Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to close the gap at the top of the Bundesliga table when they host SC Freiburg at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
After a disastrous start to the month, Borussia Dortmund have done well to pull things back in their favour. They are coming on the back of three consecutive wins in all competition, which included a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League.
The Black and Yellows also registered a victory in the last game against Werder Bremen. And this weekend, they could potentially have a chance to overtake RB Leipzig, who will face a stern test against in-form Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Dortmund are currently trailing the east German giants by three points and league leaders Bayern Munich by four points.
As for Freiburg, they have drifted off slightly, after initially making an extraordinary start to the campaign. Christian Streich’s men have secured only one victory in four matches in the Ruckrunde so far. As a result, they are currently standing ninth in the league table, which is quite respectable for a club like Freiburg.
As far as this game is concerned, Freiburg managed to hold Dortmund 2-2 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. But, replicating that performance at the Signal Iduna Park could be significantly more difficult. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at these two sides ahead of this important Bundesliga match-up on Saturday.
Tactics & Team News
Lucien Favre will be boosted by the return of Julian Brandt this weekend. He has recovered from his injury and could return to the starting lineup, at the expense of Thorgan Hazard at left-wing. Indeed, the ex-Bayer Leverkusen star may have to operate in a different role following Emre Can’s early success at BVB.
Speaking of Can, he is set to continue in the midfield double-pivot, alongside the ever-present figure of Axel Witsel. Their experience and composure could be key as Dortmund look to cope with Freiburg’s high line of press.
Meanwhile, midfielder Thomas Delaney and Marco Reus will continue their spell on the sidelines even though they are nearing their return to full fitness.
As for Brandt, he could be partnered by Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland in the Dortmund attack. They could receive additional support from the two reliable wing-backs in Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro. These players are fresh as there were no midweek fixtures to deal with and will be keen on continuing their good run of form.
In defence, Manuel Akanji seems to have fallen out of favour and might once again have to settle for a place on the bench. That means Dan-Axel Zagadou, who scored against PSG, could continue at centre-back, alongside the experienced duo of Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek.
There is no one replacing Roman Burki in goal, even though the Swiss goalkeeper has been criticized for his mixed performances throughout his Dortmund career.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Burki; Piszczek, Hummels, Zagadou; Hakimi, Witsel, Can, Guerreiro; Sancho, Haaland, Brandt
Streich is likely to miss out on the services of Lucas Waldschmidt while Chang-kun Kwon has been ruled out against Borussia Dortmund. While Freiburg are likely to persist with their tried and tested 4-4-2, Waldschmidt’s potential absence could force Streich to deploy Nils Petersen as the number nine, alongside Lucas Holer.
Meanwhile, Kwon’s absence should pave the way for Roland Sallai back into the starting lineup, even though the Hungarian may have to start at right-wing. Vincenzo Grifo is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. He will remain the creator-in-chief for the visitors.
In midfield, both Nicolas Hofler and Janik Haberer are set to retain their places in the double-pivot. Their aggression and tenacity will be key in Freiburg’s second line of press.
And finally, in defence, Robin Koch will play a key role in preventing Haaland from finding the back of the net once again. The Freiburg star has been one of Bundesliga’s best defenders this season and he is expected to form the central defensive partnership with Manuel Gulde, with Jonathan Schmid and Christian Gunter operating as full-backs.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Schwolow; Schmid, Koch, Gulde, Gunter; Sallai, Haberer, Hofler, Grifo; Petersen, Holer
- Dortmund are undefeated in their last 17 Bundesliga games against Freiburg. It’s their longest unbeaten run against any side in the top-flight.
- Dortmund have lost just one of their 19 Bundesliga home games against Freiburg. BVB have won ten of their last 11 versus Freiburg on their own patch.
- BVB have won each of their last three competitive matches. They’ve taken 15 of a possible 18 points in the Ruckrunde – only Bayern have picked up more.
- Dortmund have scored 24 goals in six Ruckrunde matches. Only Gladbach have ever managed to net more at this stage (25 in 1972/1973). BVB’s chance conversion rate of 25% is the best in the league.
- Dortmund are the only team to remain undefeated at home in the 2019/20 campaign. They’ve scored in each of their last 36 Bundesliga home games – an ongoing club record.
Player to Watch
Brandt’s return could potentially put Favre in a tactical dilemma when Dortmund play hosts to Freiburg this weekend. The German international used to feature as a central midfielder alongside Witsel prior to his injury in January. He was, in fact, one of the top performers in his new role at the club.
However, new signing Can has settled in well in central midfield after joining from Juventus. And while he is expected to retain his place in the double-pivot, it could force Brandt to operate in a more advanced role.
Whether or not it will only help Brandt improve his performances remains to the seen. But, it is fair to point out that he could also struggle to cope with the aggressive Freiburg press, especially having just recovered from an injury.
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 SC Freiburg
Regardless of Favre’s tactical dilemmas, odds are stacked up against Freiburg in the build-up to this encounter. But, it could actually turn out to be a close fight, especially if one considers Streich’s ability to prepare his men when playing against a big club. We expect the Black and Yellows to secure a narrow win this weekend.