Borussia Dortmund look to continue their surge in the Bundesliga league table when they face 1.FC Koln on Saturday.

It has been a positive week for Borussia Dortmund fans, especially after their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 triumph over Sevilla. Although a tough quarterfinal draw with Manchester City is sure to serve as a stinger, the Black and Yellows still have enough reasons to be optimistic about their fortunes during the remainder of the campaign.

In the Bundesliga, for instance, Borussia Dortmund are slowly nearing their objective as they are trailing fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt only by a couple of points.  As such, they could potentially get back into the top four if they manage to win against Koln on Saturday while Frankfurt should lose to Union Berlin, in what promises to be a tricky encounter for the Eagles.

In contrast, Dortmund’s weekend opponents Koln have had a disastrous few weeks. Over the course of the past five matches, the Billygoats have performed worse than Schalke and are slowly moving down towards the relegation scrap, leading 17th placed Mainz by just a point.

It means Koln could potentially get dragged down the relegation spots should they fail to salvage at least a point and other results do not go in their favour.

That said, the Rhineland outfit was one a few clubs to defeat Borussia Dortmund at home under Lucien Favre, in the reverse fixture with coach Markus Gisdol hoping to replicate that performance against a completely different BVB side – this time coached by the inexperienced Edin Terzic.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at these two sides ahead of this enticing encounter at the RheinEnergieStadion on Saturday.

Team News & Tactics

1.FC Koln

A 4-2-3-1 seems like the best option for Gisdol at the moment, despite the lack of results in recent weeks. The German tactician certainly needs to find a way to create an effective pressing unit that will nullify the Dortmund ball-carriers, which is where Ellyes Skhiri and Jonas Hector could play a vital role.

Skhiri single-handedly dealt BVB a defeat in the reverse fixture with two goals and he normally plays well against big teams. And now with Koln having club captain Hector back to full fitness, the Billygoats could appear stronger than one would imagine especially with additional support from the experienced Max Meyer in the second line of press.

Meyer, though, will primarily be tasked with the responsibility of offering the creative essence in the final third. He will offer the movements in the final third, perhaps even joining Ondrej Duda in the false nine role, if required.

While these two are certain to be key in offering creativity, the onus will be on Marius Wolf and Isaac Jakobs to provide that threat on the counter. It will be an important game for Wolf, in particular, as the former Eintracht star is currently on loan from Borussia Dortmund.

In the defensive unit, Kingsley Ehizibue should slot back into the right-back position, with the inexperienced Noah Katterbach on the opposite flank. Jorge Mere and Rafael Czichos are set to form the central defensive partnership, thus forming the four-man backline for Koln with Timo Horn starting in goal.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Horn; Ehizibue, Mere, Czichos, Katterbach; Skhiri, Hector; Wolf, Meyer, Jakobs; Duda

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Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund are missing a host of vital players heading into this game. Jadon Sancho and Raphael Guerreiro already remain injured while the likes of Marco Reus, Dan-Axel Zagadou have missed Friday’s training, effectively ruling them out of the contest, along with right-back Mateu Morey.

Fortunately for Terzic, Manuel Akanji is back in the squad and might start on the bench while Mats Hummels and Emre Can are set to form the central defensive unit. Thomas Meunier and Nico Schulz, meanwhile, are likely to continue to deputise for the injured duo of Guerreiro and Morey this weekend.

Dortmund will rely heavily on Can’s ball-progression to play the ball out from the back, although the holding midfielder in Thomas Delaney should also play a key role with his combative style of play. The Dane is set to be accompanied by two slightly more attacking-minded midfielders in Jude Bellingham and Mahmoud Dahoud.

Both the players are equipped with the quality to cause problems for the Koln defence during possession phases. However, with a lack of depth, these midfielders will need to remain cautious with their approach in the game.

Meanwhile, in the attacking third, the absence of Reus and Sancho should pave the way for Julian Brandt to receive another rare start while Thorgan Hazard may continue on the flank ahead of Giovanni Reyna while the Dortmund attack should be spearheaded by none other than Erling Haaland.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hitz; Meunier, Can, Hummels, Schulz; Bellingham, Delaney, Dahoud; Hazard, Haaland, Brandt

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Key Stats

  • Koln’s Emmanuel Dennis is still awaiting his first Bundesliga goal. The Nigerian has made seven appearances in Germany’s top tier, including five starts.
  • Koln are among the league’s bottom three for fewest goals scored (23) and most conceded (44), and have given away a league-high nine penalties so far this season
  • Erling Haaland has scored 32 goals in 35 Bundesliga matches, including 19 in 20 this term.
  • Despite only playing a total of 366 Bundesliga minutes, Youssoufa Moukoko has already scored three goals in the German top flight.
  • Borussia Dortmund have scored 39 of their 52 Bundesliga goals this season in the second half of matches – that’s 75 percent.

Player to Watch

Youssoufa Moukoko

Although unlikely to get the nod in the starting eleven, Youssoufa Moukoko is definitely the one to keep an eye on, having recently scored his third goal in the Bundesliga – becoming the youngest player to do so.

As a result, the 16-year-old is almost destined to get more game-time in this crucial match-up against Koln. His pace, dynamism and willingness to test the goalkeeper could cause real problems for the opposing backline.

The absence of Reus and Sancho has already opened up an ideal opportunity for Moukoko to earn a reputation of being a first-team starter for Dortmund, it will be up to him to make full use of his opportunity this weekend.

Prediction

1.FC Koln 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

Despite the relatively long list of injury-related absentees, Borussia Dortmund still remain the undisputed favourite given the way Koln have performed in recent weeks. In addition, the likes of Brandt and Moukoko are now gaining confidence after scoring goals in the last match while the Black and Yellows also have Erling Haaland. We can thus expect a comfortable 2-0 victory for the visiting side.

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