Borussia Dortmund will be looking to get back into the top four when they take on SC Freiburg at the Schwarzwald Stadion on Saturday.
While Bayern Munich may once again run away with the title, the battle for the Champions League places is hotting up in the Bundesliga, with outsiders like Eintracht Frankfurt, VfL Wolfsburg and Union Berlin making a strong case. It has left a certain giant in Borussia Dortmund dawdling outside the top five, and a win could be imperative as they lock horns with SC Freiburg on Saturday.
The Black and Yellows experienced an awful start to 2021, having failed to win three of their six league matches. It has piled the pressure on interim head coach Edin Terzic, though the team did secure a 3-1 win over FC Augsburg in their most recent league game. Another mishap on Saturday could make things worse, especially with Borussia Monchengladbach hot on their heels in the league table.
SC Freiburg, in contrast, have found a fresh lease of life following a disastrous start to the campaign. They have found a certain rhythm in their offensive unit despite the injury of key man Roland Sallai.
Although Christian Streich’s men are coming on the back of a 3-0 defeat to VfL Wolfsburg in the last game, they are comfortably standing in mid-table – a massive improvement for a side who were flirting with relegation earlier in the season.
Freiburg do, however, have the worst defensive record in the top half of the Bundesliga table and they must find a way to improve their solidity that if they are to cause an upset against the mighty Dortmund side this weekend. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this enticing match-up in the Bundesliga.
Team News & Tactics
Despite Freiburg’s defeat to Wolfsburg, the club from the black forest were blessed with the return of key holding midfielder Baptiste Santamaria. Christian Streich, though, will continue to miss out on the services of Sallai, which means on-loan Bayern Munich youngster Jeong Woo-yeong should once again get the nod ahead of Lucas Holer in attack.
The South Korean has raised a lot of eyebrows, particularly with his link-up play and understanding with the likes of Ermedin Demirovic and Vincenzo Grifo. Their collective creativity could once again prove to be critical in Freiburg’s bid to get the better of the depleted Dortmund backline this weekend.
Santamaria, meanwhile, should once again slot in at central midfield, alongside Nicolas Hofler. The pair have combined well due to their contrasting style of play, with Hofler known for his surprising quality on the ball. He can even act as a ball-carrier, which should take the burden off Grifo.
It will be interesting to see Streich’s team selection in the right wing-back position. The German tactician has two options in Jonathan Schmid and Lukas Kubler. He may opt for Schmid due to his attacking qualities that could be useful in exploiting that acres of space often left behind by the marauding Dortmund full-back, Raphael Guerreiro.
Christian Gunter, meanwhile, is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. His proficiency from set-pieces makes him one of Freiburg’s main sources of creativity, though the left-back needs to be equally vigilant defensively, and aid the three Freiburg centre-backs in Manuel Gulde, Philipp Lienhart and Kevin Schlotterbeck.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Muller; Lienhart, Schlotterbeck, Gulde; Schmid, Santamaria, Hofler, Gunter; Jeong, Grifo; Demirovic
Edin Terzic needs to make certain adjustments from the side that secured a narrow win over SC Paderborn in midweek’s DFB Pokal encounter. He might even fancy reverting to a back-four in the wake of Mats Hummels’ return after the defender was given a breather in the last game.
Emre Can was a star performed in that win, but may once again have to settle for a place on the bench, joining Lukasz Piszczek. It means the BVB backline should comprise of Manuel Akanji and Hummels in central defence, while Mateu Morey and Raphael Guerreiro are set to operate as full-backs.
🎙 Edin Terzic:
“The cup game was intense and half an hour too long. There were one or two blows, but nothing dramatic. We hope that Mats can train normally today and that he’ll be ready for Saturday.” pic.twitter.com/WDd44Za4gW
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) February 4, 2021
Dortmund are unfortunately missing a host of defensive players including goalkeeper Roman Burki. The 30-year-old will be disappointed to miss out on the chance to play against his former club this weekend, but Terzic does have that area covered in Marwin Hitz.
Jude Bellingham and Thomas Delaney are expected to continue in midfield as well, in the absence of the injured Axel Witsel. Julian Brandt is another option, though the German international may have to settle for a place on the bench, which, in turn, should pave the way for Giovanni Reyna to start.
On paper, the American international is likely to operate at left-wing, but he is much more comfortable in a left-sided half-space so it will be interesting to see whether he moves in centrally. Bellingham may also do the same and operate alongside Marco Reus and Reyna in the centre, with Jadon Sancho and Guerreiro playing out wide.
Either way, the Borussia Dortmund attack should once again be spearheaded by Erling Haaland. The Norwegian international returned to scoring ways in the recent win over Paderborn. He will be hoping to concentrate on that momentum and extend his tally in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hitz; Morey, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Bellingham, Delaney; Sancho, Reus, Reyna; Haaland
- Vincenzo Grifo is without a goal in five games, since netting his seventh of the campaign in the Matchday 14 win at Hoffenheim, while Nils Petersen has scored four of his seven as a substitute.
- The match will be Freiburg’s 700th, and Christian Streich’s 275th, in the Bundesliga. He is the league’s longest-serving coach, having been in charge since January 2012, spending only the 2015/16 campaign outside the top flight.
- After winning a club-record five Bundesliga games in a row, Freiburg have taken maximum points only once across their last four. They are unbeaten in six at home, though.
- Erling Haaland is third in the current Bundesliga scoring charts, but second best for minutes per goal (84) behind Robert Lewandowski (63).
- Jadon Sancho failed to score in the first 13 matches of the season but has struck three times in six games in 2021.
Player to Watch
Following a breather against Paderborn in midweek, Marco Reus’ influence is set to be critical for Borussia Dortmund’s chances of breaking down the Freiburg defence this weekend.
The German international has shown promising signs in recent weeks and has been arguably the best performing BVB attacker in January, after Jadon Sancho. His incredible work-ethic, combination play and a seemingly telepathic understanding with the likes of Erling Haaland, Sancho and Gio Reyna could, therefore, cause problems for Christian Streich’s’ men.
In fact, Reus’ performance on Saturday could go a long way in dictating Dortmund’s fortunes in this game. The experienced attacker will also need to be clinical in front of goal as chances could be few and far between.
SC Freiburg 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
The defence hasn’t been the strongest suit for SC Freiburg side this season. Although the defenders have performed well at times, they have leaked goals and may find it challenging to keep the mighty Dortmund attack at bay.
That said, SCF do have attackers who are more than capable of causing an upset and it won’t be surprising to them netting a goal or two this weekend, though we do expect the visitors to seal yet another 3-1 victory at the Schwarzwald Stadion.