Borussia Dortmund will look to preserve their place in the Bundesliga title race as they lock horns with Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.
Following an entertaining round of fixtures on the weekend, the Bundesliga head towards the Englischewoche that sees the clubs compete in midweek. Bayer Leverkusen’s game against Borussia Dortmund at the Bay Arena on Tuesday serves as the pick of these matches as the two sides look to remain relevant in the Bundesliga title race this season.
Dortmund, in particular, are coming on the back of a 1-1 draw with struggling FSV Mainz – a result that halted their progress under interim coach Edin Terzic. It also stretched the gap from table-toppers Bayern Munich from five to seven points, further diminishing their chances of potentially lifting the league title this season.
A win, therefore, could be imperative for the Black and Yellows as they aim to keep up with the likes of Bayern and RB Leipzig, who are leading them by three points heading into this matchday. The same can be said for Bayer Leverkusen, who were looking like the title favourites before a run of four winless matches saw them slip to third.
Die Werkself are currently leading Dortmund only due to a superior goal difference and face an uphill task of turning their fortunes around against the mighty BVB. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this exciting encounter in the Bundesliga this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
The biggest news for Leverkusen fans this week is the likely return of their 17-year-old wunderkind Florian Wirtz. The youngster has missed a couple of matches due to a knee problem. But his return should provide some creativity in B04’s midfield unit, alongside Nadiem Amiri, with Julian Baumgartlinger providing the support in the number six role.
Assists by teenagers in the Bundesliga this season:
— Chris Smith (@CJSmith91) January 18, 2021
Another massive boost for head coach Peter Bosz is that he also has the option of Lars Bender. The German could replace Aleksandar Dragovic at right-back, providing more steel and solidity in the Leverkusen backline. His versatility, that allows him to slot into a central role should also aid the two centre-backs in Jonathan Tah and Edmond Tapsoba.
The left-back Daley Sinkgraven, however, should be assigned a more attacking role as the Dutchman looks to provide support for the left-sided attacker in Moussa Diaby. The winger himself has a tendency to drift into central areas of the pitch, thus allowing Sinkgraven to venture further and offer width in the Leverkusen attack.
Leon Bailey, on the other hand, is a more hard-working individual, so he shouldn’t have any difficulties with the lack of support from the right-back. Both him and Diaby, however, are most likely to play on the counter as they look to provide the supply for the central striker in Patrik Schick. The former AS Roma forward should once again get the nod ahead of top-scorer Lucas Alario in the number nine position.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hradecky; Bender, Tah, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven; Wirtz, Baumgartlinger, Amiri; Bailey, Schick, Diaby
Unlike Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund have to deal with a host of absentees heading into this game. Giovanni Reyna is a major doubt due to a throat infection while Axel Witsel, Thorgan Hazard and Dan-Axel Zagadou remain out due to their respective injuries, with the latter picking up a knock against Mainz that should keep him out for a few weeks.
Dan-Axel Zagadou suffered a muscle strain during Saturday’s match and will be unavailable until he recovers.
Get well soon, Daxo! 🙏 pic.twitter.com/tPI0cvWtk8
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) January 17, 2021
In addition, Emre Can is facing a suspension after picking up five yellow cards this season, meaning the onus will be on Thomas Delaney and Jude Bellingham to provide the creativity as well as the solidity in the middle of the park. Coach Edin Terzic does, however, have the option to deploy Mahmoud Dahoud, but the former Gladbach midfielder hasn’t played a lot of football over the past couple of months.
Nevertheless, the absence of two first-choice midfielders should only make the job more difficult for the two centre-backs in Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji. The duo has usually performed well recently, but things could be a whole lot different against the attacking firepower that Leverkusen have.
The two, however, will be aided by the two full-backs in Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro, although the latter will be assigned a far more attacking role. In fact, Guerreiro’s ability to carry the ball across the final third could be an essential aid for an otherwise depleted Dortmund attack.
Reyna’s potential absence, meanwhile, should pave the way for Julian Brandt to retain this place in the side. The German international should form Dortmund’s creative trifecta alongside Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho as they look to breach the Leverkusen backline that has looked sloppy in recent weeks.
And finally, the BVB attack should once again be spearheaded by Erling Haaland. It will be interesting to see how the Norwegian superstar fares in physical duels against the two Leverkusen centre-backs in Tah and Tapsoba. Terzic also has the option of deploying Youssoufa Moukoko while the towering Stefan Tigges provides a more like for like alternative for Haaland.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Burki; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Bellingham, Delaney; Sancho, Reus, Brandt; Haaland
- The last seven Bundesliga meetings between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund have averaged five goals per game (36 in total).
- Bayer Leverkusen have lost 32 times and conceded 132 goals across 82 Bundesliga meetings with Borussia Dortmund. They’ve only fared worse against Bayern Munich.
- Lucas Alario is Leverkusen’s top scorer this Bundesliga season with eight goals. But, he has lost all four of his meetings with BVB without finding the back of the net.
- Borussia Dortmund have won four of their last five against Leverkusen, averaging three goals per game.
- With 12 goals already, Erling Haaland is averaging a goal every 76 minutes in the Bundesliga this season.
Player to Watch
Julian Brandt could be an unlikely key player for Borussia Dortmund this week. Although the playmaker isn’t usually a guaranteed starter in the team, the potential absence of Gio Reyna due to a throat infection could give him an ideal opportunity to impress against his former club Bayer Leverkusen at the Bay Arena – his old stomping ground.
Brandt did show some promising signs in the draw with Mainz. creating a couple of excellent first-half chances. In this game, the German should continue to operate in that left-wing channel, potentially dropping in a bit deeper in the absence of two key midfielders in Can and Witsel.
It will be particularly interesting to see how Brandt fares against Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz as both of them are similar players who like to create chances using their silky footwork and have an excellent understanding of the game. Terzic will be hoping that the incentive of playing his former club could boost Brandt’s confidence, helping him produce a match-winning performance this week.
Bayer Leverkusen 0-2 Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen haven’t been able to create many scoring opportunities in recent weeks, failing to meet the xG tally of 1.50 or above in any of their last four league matches. Things could get all the more difficult against a Dortmund side who have performed reasonably well in defence, of late, with Manuel Akanji, in particular, emerging as one of the most in-form defenders in the league.
Leverkusen’s high press should also make things easier for the exceptionally talented Dortmund attackers to work in between the channels, though it could put their defenders at risk of losing possession – something they need to be wary of. B04’s best chance of scoring could yet be from set-pieces, so we do expect the visitors to claim a fairly comfortable 2-0 victory this midweek.