Coming off a spirited 4-0 win against Benfica to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, Borussia Dortmund will look to carry their hot form into the capital city this Saturday when they face 5th place Hertha Berlin.
Raphael Guerreiro is once again a doubt for Saturday with a “stiff muscle”, but was an unused substitute on the bench against Benfica. Even if the Portuguese international is available, Marcel Schmelzer’s performance on Wednesday as a left wing-back should keep Guerreiro on the bench, if manager Thomas Tuchel opts for a similar 3-4-2-1 set-up. Sokratis is also a doubt for the Hertha match, after reporting some thigh tightness towards the end of Wednesday’s game, eventually being replaced by Matthias Ginter. Aside from these two knocks, largely the same squad should be at Thomas Tuchel’s disposal this weekend.
Christian Pulisic superbly replaced Marco Reus on Wednesday, and will almost certainly receive the nod over Andre Schurrle, another huge testament to the belief Tuchel has in the 18-year-old, and his undeniable quality. Arguably the man of the match, the American teenager picked up right where Reus left off. Dortmund will also be riding the hot hand of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored seven goals in four games since his abysmal performance in the 1-0 loss to Benfica.
Dortmund are in the midst of a five-match period within a span of two weeks after last week’s DFB Pokal quarterfinal versus SF Lotte was rescheduled for next week. With the congested fixture list, Tuchel is likely to implement some rotation despite the strong opponent. The midweek Benfica match was physically and mentally exhausting, making it likely for fringe players like Matthias Ginter, Mikel Merino, and Emre Mor to see some action. A few players, namely Julian Weigl, Ousmane Dembele, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are virtually irreplaceable, so even with the rotation, Dortmund might still have some tired legs.
Tuchel on rotation: "It's time for players to start who are otherwise close to the starting XI." #bscbvb
— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) March 10, 2017
The black and yellows are firing on all cylinders, offensively and defensively, outscoring their opponents in the past four games by a combined score 16-2. They aren’t just getting lucky either, as their expected goals tally over the past seven games has been off the charts to say the least.
— Jona Saendker (@halbraumrandale) March 9, 2017
Thomas Tuchel’s implementation and commitment to a back three with two wing backs over this stretch of games has paid off handsomely, and has brought the best out of struggling players like Marc Bartra and Erik Durm. Wednesday marked Durm’s third consecutive game with an assist, as he has grown into a reliable player on the right side of the pitch. One could also argue that Bartra not only been Dortmund’s most improved player from the Hinrunde, but also their best.
Marc Bartra is Dortmund's best player at the moment. I mean that.
— Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) March 8, 2017
Saturday’s opposition, Hertha Berlin, will present another challenge to Dortmund’s good form. Just over a month ago, a struggling Dortmund side scraped by Hertha on penalties in the DFB Pokal, after falling behind 1-0 at home within the first 30 minutes due to a defensive lapse that allowed Salomon Kalou to volley home a Niklas Stark pass. Kalou has experienced some sort of a career revival at Hertha over the past two and a half years, scoring 25 league goals since joining the club in August 2014, and Dortmund will have to keep close tabs on him and Vedad Ibisevic, Hertha’s other proven goalscorer.
It’s safe to say that Dortmund appear to be a revitalised team since this performance, but Hertha have had a mixed bag of results. Most recently, Hertha suffered a disappointing 1-0 loss on the road to Hamburg. But at home, the capital side pushed Bayern Munich to the brink of defeat until a lucky 95th-minute equaliser and comfortably dispatched a strong Eintracht Frankfurt team by a 2-0 scoreline in recent weeks. In the comfort of the Olympiastadion, Hertha have won nine, lost one, and drawn one, totalling 28 points, the most of anyone in the league (tied with RB Leipzig).
On the other hand, the majority of Dortmund’s struggles this season have been on the road. Tuchel’s men have only won once in their past four away matches, most recently beating Freiburg, but previously drawing 1-1 to Mainz and losing to Benfica and Darmstadt. The impressive 3-0 win at Freiburg, a team that even Bayern struggled to beat on the road, should help kickstart Dortmund’s away performances, and it feels like Dortmund’s scorching form should help the squad put their problems on the road behind them.
— Yellowwallpod (@Yellowwallpod) March 10, 2017
Pal Dardai’s side will likely remain unchanged from last week’s defeat at Hamburg, with the possibility of right back/winger Mitchell Weiser returning from injury. Despite losing four of their last seven Bundesliga matches, Hertha could capitalise on a possibly fatigued Dortmund side. They boast one of the best defences in the league outside of Bayern, with American centre-back John Brooks steady as a rock.
Dortmund still have a lot to do to secure Champions League football for next season, with Hoffenheim only two points behind, and Hertha knocking on the door if the hosts collect all three points. On current form, Dortmund will be favourites to deliver Hertha’s second home loss of the season, but Dardai’s side can smell European football next year, and they’ll make it difficult for Dortmund.
Predicted Dortmund XI: Bürki, Piszczek, Ginter, Bartra, Durm, Weigl, Castro, Schmelzer, Mor, Dembele, Aubameyang