Unbeaten, dominant Borussia Dortmund continue their brilliant 2017-18 Bundesliga campaign with a visit to old rivals Hamburger SV.
After a jubilant start to their season which saw Hamburg win their first two matches and ascend to the top of the Bundesliga table (if only for a day), Die Rothosen have now come crashing down to reality, having accumulated a number of major injuries, as well as suffering consecutive losses. If you ask any HSV fan if they are satisified with two wins, two losses, and six points are after four matches, they will undoubtedly answer with a resounding: “Yes.” It was not until match day thirteen, well into the month of December, until Hamburg had earned six points last season. For fans of the club, they have seen much darker days.
Normally, when a side has struggled as much as HSV has during the past five years they would almost immediately be written off as severe underdogs when facing the top club in the Bundesliga. This has however, not been the case when Hamburg has played Dortmund in recent times, no matter how in in-form Die Schwarz-Gelben have been, or how incredibly awful Hamburg have performed. The last ten meetings between the two clubs has seen HSV victorious five times, BVB four times, with one draw.
To be honest, things were truly looking positive for Hamburg as this season got underway. In typical HSV fashion though, Nicolai Müller, arguably their best player, seriously injured his knee while celebrating a goal during the club’s 1:0 victory on match day one. The next casualty was left-winger Filip Kostic, followed by USA international striker Bobby Wood (note: Wood should be recovered and back in the lineup for this match).
Taking superstition out of the equation, and that fact that Hamburg have had Dortmund’s number the past four years, Die Rothosen simply lack the quality on paper, to compete with the Bundesliga’s current measuring stick. This will again lead to a side “parking the bus” to defend against Dortmund, only occasionally going forward through counter-attacks. The key for Dortmund will be to observe their previous two league matches closely. BVB failed to score early against Freiburg, which led to Christian Streich deploying a human wall in front of goal for almost the entire match. Köln had similar visions, though, any hope of those taking shape were spoiled when Maximilian Philipp scored off of a beautiful Andriy Yarmolenko cross, not even two minutes into the match. Köln, desperately needing a point, and despite sitting deep for the majority of the first half, eventually opened up in the back. It was at that point that Dortmund made them pay with a flurry of goals, resulting in a 0:5 defeat for The Billy-Goats.
If Dortmund can manage an early score against Hamburg the match will effectively be over. If Hamburg are forced to attack they will be quickly dispossessed by players that are simply of higher quality than their own. Once this happens, HSV risk the chance of being caught out of position to properly defend against a very efficient BVB attack. Dortmund will again dominate possession and create a mountain of chances. Hamburg’s only hope is to plant themselves firmly in front of goal and pray for a crucial Dortmund error, which could give them an opportunity to launch a quick counter-attack and a possible chance on goal. Beyond this scenario happening, look for a comfortable away win for Borussia Dortmund as they continue to sit atop the table in Germany’s top flight.
In defence Peter Bosz should again opt for Dan-Axel Zagadou to fill in at left-back for injured captain Marcel Schmelzer. Marc Bartra is still sidelined due to his adductor injury, allowing Ömer Toprak to once again feature next to Sokratis at centre-back. “Old reliable” Lukasz Piszczek will line up in his usual right-back position.
“Super” Mario Götze will lead the the march forward as the CAM flanked by Nuri Sahin and the consistently inconsistent Gonzalo Castro. This would be an opportune time to sit Castro in favor of young midfield sensation Mahmound Dahoud who is coming off of a fine performance against Köln on Sunday. I respect Bosz’s decision, whoever he plays, but it is not unfair to say that Castro has played himself out of a starting midfield role on this squad.
The birthday boy (September 18th) Christian Pulisic should be back as one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s “wing-men,” alongside Ukrainian sensation Andriy Yarmolenko. Maxi Phillipp, who bagged himself a brace against “Effzeh” on the weekend, will see the pitch at some point in the second half as a substitute, especially if Dortmund are having difficulty finding the back of the net.
PREDICTION: Hamburger SV 0:2 Borussia Dortmund
HSV: (4-2-3-1) Mathenia – Diekmeier, K. Papadopoulos, Jung, Douglas Santos – Ekdal, Walace – Hahn, Holtby, Salihovic – Wood
Manager: Markus Gisdol
BVB: (4-3-3) Bürki – Piszczek, Sokratis, Toprak, Zagadou – Sahin, Castro, M. Götze – Yarmolenko, Aubameyang, C. Pulisic
Manger: Peter Bosz