to it. 90 minutes to win it all.
In the biggest match at the Westfalenstadion in more than a decade, Borussia Dortmund close out the season with a 3-0 win and Marco Reus hoists the Meisterschale in front of the yellow wall.