Normally I would be the extreme optimist against Bayern in such a situation. FCB has essentially clinched the league title, and BVB are quietly collecting points, moving ever closer to a Champions League qualification. But not this time.
Bayern is coming off of their first loss in all of 2018, a 1-2 defeat at the hands of RB Leipzig. Additionally, with a win against Dortmund, and some assistance from Freiburg, the Bavarians can be crowned as German Champions in March.
Meanwhile, Dortmund simply want and need to survive in the dreaded Allianz Arena. An angry Bayern is the worst scenario for such a wish to become reality. In order to succeed, BVB will need to operate with intelligence.
There is nothing more unattractive than “Mourinho football,” i.e., parking the bus. However, when you need points and are fighting for table position, there may be no greater strategy on the planet.
If I were Peter Stöger, which, luckily, I am not because it would mean that I will likely be unemployed in six weeks, but if I were, I would play the most boring match of football the Bundesliga has seen this season. That is saying a lot.
Taking a page from Swansea’s playbook against Liverpool back in January, I would deploy a five-man back line. Beyond that, a 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 formation could also be successful against Heynckes’ squad.
Make no mistake about it, the desire for every club prior to a match is to win, but that is certainly not always a realistic goal. In this particular scenario, a point would essentially count as a win, if nothing else, from a mental and confidence point of view.
Having more players defending the box could aide players such as Sokratis and Ömer Toprak, both having displayed signs of extreme vulnerability countless times this season when opposing sides have been aggressive in attack.
It certainly doesn’t help that Frank Ribéry and Arjen Robben have seemingly aged more gracefully than their full-back counterparts Marcel Schmelzer and to a lesser extent, Lukasz Piszczek.
Bayern will look to score a goal within the first ten minutes and crush Dortmund’s confidence. If BVB concede in that scenario, the match is over. It is crucial that Dortmund prioritize “not conceding” over “scoring” in this match.
If BVB should manage to get a ball passed Sven Ulreich at any point, that should be considered a massive win, as long as the match is not out of reach. Another critical factor on Saturday will be for BVB to maintain their composure should disaster strike.
In the scenario previously mentioned, should Dortmund concede only minutes after kickoff, they essentially have two choices: minimize the damage or go for an all-out attack. The latter of those could see a 1-0 deficit quickly transform into a 4-0 deficit.
Tactical philosophy has certainly not been Peter Stöger’s strong point throughout his career. In this match though, it will be massively important that he at least has the right ideas in place to slow down the Bavarian juggernaut.
Whether his players execute these ideas is another question entirely. Player selection as well as choosing the correct formation will be another major factor in the outcome on Saturday.
Stöger has his hands full, to say the least. To make matters worse, as of the time of this writing, it appears Marco Reus will indeed sit out this match. This would mean he has missed seven of the last eight matches against Bayern, if you count domestic cups.
Some key player battles to watch for will be Robert Lewandowski against Sokratis, Manuel Akanji and/or Ömer Toprak. Former Dortmund captain Mats Hummels vs. Michy Batshuayi. And lastly, Bayern’s wingers against BVB’s full-backs.
Borussia Dortmund faces a challenging schedule as the 2017-18 Bundesliga campaign nears its conclusion. There is a precious little margin for error as the primary season goal of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League hangs in the balance.
A draw in Munich would be a massive point earned for the Black and Yellows and could give them a wave of positive momentum as they face Stuttgart, Schalke and Leverkusen over the next three weeks.
A conservative approach from Stöger would be most-welcomed in this match. Simply put, make Bayern earn everything. A loss, while not devastating, certainly does BVB no favour, while a draw, and most certainly a win, could be a season difference-maker.
PREDICTION: Bayern München 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
FCB: Ulreich – Kimmich, J. Boateng, Hummels, Alaba – Martinez – Müller, Vidal – Robben, Ribéry – Lewandowski
Manager: Jupp Heynckes
BVB: Bürki – Piszczek, Sokratis, Akanji – Castro, Dahoud, Weigl, Schmelzer – M. Götze – Batshuayi, Schürrle
Manager: Peter Stöger