The final weeks of Peter Stöger’s failed job interview with Borussia Dortmund should make every BVB supporter nervous. With an in-form Leverkusen visiting the Westfalenstadion, even a split of the points would be massive for a Dortmund side desperately hanging on to their Champions League dreams.
Peter Stöger has been a busy man. He has successfully ruined the season of Mario Götze, likely costing the BVB midfielder his chance to play at the World Cup in Russia.
Only months removed from being Dortmund’s best player in the Hinrunde, Götze can now only dream of getting regular playing time. There are unfortunately many other such stories from BVB’s tiresome Rückrunde.
It was clear while watching the Revierderby that the BVB players themselves have grown tired of this. And so the rumours swirl that they are tuning Stöger out and “going into business for themselves.”
To be fair, how can one blame them? You have one of the most talented players in the world in Marco Reus, literally watching the arch-rivals from Gelsenkirchen essentially clinch a Champions League spot, while the Black and Yellows are guaranteed nothing.
Stöger has also failed to develop an identity for Borussia Dortmund, unlike his predecessors Peter Bosz, Thomas Tuchel, and Jürgen Klopp. BVB just “kick the ball around” in the hopes of something good happening (exp.: Pulisic’s goal vs. Stuttgart).
This might work against Stuttgart or Hannover, but it won’t work against Schalke, Bayern, and now, Leverkusen. In head-to-head duels against Germany’s current top six sides BVB have managed no wins and one draw in the Rückrunde. Beyond Leverkusen, BVB must still play Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim on the final match day.
With the injury to star striker Michy Batshuayi, Stöger will have to get creative up front. He will likely ask Marco Reus to fill in for the absent Belgian international. With Michy’s injury revealing itself to be long-term, we have likely seen number “44” in a black and yellow shirt for the last time.
Batshuayi at the very least, could score and make things happen even when the rest of the team looked out of sync. That option has now been removed from the pitch. Perhaps this will force Dortmund to be less reliant on their star striker, and more creative in their build-up.
They will need their best effort against a foe that on paper at least, matches up very well against BVB. Leverkusen’s front line consisting of Leon Bailey, Kevin Volland, and Julian Brandt, has attributed for 31 of the team’s 55 goals so far this season.
Bayer also possesses a solid midfield consisting of Julian Baumgartlinger and Charles Aranguiz and a very respectable back line. Though Lars Bender will be out for this match (5 yellow cards), his brother Sven, along with Jonathan Tah, Benjamin Henrichs, and Panagiotis Retsos will be making life hard for Dortmund’s attack.
Leverkusen are very dangerous on the counter-attack, also relying heavily at times on the incredible skills of young Leon Bailey. Bailey can create a chance out of almost nothing.
This combined with the passing talent of Julian Brandt or Kai Havertz, and Kevin Volland’s ability to finish, make Leverkusen a dangerous side, to say the least. When firing on all cylinders, Heiko Herrlich’s squad can compete with just about anyone.
BVB’s defensive woes are no secret. Leverkusen could look to control the ball in Dortmund’s half of the pitch, utilizing their short-passing game to find the holes in Stöger’s defence.
If Leverkusen can exude the patience of Schalke, they too will find Sokratis, Marcel Schmelzer, or Ömer Toprak making that inevitable fatal error, which could see them take command of the game.
One poor Schmelzer first touch, or lost marker from Sokratis, could be the difference in this match. Leverkusen’s attacking players can afford to be aggressive as their back line should be more than capable to handle Dortmund’s inconsistent build-up play.
Tactically, Dortmund is simply not a threat to anyone. They have more talented names on the back of their shirts than everyone else in the Bundesliga (other than Bayern) and that is the reason the club has avoided a complete collapse.
If BVB get the win on Saturday and qualify for the Champions League at the completion of the season, they will do so in spite of Peter Stöger, not because of him. Over these next four matches, Dortmund must dig deep and find a way to win. Whether through luck, skill, or otherwise.
Reus and company will enter yet another match without a clear tactical philosophy. A dangerous scenario indeed for a team whose entire season depends on a top-four Bundesliga finish.
With two of their last four matches coming against top-five Bundesliga sides, equally as hungry for European success, Dortmund may have to rely on more than just luck to get across the finish line with their desired result.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 1:2 Bayer Leverkusen
BVB: Bürki – Piszczek, Sokratis, Akanji, Schmelzer – Weigl, Dahoud – Pulisic, Götze, Philipp – Reus
Manger: Peter Stöger
B04: Leno – Retsos, Tah, L. Bender, Henrichs – Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz – Bailey, Volland, Brandt – Alario
Manager: Heiko Herrlich