After a winless October, Borussia Dortmund travel to Hamburg, where they have failed to win since 2012. Can they finally turn things around?
It was the 22nd of January. Even Kevin Großkreutz scored in Borussia Dortmund’s last win at the Volksparkstadion. The Black and Yellows annihilated Thorsten Fink’s side 5-1. At that point, the Black and Yellows won four out of five against HSV, including one draw and it looked as if they were on the brink of becoming the Northerner’s bogey team.
But history turned out differently since 2012: Dortmund lost six out of nine matches, picking up only two wins against a Hamburg team that was battling relegation more often than not. The Ruhr side conceded ridiculous goals in that time span. Hakan Calhanoglu’s free kick from almost the halfway line being the most famous of the 14 goals Dortmund shipped since said January 2012. And how could Borussia Dortmund beat the curse on the 80th birthday of HSV’s most famous icon Uwe Seeler?
Well, there is only so much time for superstition and nostalgia. Reality dictates that Markus Gisdol’s team is historically bad, as they are dead last in the Bundesliga having only two points on the board. United States international Bobby Wood, is sitting out a three-match ban after stupidly elbowing Cologne defender Dominik Heinz in the chest in Hamburg’s latest 3-0 defeat on Matchday 9. The 23-year-old striker scored both of HSV’s measly two league goals, which both came on the first two match days.
It seems that Saturday’s hosts will have little to contribute to the Bundesliga’s most goal-laden fixture (348 in 98 games). Instead, the Rothosen will try to prevent goals first and foremost. Gisdol, who took over from Bruno Labbadia on Matchday 6, talked about setting up traps in his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
Hamburg will most likely play with five at the back, and start their pressing scheme in their own half – similar to what Schalke did in the scoreless draw at the Revierderby. Additionally, Gisdol’s team will try to shake the guests with niggly fouls.
But this time, it seems, Dortmund will arrive prepared. Matthias Ginter told journalists in the mixed zone after the 1-0 win against Sporting in the Champions League that they not only plan to fight back but to bring the fight to Hamburg.
Thomas Tuchel’s musing went into a similar direction at Friday’s pre-match news conference, saying: “We have to fight back and decide the match by our individual quality after the war of attrition; not the other way around.”
Hamburg won’t be the only side with their backs against the wall. Borussia’s situation might not be as life-threatening, but after a winless October, they ought to grab three points to stay in touch with the Champions League places. They sit sixth in the table and already trail second-placed RB Leipzig by six points.
Dortmund’s turnaround in the league is long overdue, but their form has been on the up recently. Admittedly, they still failed to keep their intensity levels up in either of their last two matches, but they came away with consecutive clean sheets and neither allowed Schalke nor Sporting too many promising chances.
Meanwhile, upfront a certain Mario Götze is finally getting into a stride. He may still be shy of goals and assists in the Bundesliga, but he has regained the confidence to take on four sporting defenders at once and nearly pulling it off. The 2014 World Cup winner showed some breathtaking combination plays with Ousmane Dembélé and Christian Pulisic in recent games and should continue to do so going forward.
“I’m on a good way. I’ve been so the whole time. We once again showed great sequences in our combination play,” Götze said about his night against Sporting. If he can keep his form up, goals and assists could already follow in Hamburg.
Tuchel, meanwhile, has to make do without Marcel Schmelzer and Nuri Sahin on Saturday. The left-back only returned to team training and Thursday, while the Turkish international is out with a stomach bug. The Dortmund coach also declared Raphael Guerreiro doubtful due to a knock, but the 22-year-old traveled with the team to the River Elbe.
And of course, there will be a special focus on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after his one-game suspension against Sporting due to an unauthorised trip to Milan on Monday. But there is little to suggest that the razzmatazz around his person on Wednesday will stick, as he was all smiles on Thursday on the training ground.
The 27-year-old will be determined to bounce back with a goal or two, as he trained extra hours on Thursday doing some additional shooting practice including direct free kicks and penalties.
If not Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic might save the day after scoring his first two Bundesliga goals in BVB’s 3-0 home win over Hamburg in April.
With the feel-good factor of having wrapped up the Champions League round of 16 while being two points clear in Group F, BVB should finally have what it takes to get away with a win in Hamburg.
The match doesn’t promise to be particularly easy on the eyes, but Tuchel’s men will only care about three points going into the international break.
Predicted line-up: Bürki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Ginter, Guerreiro; Weigl; Pulisic, Castro, Götze, Schürrle; Aubameyang