After a chaotic season, it all comes to an end for BVB this weekend. In what will be the final match of Peter Stöger’s managerial tenure at Dortmund, so too could it be for a few players, for better or worse.
This WILL BE the most important match of the 2017-18 season for both Borussia Dortmund and TSG Hoffenheim. Period.
For Hoffenheim, a win would clinch a second-straight Champions League-qualifying finish in the Bundesliga. A remarkable feat for young Julian Nagelsmann’s squad.
For BVB, it is almost mandatory to play in Europe’s grandest competition, both from a financial standpoint as well as prestige and global status.
Dortmund will be without Sokratis (fifth yellow card) due to suspension, as well as Ömer Toprak (muscular problems). This means that the central defence could consist of two newcomers this season, Manuel Akanji and Dan-Axel Zagadou. Lukasz Piszczek has also been named as an option by the head coach.
The attack should remain mostly the same from last week’s humiliating defeat to FSV Mainz (great way to break in the new jerseys). Lacking all passion, BVB failed to clinch the Champions League at home in what looked to be an easy win.
Stöger’s 4-1-4-1 was highly effective the previous two weeks against Leverkusen and Bremen. That was not the case against the Hessians.
This will be the final push for Marco Reus and Mario Götze to show Jogi Löw that they each belong in the Germany squad for the World Cup next month.
For Hoffenheim, a club that does not lose at home very often, a victory would be the cherry on top of an overall good season.
It was BVB and Hoffenheim one year ago to the day, who were fighting for third and fourth place in the league table. This is déjà-vu at its finest.
Benjamin Hübner is expected to start for Nagelsmann’s squad. Should he not feature, look for Havard Nordtveit to replace him.
Nagelsmann, despite the injury to Serge Gnabry, still has options in attack. We could see Andrej Kramaric switch to midfield with Adam Szalai joining the attack. This would give the departing Mark Uth (FC Schalke) another running mate to spearhead the offence.
Hoffenheim’s preferred 3-1-4-2 formation has given them great success recently. An unlucky result against VfB Stuttgart last week ended their nine-match unbeaten run.
Make no mistake about it, Hoffenheim is a dangerous side with an incredible home field advantage. If Dortmund play like they did last week, they will most certainly suffer another defeat.
If we are quite honest, the Champions League is essentially clinched for BVB, regardless of what Leverkusen does. The goal differential is too great.
The players who currently wear the black and yellow shirt, however, could probably not care less about this fixture, as was the case against Mainz. They lack all heart at the moment, and it shows through their actions on the pitch.
Borussia Dortmund will have secured their minimum season goal of a top-four finish. Regardless of how it was achieved. The players are tired of Stöger, they are tired of Bosz, they are tired of the 2017-18 campaign.
Mercifully this season will conclude on Saturday. Dortmund will say goodbye, for better or worse, to Peter Stöger, and likely a large number of players as well. There will be an overhaul at the Westfalenstadion this season. A much-needed one.
This will be a competitive 90 minutes of football, but Hoffenheim have to be the aggressors. They have far more to lose with a defeat. BVB unquestionably has the more talented roster, and that alone may keep this match close.
Hoffenheim ranks fourth in the Bundesliga in pass accuracy and fifth in shots per match. BVB keeper Roman Bürki should be quite busy on Saturday.
In the end, Dortmund’s attack is naturally so talented, that it may only take one or two good actions by the likes of Reus, Götze, Maxi Philipp or Jadon Sancho to get the ball past Oliver Baumann.
Naturally, Stöger will want to exit with a victory as he embarks on the next chapter of his managerial career. In the case of Julian Nagelsmann, perhaps this will be a preview for Dortmund, of things to come?
Prediction: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 2:2 Borussia Dortmund
TSG: Baumann – Akpoguma, Vogt, Hübner – Kaderabek, Grillitsch, Schulz – Zuber, Amiri – Uth, Kramaric
Manger: Julian Nagelsmann
BVB: Bürki – Piszczek, Akanji, Zagadou, Schmelzer – Weigl – Pulisic, Reus, Götze, Sancho – Philipp
Manager: Peter Stöger