With an aging back line that requires a complete overhaul, a midfield lacking quality and depth, and an attack that relies more on luck than execution, Borussia Dortmund returns home from the Europa League to face Hannover 96.
Coming off of what can only be considered a “humbling” two-leg fixture against FC Salzburg, Dortmund are back in Bundesliga action against a reeling Hannover 96 squad.
Die 96er are having major issues at the moment, even more so than BVB. Andre Breitenreiter’s bunch have lost three matches on the bounce, most recently a humiliating 1-3 defeat to FC Augsburg.
While Hannover does not boast the most impressive roster from top to bottom in the Bundesliga, there are certainly hidden gems within it, such as defender Salif Sané and the dynamic Ihlas Bebou.
Sané is one of the strongest aerial players in the German top flight and Bebou has impressed in his 16 Bundesliga appearances thus far, scoring five goals and assisting two more.
With a fourth consecutive loss, Hannover would re-enter the conversation in regards to which club finishes this season in the relegation playoff spot.
Having already scored a victory over BVB in the Hinrunde, they should enter the match with at least a small amount of confidence that this result can be duplicated, despite their recent poor form.
With a difficult schedule upcoming, a victory at the Westfalenstadion would be brilliant for Hannover’s momentum going forward. They will surely need it, as their final eight fixtures feature matches against three of the Bundesliga’s current top four clubs.
A promotion side this season, Hannover has it’s fair share of weaknesses. As a team they are not skilled on the ball. This leaves them susceptible to committing individual errors, which in turn leads to the opposition quickly regaining possession.
They are poor at defending through-ball attacks, though against Dortmund this should be less of a concern. BVB has fallen in love with attacking down the wings and lobbing a healthy amount of crosses into the box.
Hannover has also been inconsistent while lining up this season, having used nine different formations under Breitenreiter. In addition to Sané (Bebou is suspended), BVB should pay close attention to former “Glubberer,” Niklas Füllkrug.
Since joining the 96ers from 1. FC Nürnberg, Füllkrug has been their most consistent and dangerous scoring threat, having already bagged ten goals so far in 2017-18.
For Dortmund, the same problems persist. An aging Piszczek, Schmelzer, and Sokratis have left the back line in a vulnerable state. The marking is poor as is their positioning. One need look no further than the second leg against FC Salzburg to see this on display.
The midfield lacks creativity and consistency. Julian Weigl has looked like a shadow of the player he was under Thomas Tuchel. Meanwhile, Gonzalo Castro is still Gonzalo Castro. Nothing more need be said.
Mario Götze has not been as dynamic in recent weeks as he was during his productive Hinrunde. Certainly he has a moment here or there, but the “Götzeus” connection we were expecting to see with the return of Marco Reus has underwhelmed to this point.
While watching BVB play this season, there is an angst that persists from week to week. This angst comes from the belief that Dortmund is capable of conceding a goal every time their opponents possess the ball.
Beyond that, chances are being created by the Black and Yellows not due to the flawless execution of a solid tactical philosophy, but rather through isolated individual moments of brilliance by a select few players.
In every match, it appears that BVB revert back to the “old Dortmund” for 10-15 minutes, outshining their opponents in every facet of the game. This is typically short-lived however.
Peter Stöger’s Dortmund are truly a mixed bag. Capable of wins like the one last week against Eintracht Frankfurt, but also losses such as the 1-2 defeat to FC Salzburg only days prior.
If Hannover can negate Mario Götze’s ability to create in the middle of the pitch, BVB will be forced yet again to attack almost exclusively from the wings.
Cross after cross will be lobbed into the box, likely with a small prayer attached to it, hopeful that a yellow shirt makes first contact. This is unfortunately how Dortmund must play at the moment.
Due to the lack of a concept under Stöger, Dortmund have become extremely predictable and easy to defend against. Every opposing manager knows what they are going to do, and how to stop it.
Hannover are on the verge of re-entering the relegation battle. They need the points more than BVB. Breitenreiter’s side will desperately attempt to not concede a goal and will be ecstatic with a draw.
“On paper” Dortmund should win this match. There is no question about that. Despite their talent, they have regressed into an average Bundesliga side in 2018. That is largely due to the manager and a select few players who would be best suited to move on elsewhere.
Having said that, this match could go either way. It has truly become difficult to predict how BVB will perform from match to match. A safe bet recently seems to lend itself to the notion that they will both score and concede. Expect another Stöger draw.
PREDICTION: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Hannover 96
BVB: Bürki – Piszczek, Toprak, Akanji, Schmelzer – Weigl, Dahoud – Reus, Götze, Schürrle – Batshuayi
Manager: Peter Stöger
H96: Tschauner – Anton, S. Sané, Felipe – Korb, Ostrzolek – Schwegler, Bakalorz – Fossum – Klaus, Füllkrug
Manager: Andre Breitenreiter