Borussia Dortmund will have some ground to make up to Bayern Munich when they host to VfB Stuttgart at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund’s season under Lucien Favre has once been characterised by inconsistencies this term. Their recent defeat to 1.FC Koln and a draw with Eintracht Frankfurt last week have derailed their title challenge, with the Black and Yellows now trailing not only Bayern Munich but also RB Leipzig and even Bayer Leverkusen in the league table.
Newly promoted clubs have proved to be a major thorn for Favre’s men in recent years, with the team notably dropping points to SC Paderborn and Union Berlin last season while tasting a 2-1 defeat to Koln at the end of last month. And on Saturday, they will be tasked with another such challenge as they take on VfB Stuttgart.
Sealing all three points could be imperative for the home side if they are to keep up with the top dogs. They will specifically look to take advantage of Bayern and Leverkusen’s tricky fixtures against Union and Hoffenheim respectively to either move up the ladder or close the gap to the top.
Nevertheless, things could be tricky against Stuttgart, who have performed outstandingly well under Pellegrino Matarazzo since gaining promotion. Die Schwaben are flying high with 14 points on the board and though their form has dried up a bit lately, they are more than capable springing a surprise and continue their winning momentum following 2-1 triumph over Werder Bremen in the last game.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will now run the rule over the two sides ahead of this crucial Bundesliga encounter at the Signal Iduna Park this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Jude Bellingham: "The one player not many people recognise or talk about too much is Raphael Guerreiro. He only plays with his left foot but some of the things he can do – his passing, his dribbling – he makes it look easy. He runs rings around everyone." [@FourFourTwo] #BVB pic.twitter.com/HPeaFB7N9b
— BVB Buzz (@BVBBuzz) December 10, 2020
Borussia Dortmund travelled to Russia in midweek with an incredibly thin squad and are missing a host of their key players due to injury including Erling Haaland, Thomas Meunier and Thomas Delaney.
Meunier’s alternative Mateu Morey is also out, meaning Lucien Favre could once again opt for Felix Passlack at right wing-back. He will, however, be boosted by the return of Raphael Guerreiro on the opposite flank.
Meanwhile, in central defence, Emre Can should once again partner Mats Hummels, though Lukasz Piszczek might have to make way for Dan-Axel Zagadou, who was excellent after coming on as a late sub against Zenit St Petersburg. He should thus get the nod ahead of Manuel Akanji. One final change in defence should see Marwin Hitz making way for Roman Burki in goal.
In midfield, Axel Witsel remains a guaranteed starter due to the absence of Delaney while Jude Bellingham might be rested. It paves the way for Mahmoud Dahoud to return to the squad, although Favre does always have the option of Julian Brandt.
Nevertheless, moving forward, the absence of Haaland means Marco Reus could operate as the false nine, ahead of Thorgan Hazard and Brandt while Giovanni Reyna and Jadon Sancho remain favourite to start in behind after being benched in midweek.
Another player hoping to finally make his mark in the Bundesliga this weekend is Youssoufa Moukoko. And although it remains unlikely that he will be given a berth in the starting eleven, the 16-year-old will most certainly appear as a substitute.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Burki; Can, Hummels, Zagadou; Passlack, Witsel, Dahoud, Guerreiro; Sancho, Reyna; Reus
There might be a gulf of difference between Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart, but what makes the Swabians such a deadly unit this season is their wealth of options and the overall depth in the squad, especially in the attacking department.
In Silas Wamangituka, coach Pellegrino Matarazzo has one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga. His presence on the flanks could be a deadly weapon for the visitors on the counter, although the likes of Mateo Klimowicz and Tanguy Coulibaly are no slouch either. They will all look to provide the service for Sasa Kalajdzic upfront.
The tall striker, standing at 2m, has the physical and aerial prowess to trouble the likes of Hummels and Can. But most interestingly, it will be interesting to see how he tussles with Zagadou, who also packs a tall, physical frame.
In the more creative side, Matarazzo could opt for the experienced Gonzalo Castro ahead of Orel Mangala, both of who are incidentally ex-Dortmund players. Castro should form the central midfield alongside Wataru Endo, who is proving to become the latest Japanese sensation in the Bundesliga, following the footsteps of players like Shinji Kagawa, Makoto Hasebe and the most recent entry in Daichi Kamada.
And finally, in defensive, Matarazzo is likely to stick to the same unit that started in the win over Bremen which means the back three of Konstantinos Mavropanos, Waldemar Anton and Marc-Oliver Kempf will be looking to provide cover for Gregor Kobel in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Kobel; Mavropanos, Anton, Kempf; Wamangituka, Castro, Endo, Sosa; Klimowicz, Coulibaly; Kalajdzic
- Borussia Dortmund have suffered five defeats in seven home Bundesliga matches played behind closed doors. They have only lost one of 32 league games at the Signal Iduna Park under Lucien Favre, with fans present.
- BVB have not scored earlier than the 31st minute in league matches this season, while 19 of their 22 goals have fallen in the second half.
- Defender Mats Hummels is Dortmund’s next-best scorer after Erling Haaland in 2020/21, with three goals in 15 competitive appearances.
- Stuttgart are unbeaten away from home this season (W3 D2). Only Bayern (12 points) and Bayer Leverkusen (14 points) have fared better on the road.
- Stuttgart have scored at least once in every game in 2020/21, including seven following a mistake by an opposition team. Bayern lead that particular category with eight.
Player to Watch
“I don’t want to become just a good American player.
I want to consistently be one of the top 10 players in the world.”
– Giovanni Reyna 🗣 pic.twitter.com/VC1A34jFoS
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) December 10, 2020
With Erling Haaland injured, Giovanni Reyna has become the focal point of the Borussia Dortmund attack, being the next most in-form player for them at the moment. The USMNT international was most recently involved in the midweek fixture against Zenit St Petersburg, producing yet another impactful performance from the bench.
This time out, Reyna will be in charge of Dortmund’s creative department. He will look to assume the number eight role alongside Mahmoud Dahoud, with Axel Witsel acting in the deepest midfield position. The duo will, therefore, play in a different line, with Sancho moving upfront and operating with Marco Reus in a free-flowing BVB attack.
Reyna’s ball progression could, thus, become a key factor in his club’s overall chance creation especially knowing the fact that Stuttgart will be looking to disrupt their flow in the middle of the park.
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 VfB Stuttgart
It won’t be unreasonable to expect a surprise result in this Bundesliga encounter given Stuttgart’s record away from home even against big clubs. But, the Swabians have lacked some flow in recent matches so Borussia Dortmund should prevail in this fixture, especially with the home advantage and the fact that they will have the likes of Raphael Guerreiro and Mo Dahoud back in the starting lineup.