Borussia Dortmund can secure the Champions League knockout stages with a win against Sporting, but already have to worry about the next Bundesliga match. Can the scoreless Revierderby give Dortmund the inspiring approach?
“It would be nice to beat Sporting and prematurely secure our place in the next round of Champions League,” said Hans-Joachim Watzke said in BILD on Monday.
“We could solely and completely focus on the Bundesliga in the upcoming weeks, but it’s going to be a difficult task like in the reverse fixture,” he said.
However, that is easier said than done for a Dortmund side that is currently struggling to perform on a three-day basis. The Ruhr side paid a hefty price for their heroic 2-1 win away to Sporting, as they looked shockingly weary in the following Bundesliga match against Ingolstadt. At the time, Ingolstadt were dead last in the Bundesliga with little hope they would get a result against BVB, who themselves were in dire need of a result after dropping points against Leverkusen and Berlin. But ultimately, the Black and Yellows didn’t have the energy to cope with a limited Bundesliga team after a busy European night.
So what is there to suggest that BVB won’t once again fall flat in the following match against Hamburg – also dead last in the table, but will make sure to make things uncomfortable for Dortmund?
The scoreless draw in the Revierderby against Schalke on Saturday could be the inspiring source, as weird as that may sound. In recent weeks, the biggest problem of Thomas Tuchel’s side has been the lack of intensity.
The match against Jorge Jesus’s team will be their seventh in 20 days. And it’s fair to say that in none of the six matches since the international break Dortmund have looked up to speed for 90 minutes.
A completely lackluster first half against Schalke may have been inadvertent, but BVB’s risk-averse first period meant that they could turn the screw on their foes in the second half. While 80,000 visitors were bored to death, as Dortmund failed to produce a single shot before the break, not having to battle back from behind was at least a welcomed side-effect.
But pleasing the crowds can only be Dortmund’s secondary aim for the time being, as they have to start getting points on the board. As things look, the team only has enough in the tank for roughly 45 minutes of top level football, so waiting until after the break to shift into top gear might be the way to go forward. Against Schalke, they could have taken all three points had they been a tad more clinical. Baby steps.
Though if Sporting, who failed to win their last three league matches, will have a similar approach to Wednesday’s game as they had at the Estadio Jose Alvalade two weeks ago, then the match could also be done and dusted by halftime.
The panel of the Yellowwallpod was shocked to see that Sporting granted Julian Weigl all the time and space in the world to conduct the play from midfield. One would have thought that in the Champions League, scouting is up to a standard where basic tactical measures to stifle the opponent can be identified. Marking the 21-year-old German international out of the game is “How to defend against Dortmund”-101, really.
The Portuguese side will arrive with a slight boost in personnel as captain Adrien Ruiz traveled with the team to Westphalia. Lisbon-based journalist Tom Kundert has told The Yellow Wall that the midfielder is unlikely to start or even feature in the match, however.
Meanwhile, Tuchel promised at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference that “things will get better”, seeing that key figures will return from injury. Gonzalo Castro, André Schürrle and Raphael Guerreiro are deemed fit to play. The returnees seem to be Tuchel’s main promise for getting back to winning ways.
“The fact that top creative players such as Guerreiro and Castro have been sidelined through injury has played a major role,” Tuchel said about the recent dry-spell.
He added:” They are the players that are involved at the crucial moments. They have the quality to help their team-mates shine.”
The Dortmund coach was more reserved about the idea of starting players against Sporting that are not 100 percent fit. “Being fit for a comeback is one thing; having the competitive edge is another. If it can be avoided, then it’s not very likely all three will start,” Tuchel said.
The 43-year-old might have to make do without right-back Lukasz Piszczek, who didn’t take in BVB’s final team training on Tuesday due to a stomach bug. Shinji Kagawa was described as “more than doubtful” with an ankle injury.
As Passlack played 171 minutes against Union Berlin and Schalke for the injured Marcel Schmelzer, Tuchel might opt for Guerreiro on the left side to give the 18-year-old a breather. Sebastian Rode has proved to be a valid option as a left wing-back and could replace Guerreiro around the hour mark.
When picking Wednesday’s line-up, the Dortmund manager should be mindful of Saturday’s match against Hamburg, as BVB cannot afford any more slip-ups in the Bundesliga.
Predicted line-up: Bürki; Passlack, Sokratis, Ginter, Guerriero; Weigl; Dembele, Götze, Castro, Mor; Aubameyang