Borussia Dortmund shift their attention back to the Bundesliga when they play hosts to Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund have enjoyed a fabulous turnaround in their fortunes over the past few weeks – crowned by a midweek triumph over Sevilla that secured their ticket for the quarterfinal of the UEFA Champions League. Although they did succumb to a defeat to Bayern Munich last weekend, the Black and Yellows are more than alive in the race for the top four, thanks to Eintracht Frankfurt’s draw last time out.
Currently standing sixth in the league table with 39 points on the board, Dortmund are trailing fourth-placed Frankfurt by four points. However, the Eagles face a stern test against RB Leipzig while fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen are not in the best of form – giving Edin Terzic’s men the ideal opportunity to push higher up the table.
In Hertha Berlin, though, Dortmund do have a strong opponent, who are more than capable of causing an upset. Although the club from the capital hasn’t quite clicked into gear despite their transfer expenditures, they have responded well following the appointment of Pal Dardai.
Indeed, the Old Lady were more than competent in defeat to Bayern Munich and the draw with Stuttgart, but a win eluded them until last weekend when they came out 2-1 victorious FC Augsburg.
Although Hertha are still far off from their season expectations, the win against FCA should give them the much-needed confidence heading into this game. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this enticing encounter in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Borussia Dortmund have looked in great touch, as far as chance-creation is concerned. The change to a 4-3-3 formation has given them two useful ball-carriers and one solid holding midfielder – ultimately providing more balance in midfield.
On Tuesday, Terzic employed a slightly different setup with Emre Can acting as the auxiliary number six – often switching between a holding midfield and a centre-back role. This time around, the German is likely to replace Thomas Delaney as the out and out number six, while Mahmoud Dahoud and Jude Bellingham should operate in a more advanced role.
This little manoeuvre could pave the way for Dan-Axel Zagadou to return to central defence, alongside Mats Hummels as Dortmund continue to miss out on Manuel Akanji. Elsewhere in the backline, Raphael Guerreiro remains a doubt, meaning we might once again witness Mateu Morey and Nico Schulz occupy the full-back positions for the home side.
Terzic has learned the attacking inefficiencies of Schulz, so there could be a right-sided overload with Morey mostly looking to help out the two attacking midfielders with his forays down the flank.
Unfortunately for the Black and Yellows, though, Jadon Sancho remains out on the sidelines, meaning the onus will be on Thorgan Hazard to offer that penetration in the final third, alongside captain Marco Reus and the mercurial Erling Haaland, whose pace and power could be devastating for the Hertha backline.
Terzic may use a lot of substitutes this weekend as well, in light of the congested schedule. Reus, in particular, could be taken off around the hour mark, in favour of Julian Brandt while Giovanni Reyna and Youssoufa Moukoko are viable options, even though the American international is a slight doubt heading into this game.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hitz; Morey, Hummels, Zagadou, Schulz; Bellingham, Can, Dahoud; Hazard, Reus; Haaland
Hertha Berlin’s biggest challenge in this match is to overcome the attacking threat of Erling Haaland and Marco Reus, both of who can combine really well. Pal Dardai’s men have looked strong in defence, thanks to the leadership of Niklas Stark, who is partnered by Lukas Klunter and Marton Dardai, who is the son of the Hertha coach.
However, the key will be to cut off the passing channels of the opposition, as Dardai is so capable of doing, often by employing the attacking midfielders as strong pressing outlets. Vladimir Darida, in that regard, is a favourite of the Hungarian mastermind as the midfielder can not only cover a lot of ground but is also very aggressive.
Darida can, therefore, form Hertha’s first line of press along with the two attackers in Krzysztof Piatek and Jhon Cordoba, both of whom are expected to pressurise the two Dortmund centre-backs. Zagadou, for one, could be a key target, or perhaps even Schulz as he lacks the quality on the ball.
If the Old Lady do manage to create turnovers inside Dortmund’s own half, the likes of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Tousart are more than capable of threading those long passes to find the runners like Cordoba, or even the two wing-backs in Deyovaisio Zeefuik and Maximilian Mittelstadt.
At the same time, though, Dardai needs to be careful of Dortmund’s offensive threat, which is where the Hertha boss could be torn between employing an aggressive pressing outlet like Darida or settle for a holding midfielder. But with Sami Khedira missing, he is likely to opt for the former.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Jarstein; Klunter, Stark, Dardai; Zeefuik, Guendouzi, Tousart, Mittelstadt; Darida; Piatek, Cordoba
- Borussia Dortmund’s key absentee Jadon Sancho has had a direct hand in 15 of their 33 competitive goals since the turn of the year (eight goals, seven assists).
- Dortmund are unbeaten in seven home matches in all competitions under Edin Terzic, winning four.
- Krzysztof Piatek is Hertha’s top scorer this season with six goals, alongside Cunha. The latter has not scored in 13 matches since netting a brace against Dortmund on Matchday 8, however.
- Dodi Lukebakio’s fourth Bundesliga goal of the season ended a nine-match barren run. He netted a brace against Dortmund on Matchday 8 – his only goals in four meetings with Die Schwarzgelben.
- Dardai has faced Dortmund 11 times as a coach, winning one, drawing three and losing six. He has only suffered more defeats at the hands of Bayern (seven).
Player to Watch
Erling Haaland is, without a doubt, the player to keep an eye on, not just for Borussia Dortmund but for the entire footballing world as the young attacker continues to mesmerise the onlookers with his unreal productivity and sheer work-ethic, pace and power – making him quite the real deal.
In midweek, Sevilla became the latest victim of the Dortmund attacker, who completely ripped through the defences of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde to score a brace. He had also scored twice in Der Klassiker and in the Bundesliga overall, he has netted 32 times in his first 34 appearances – a tally only bettered by Uwe Seeler.
For Hertha, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the threat of Haaland, especially considering that Pal Dardai himself praises the more physical oriented style of play that the youngster exhibits. Cutting the supply lines remains the best option for the capital club, at the moment.
Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Hertha Berlin
Although Hertha haven’t played badly since the appointment of Pal Dardai, they do lack that final end product. A lot, therefore, could depend on how they take care of their scoring opportunities in a game where they may not get many.
With Erling Haaland in majestic form, coupled with the seemingly telepathic combination play between him and Marco Reus, as well as the emergence of Mahmoud Dahoud, Borussia Dortmund are the undisputed favourites in this encounter. It is also fair to point that the Black and Yellows are unbeaten at home under Terzic, and that is unlikely to change this weekend.