BVB has one chance to erase the pain of the month of October. One chance to continue dreaming of their first Bundesliga title since 2012. “Der Klassiker” will answer a lot of questions for BVB.
What really needs to be said this week? It’s Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern München. Enough said. These two heavyweights need no introduction. They hate each other. They are the top two clubs in German football the last 25 years running. BVB and Bayern are also the only two clubs in Germany that have had consistent international success the past quarter century. But only one thing matters this weekend: Will Dortmund erase the horror show that was October, or will they fall six points back of the Bavarians, effectively ending their Bundesliga title hopes well before Christmas?
Bayern and BVB are the top two clubs in almost every offensive category in the Bundesliga this season. Both sides are capable of scoring goals. the difference between the two becomes very apparent however when you look at each defence. Only a few weeks ago Dortmund had conceded the fewest goals in the Bundesliga. Recently, however, The Black and Yellows simply cannot stop the bleeding as they have seen the ball blasted into the back of their net repeatedly. Bayern meanwhile, after a shaky start to the 2017-18 campaign, have settled down and have looked like the “old Bayern,” as it pertains to their back four.
In the month of October Peter Bosz, a hero only weeks prior, became a villain in the eyes of many BVB supporters. Some think his tactics do not fit the team, which has led to the recent Dortmund fall from grace. Additionally, he faces criticism for his “unwillingness” to adjust his philosophy once the squad begins to struggle. This could cost him dearly against FCB, who themselves are going through somewhat of a renaissance after bringing former treble-winning (2013) manager Jupp Heynckes back as their manager, replacing the sacked Carlo Ancelotti.
October has been the turning point for both clubs. Dortmund has not won a league match since September. They have earned just one point from a possible nine over the past month. Meanwhile, Bayern won all three of their Bundesliga matches during that same time and have turned a five-point deficit to Dortmund in the table into a three-point advantage. All of this in a mere three weeks. If these two clubs were stocks you would be buying FC Bayern as quickly as you could get your broker on the phone and selling as much BVB stock as is permitted.
Jupp Heynckes was the right man at the right time for Bayern, who were off to a poor start (by their own standards) to begin the season. He has turned that around. The opposite is in effect for BVB. Die Schwarz-Gelben were not expected to earn 19 points from their first seven matches while also sitting top of the table with a five-point cushion.
This was to be a transition season. With such brilliant performances delivered though, expectations change. No one expected BVB to contend for the league title before the season. Why then, do we hear chants of “Bosz raus” since their slide (into a still very respectable second place) began? Honestly, Dortmund is simply balancing out their incredible start to the season with a few sub-par performances. For Peter Bosz, the team is probably right around where he thought they might be entering the month of November. It is how the team got there however, that has many BVB fans in panic mode.
Things do not stop at Peter Bosz for the harsh Dortmund critics. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored goals this season, that is true. But many argue they have come in spurts such as the hat trick against ‘Gladbach, and the brace against 1. FC Köln. In many of BVB’s matches, he has been non-existent in the opinions of more than just a few frustrated BVB fans. In their minds, this is unacceptable for a “world-class” striker. Aubameyang can silence these mouths with one shot past Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich on Saturday.
Despite Auba being out of form recently, it is not as if Dortmund have been unable to score. In the losses to Hannover 96 and RB Leipzig the side still managed to score two goals in each match. They likewise scored two goals in the draw against Eintracht Frankfurt. The issue has undeniably been the BVB defending.
Dortmund has key injuries in defence. Combine this with Peter Bosz’s love of playing with a high defensive line and the midfield’s (which more times than not consists of Mario Götze, Nuri Sahin, and Gonzalo Castro) inability to support them due to poor positioning and a lack of speed, and it is no wonder that Roman Bürki has had more work than he would prefer in front of goal over the past 30 days.
Many thought that Bayern losing All-World keeper Manuel Neuer would have a major impact on their ability to keep clean sheets. Since Heynckes returned as manager though, FCB has not conceded a single goal in the league. If “the trend is your friend” saying holds true, München and Dortmund are certainly on opposite ends of the spectrum currently.
The good news for Dortmund: All of this can change with a positive result in only one match, THE match. If BVB can pull out an upset victory against Bayern, they will once again sit atop the table with their rivals from the south, “punktgleich” even on points, after eleven match days. Neither Hans-Joachim Watzke, Michael Zorc, nor Peter Bosz would have expected that type of result had you asked them before the season where the squad would be in the table after three months of league action.
What will surely change should Dortmund come away victorious on Saturday is the harsh criticism towards Bosz and his tactics, or rather, lack thereof. There is nothing worse in sports than rushing to judgement and releasing a player or manager simply because they are having a sudden bad stretch of form. If Bosz had progressed to second place rather than regressed, everyone one would be singing a different tune.
Admittedly, I myself, am extremely underwhelmed by what Bosz and his players have shown the past four weeks, however, one month does not make a season. Borussia Dortmund can recover from this. If nothing else, Peter Bosz should have earned a vote of confidence from the BVB board and front office based on the team’s results in August and September. Does he deserve to retain his job? Only time and Dortmund’s efforts on the pitch will tell.
Sadly, this match will not be the positive turning point for Bosz. He may yet recover and restore confidence in himself as well as BVB’s season among the public. That does not start on Saturday though. This is a Bayern München side that smells blood. They can essentially eliminate Dortmund from any hope of contending for the Bundesliga title with a win at the Westfalenstadion. If Hannover and Frankfurt had the blueprint for beating Borussia Dortmund then Bayern will execute it ten times better than those squads. I anticipate the high line of Dortmund to be exploited multiple times by the pacey Bayern wingers. Expect to find Lewandowski in space as well as he will score his token goal.
If Peter Bosz does not adapt to Bayern’s play and instead remains stubborn in his ways after falling behind, it could be a long day at the office for The Black and Yellows. While Dortmund may yet become the experts in playing within the 4-3-3 formation, they are not there yet. Experimenting with a system and trying to work out the wrinkles is fine but to do that against Bayern München is asking for a defeat. Let us hope Bosz thinks better of it.
PREDICTION: Borussia Dortmund 2-4 FC Bayern München
BVB: Bürki – Bartra, Sokratis, Toprak, Schmelzer – Castro, Weigl, M. Götze – Yarmolenko, Aubameyang, Philipp
Manager: Peter Bosz
RBL: Ulreich – Rafinha, J. Boateng, Hummels, Alaba – Martinze, Rudy – Robben, Thiago, Coman – Lewandowski
Manager: Jupp Heynckes