Borussia Dortmund kickstart their 2020/21 campaign on Monday night when they lock horns with MSV Duisburg, in the first round of the DFB Pokal.

You probably can’t remember Borussia Dortmund having a dismal pre-season. This summer has been no different with a pathetic, inconceivable 1-1 draw with SC Paderborn emerging as a minor blip in an otherwise not so enjoyable but decent pre-season featuring a sub-par performance in an 11-2 win over Austria Wien (hi Peter Stoger).

On Monday, however, the Black and Yellows truly kickstart their 2020/21 campaign as they travel to MSV-Arena to face MSV Duisburg, in the first round of the DFB Pokal.

We have already seen some exciting matches in the cup so far, with Dortmund’s next weekend opponents Borussia Monchengladbach securing a thumping 8-0 win over Oberneuland, a fourth division team.

Meanwhile, Hertha Berlin did what they do best – losing to a lower league opponent in the early rounds of the DFB Pokal. This time, they tasted defeat at the hands of Eintracht Braunschweig aka the ugly Eintracht.

On paper, Borussia Dortmund have been drawn against a relatively stronger opponent as Duisburg had gotten really close to gaining promotion to the German second division last season.

Nevertheless, Lucien Favre’s men can’t afford to slip up and be complacent in this knockout fixture. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at their chances against the third division club on Monday.

Tactics & Team News

MSV Duisburg

Duisburg have emerged as an imaginative side under the leadership of Torstein Lieberknecht. They aren’t afraid to attack the opposite end even at the expense of defensive balance.

Unfortunately, the Zebras have been dealt with a major blow as last season’s top-scorer, Moritz Stoppelkamp is a doubt due to a virus infection. His Covid-19 test came out negative but the striker is unlikely to feature against Dortmund, joining Joshua Bitter, Maximilian Jansen and Cem Sabanci in Duisburg’s potential list of absentees.

Lieberknecht predominantly favours the 4-2-3-1 formation so, with Stoppelkamp out, we should see Vincent Vermij leading the Duisburg attack. Ahmet Engin featured in a central attacking position in the friendly against Arminia Bielefeld but the 24-year-old is likely to operate in a deeper role, forming the creative trio alongside the likes of Leroy-Jacques Mickels and Sinan Karweina.

In central midfield, Lieberknecht might be forced to start with two signings in Mirnes Pepic and Wilson Kamavuaka, though the latter has had some action in the pre-season. Connor Krempicki provides Duisburg with a more attacking option, should they need it.

And finally, in defence, we are expecting the hosts to employ a deep defensive block, with Vincent Gembalies and Dominik Schmidt forming the central defensive pairing. Maximilian Sauer is the prime alternative for the injured Bitter at right-back, with Niko Bretschneider likely to feature on the opposite flank.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Weinkauf; Sauer, Schmidt, Gembalies, Bretschneider; Kamavuaka, Pepic; Mickels, Karweina, Engin, Vermeij.

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Borussia Dortmund

Lucien Favre has shifted to a four-man backline in favour of giving more chances to some of the players in the pre-season so far. So it won’t be surprising to see if Borussia Dortmund start with a 4-2-3-1 on Monday, especially because the coach is likely to have a large part of his squad available.

Four defenders in Marcel Schmelzer, Mateu Morey, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Nico Schulz are unavailable for this game. But the likes of Thomas Meunier, Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji and Raphael Guerreiro are all fit and could form the back-four.

Things could get trickier for Favre in central midfield. New signing Jude Bellingham has been exceptional in the pre-season and deserves a chance in the first-team. He should, therefore, form the double-pivot alongside Emre Can, with Axel Witsel likely to be given a breather after playing the full ninety minutes against Denmark and Iceland.

It should allow Julian Brandt to operate as the number ten, with Jadon Sancho and Giovanni Reyna featuring as the wide attackers. Marco Reus, meanwhile, is fit and available but can only hope to make a substitute appearance as Lucien Favre is unlikely to take any unnecessary risk with the Dortmund captain who has just returned from a long injury layoff.

Finally, the Borussia Dortmund attack should be led by none other than Erling Haaland. The Norwegian international is once again in good form and is ready to make an impact in what would be his first full season in Germany.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Burki; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Can, Bellingham; Sancho, Brandt, Reyna; Haaland.

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Player to Watch

Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham has been Borussia Dortmund’s only real major signing this summer, apart from Meunier. The English whizkid comes with a lot of expectations, having lightened up the Championship with Birmingham City last season.

However, many critics have pointed out that the midfielder may find it difficult to enjoy a quick rise to fame like his compatriot Sancho, purely due to so much competition.

Indeed, the likes of Witsel, Can, Brandt and Delaney are all competing for the same position, which means this could be an ideal chance for Bellingham to make an early impact.

The 17-year-old has already made a good first impression with his performances in pre-season. But, he now needs to replicate those performances in competitive football so a positive display against Duisburg on Monday could be a step in the right direction.

Prediction

MSV Duisburg 1-3 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund haven’t historically performed badly in the early rounds of the DFB Pokal and given their impressive pre-season campaign, the visitors are more than likely to dominate this fixture. However, shifting to a four-man backline could make them a little more vulnerable at the back.

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