After a poor display against Eintracht Frankfurt, Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund had the whole week to analyze their shortcomings and focus on their next opponent, Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Almost two weeks ago, Dortmund slayed the mighty Bayern Munich, in a game that should have kickstarted their league form. However, after a high scoring midweek win against Legia Warsaw, Dortmund took a large step backwards in their defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. A win against Andre Schubert’s Borussia Mönchengladbach is much needed, especially with games against the likes of undefeated Hoffenheim and high-flying FC Köln looming ahead in December.
So much has been made of Dortmund’s league struggles this season, that one can be forgiven for not noticing the dreadful form that those other Borussians are in. Manager Andre Schubert has had loads of trouble replicating Gladbach’s league form from last year after he took over for Lucien Favre. Since signing a two year contract extension on September 27th, Schubert’s Gladbach have not won a Bundesliga match, drawing three and losing four. “Die Fohlenelf” currently sit in 13th place with 13 points.
Despite a great start to his career as Gladbach manager, winning six of his first seven matches, Schubert has since come back down to earth. Since his takeover, Gladbach have conceded 56 goals in 41 Bundesliga games. On top of that, the Foals have only won once on the road in their last 16 Bundesliga away matches. Their abysmal defensive record and away record may not be solely down to Schubert though, as Gladbach have had to deal with the growing pains of two young center backs in Andreas Christensen and Nico Elvedi, both of whom are still only 20 years old. Their potential is high, but it’s obvious that their development has been a painstaking task.
Gladbach made an effort to bolster their leaky defensive this summer by signing defenders Jannik Vestergaard from Werder Bremen and Tobias Strobl from Hoffenheim, but neither player have made the desired impact. Along with losing Havard Nordtveit and Granit Xhaka in midfield, Schubert has been hesitant to start Mahmoud Dahoud, as he’s only featured from the start in half of the team’s Bundesliga matches. Dahoud, who has been linked to Dortmund, will likely have the chance to show the Südtribüne what they could be looking forward to next season. This season, however, Dahoud is yet to have found an effective midfield partner in the absence of Granit Xhaka.
On the black and yellow side of things, a lot has been made recently about Thomas Tuchel’s habit of squad rotation. However, that rotation is more due to injuries than anything else, as Raphael Guerreiro, Marc Bartra, Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus, Lukasz Piszczek, Marcel Schmelzer, and even more have been struggling with injuries at some point this season. Despite the fact that Tuchel has not been able to commit to a first choice starting eleven, the most concerning issue seems to be Dortmund’s major struggles, as Luca Girl highlighted in a piece from earlier this week.
The good news for Dortmund is that they’re facing a team who might be more desperate for points than the black and yellows are. Gladbach are not in the business of conceding possession to press Dortmund in the same way that teams like Leipzig, Leverkusen, and Frankfurt have. However, this doesn’t exactly spell an easy task for Dortmund. Gladbach have the weapons to play an exciting, fast paced attacking game, led by Raffael and Lars Stindl, both talented strikers who have thrived in Schubert’s system last season. Unfortunately for the Foals, they’ll have to do this without speedy wingers Patrick Herrmann and Ibrahim Traore, who are both out with injuries.
Dortmund will once again have to make due with Roman Weidenfeller in goal, as Roman Burki remains out with a broken hand. Weidenfeller is never confident on the ball, and, perhaps more concerning, should have done a lot more to save Frankfurt’s two goals last weekend. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis both have trained inside this week for unknown reasons, but there’s nothing to suggest that either crucial player will miss out on Saturday. With Marco Reus approaching full fitness, Thomas Tuchel will have some decisions to make. Andre Schürrle typically plays out on the left wing, as does Reus. Mario Götze will almost certainly feature, while it remains to be seen if Tuchel wants Schürrle and Reus to play together, or if one of Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, or Emre Mor will occupy the opposite flank.
Unfortunately for Dortmund, Raphael Guerreiro is yet to return to team training, making his return unlikely this weekend. Dortmund desperately miss his creativity wherever he is on the pitch, as he provides a different dynamic than Gonzalo Castro, or anyone else who Dortmund relies on in the midfield.
This game is a near must-win for both teams, but for different reasons. Gladbach’s already slim hopes of a top four finish will dissolve even further if they fail to win this weekend, while Dortmund could fall even further off the title pace with a slip up.
Predicted Line-Up: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Schmelzer, Weigl, Castro, Schürrle, Götze, Reus, Aubameyang