Champions League places could be on the line as VfL Wolfsburg welcome Borussia Dortmund at the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday.
The Champions League race in the Bundesliga is about to get hotter as prime candidates Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg lock horns with each other on Saturday, in what will be an absolute six-pointer.
Dortmund are the team on the ascendancy, having won their last three Bundesliga matches. They are currently fifth in the league table with 52 points on the board – four behind fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt, who also face a tricky test against Bayer Leverkusen on the same day.
Wolfsburg, on the other hand, are third in the table with 57 points, but they do have a tough run of fixtures, including RB Leipzig coming up. A defeat on Saturday, therefore, could allow the Black and Yellows to bridge the gap to just two points, while also potentially allowing Frankfurt to move ahead of them in the league table.
On the bright side, the Wolves did return to winning ways in midweek, securing a 3-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart. It was a lucky win in many ways as the opposition were extremely wasteful in front of goal, just like Dortmund, who produced an xG tally of over 4 against Union Berlin but could only muster a 2-0 victory.
These two sides last met in the Bundesliga right after the turn of the year, with BVB prevailing as 2-1 victors at the Signal Iduna Park. Wolfsburg have come a long way since and are expected to produce a stronger challenge this time around, as The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at these two sides, ahead of their genuine six-pointer this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Glasner on CL qualification:
"We’re in third place with four games to play, so that has to be our only objective. We want to reach the Champions League – everything else is of secondary importance."#WOBBVB #VfLWolfsburg pic.twitter.com/XvWCV5wUAi
— VfL Wolfsburg EN/US 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 (@VfLWolfsburg_EN) April 23, 2021
Wolfsburg were blessed with the return of Maxi Arnold in midweek, which allowed Xaver Schlager to play with more freedom going forward. This little midfield combination could once again be vital to their chances against Borussia Dortmund, as they are particularly capable of testing the opposition from long range.
Yannick Gerhardt is another midfielder that could cause problems for the Black and Yellows, operating in the lone number ten position. He will have the privilege of working alongside two dynamic and pacy wingers in Josip Brekalo and Maxi Philipp, who could deputise for Ridle Baku, should the youngster fail to return to full fitness.
Philipp is an ex-Dortmund player who has the tendency of scoring important goals. He will, therefore, look to operate more centrally, almost alongside Wout Weghorst, who is the definite dangerman with 20 goals already in the Bundesliga this season.
His physical and aerial prowess, in particular, are an asset for Wolfsburg – one that also tempts wingers or even full-backs, Kevin Mbabu and Otavio, to whip in crosses from the wider areas of the pitch.
However, these two will also be expected to remain aware of their defensive chores, especially up against the mighty Dortmund attack. As such, they could primarily operate in a more conservative role, hoping to aid the central defenders in John Anthony Brooks and Maxence Lacroix as they look to protect Koen Casteels in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Casteels; Mbabu, Lacroix, Brooks, Otavio; Schlager, Arnold; Philipp, Gerhardt, Brekalo; Weghorst
Borussia Dortmund were boosted by the return of Jadon Sancho in midweek, with the Englishman even producing an eye-catching cameo. However, it remains unlikely that he will be pushed right back into the starting eleven, especially with Giovanni Reyna in full flow.
The American international is likely to continue his attacking partnership alongside the equally in-form Marco Reus, although it is Erling Haaland who needs to find his scoring boots after missing at least four clear cut chances against Union Berlin.
Thomas Delaney and Gio Reyna both made the trip to Wolfsburg after training with the team on Friday. In addition to Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund will also be without Ansgar Knauff and Felix Passlack on Saturday [Ruhr Nachrichten] #BVB
— BVB Buzz (@BVBBuzz) April 23, 2021
Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt, meanwhile, are set to serve as options on the bench for Edin Terzic in the final third, with Steffen Tigges also serving as a potential alternative for Haaland.
In midfield, Thomas Delaney travelled with the team to Wolfsburg and should return to the side. The Dane could regain his place in the holding midfield role, with Terzic’s reversed 4-3-3 likely to see Mahmoud Dahoud and Jude Bellingham operate as number eight/number six hybrids.
One player who isn’t eligible for this game though is Mats Hummels. The veteran centre-back is facing a suspension due to accumulation of yellow cards, and will likely be replaced by Emre Can as the former Liverpool man looks to renew his central defensive partnership alongside the in-form Manuel Akanji.
Lukasz Piszczek is another alternative, although the Pole may have to settle for a place on the bench as he makes way for Mateu Morey at right-back. Raphael Guerreiro, on the other hand, remains a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank, with the Portuguese international set to play a vital role in Dortmund’s chance creation.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hitz; Morey, Can, Akanji, Guerreiro; Bellingham, Delaney, Dahoud; Reyna, Haaland, Reus
- Wolfsburg have failed to find the back of the net in eight Bundesliga games against Dortmund; losing seven of those matches and drawing once more during that period, while also conceding 16 times.
- Borussia Dortmund have won 10 out of 11 meetings (D1) since the Wolves last beat them – a 2-1 win at the Volkswagen Arena in 2014/15.
- Dortmund have scored in each of their previous 27 Bundesliga matchdays, with their only blank this term coming in the 2-0 loss at Augsburg on Matchday 2.
- BVB have lost just one of their last four league away games – the 4-2 defeat to Bayern – scoring 11 times in the process at an average of 2.75 goals per game.
- With 57 points after 30 games, this is Wolfsburg’s third-best Bundesliga season so far. Their points tally at this stage of a season has been only better in 2008/09 (60) and 2014/15 (61), when they finished champions and runners-up respectively.
Player to Watch
Although unlikely to be given the nod in the starting eleven, Jadon Sancho is going to play a vital role in this crucial game for Borussia Dortmund this weekend.
As mentioned earlier, the Englishman made a noticeable impact in his substitute appearance against Union, showing his pace, trickery and understanding with fellow attackers. Those qualities could be integral up against a Wolfsburg side that boasts one of the best defensive records in the league and does not tend to give away too many scoring opportunities.
Sancho’s quick-feet, in particular, is going to play a key role in helping Dortmund navigate through Wolfsburg’s defensive lines. It will be interesting to see how he links up Reus and Haaland as well, as Die Schwarzgelben look to pile on the misery for the Wolves.
VfL Wolfsburg 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
This is not an easy game by any means for Borussia Dortmund, as Wolfsburg are indeed one of the most competitive sides in the division. However, Oliver Glasmer’s men do tend to struggle against big clubs and do not have a great record against the likes of Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt and Dortmund.
Their opponent, in contrast, are in a red hot form and have recently been blessed by the return of Jadon Sancho, who is going to play a pivotal role in helping Dortmund get over the line this weekend.