Once a season Bundesliga players have to go to a mystical place called Darmstadt. Well, not really mystical. Let’s just say they have to go to … a place.
The last time the Dortmund players went there, they brought back a scrappy 2:0 win and three points.
Three points are also the only reward to play for this time since playing football in Darmstadt isn’t likely to result in a brilliancy prize. But hey, at least the last home game against SV 98 brought us a back-heel goal by Sebastian Rode to cherish. Yes, that actually happened.
As always Darmstadt are likely to sit deep, while they’ll try not to give up any dangerous spaces for Dortmund to combine in. Their two quick wingers, Sidney Sam and Marcel Heller, will wait for opportunities to hit Dortmund on the counter and try to find former Dortmund striker Terrence Boyd or Antonio-Mirko Colak, should he play instead.
Other notable names in Darmstadt’s side include Jan Rosenthal, arguably their most creative and best player, and their captain Aytaç Sulu. The centre-back is always a source of danger on set-pieces, as all Dortmund fans will remember from a 2:2 draw we would all like to forget — especially this author, who still hasn’t forgiven Sulu for ruining his trip to the stadium that day.
On Dortmund’s side, there are a few players missing after 120 intense minutes against Hertha BSC in the DFB-Pokal. Marcel Schmelzer, Lukasz Piszczek, Ousmane Dembélé, and Mario Götze all didn’t make the trip. Sven Bender, Sebastian Rode, and Nuri Sahin are all still out as well.
Marco Reus and Matthias Ginter suffered slight knocks during the cup game but are available for an appearance.
The number of injuries and fatigue in the squad opened up opportunities for others. Jacob-Bruun Larsen, Dzenis Burnic, and Mikel Merino all made the trip to Darmstadt and are likely to be included in the matchday squad.
New signing Alexander Isak didn’t make the squad, likely due to his short time at the club. Coming right out of a long winter break in the Swedish league, he’ll need more training time.
Even with all the injuries and difficulties surrounding games in Darmstadt, BVB are the big favourites and need a win to cement their claim for a top-three finish in the league.
Bürki – Ginter, Sokratis, Bartra – Passlack, Weigl, Guerreiro, Durm – Pulisic, Schürrle – Aubameyang