Julian Nagelsmann will aim for the first major trophy of his managerial career when RB Leipzig face Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal final on Thursday.

Following a crucial 3-2 victory over RB Leipzig on the weekend, Borussia Dortmund face Die Roten Bullen once again on Thursday, in the DFB Pokal final, at the iconic Olympiastadion.

Embroiled in a fascinating top four race in the Bundesliga, the Black and Yellows are looking for their fifth cup title in the club’s history, having last won the competition back in the 2016/17 campaign.

Barring a third round fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach, Dortmund’s route to the final has been rather forgiving, with the Bundesliga giants notably beating Holstein Kiel by a whopping 5-0 margin in the semi-final. Leipzig, in contrast, have faced three Bundesliga opponents in their five matches so far. They even had to rely on a late winner from Emil Forsberg to beat Werder Bremen in the semi-final.

For Julian Nagelsmann’s troops, it will be an opportunity to secure the first major silverware in the club’s history. The east German giants have already lost the Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich and with nothing left to play for, they are expected to go all out in search of the DFB Pokal, knowing a triumph on Thursday could be an ideal way to cap off Nagelsmann’s successful spell at the Red Bull Arena.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of the DFB Cup final in Berlin this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund will be sweating over the fitness of Erling Haaland heading into this game, as the Norwegian forward has missed the last two games due to an injury. He has trained with the squad this week, making him a favourite to start for the Black and Yellows, most likely at the expense of Thorgan Hazard.

Haaland’s return should also offer a bit more freedom for Marco Reus to operate freely in his central attacking/wide attacking hybrid. The German showcased his ability to work in tight spaces in the weekend win over Leipzig and will require better monitoring in this cup final, especially with the Dortmund captain receiving support from the in-form Jadon Sancho, who scored a late winner in the last meeting.

Giovanni Reyna, meanwhile, looked drained in that win over Leipzig. And with Jude Bellingham back in the fray, it appears the American whizkid might have to settle for a place on the bench.

It paves the way for Bellingham to renew his midfield partnership with Mahmoud Dahoud and Emre Can, as Edin Terzic switches to a 4-3-3. Can is likely to operate in the deepest midfield role, just behind Dahoud and Bellingham, who will be the two primary ball carriers for Dortmund, although it won’t be surprising to see the latter dropping deeper to build the ball up from the back.

Defensively, Terzic is not expected to make any changes apart from an enforced one that could see the injured Marwin Hitz make way for Roman Burki in goal.

Apart from that, Lukasz Piszczek has settled himself really well alongside Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji in the back four, and though he might have difficulties keeping up with Leipzig’s energy, Terzic does not have any viable alternatives, especially Mateu Morey ruled out with a long-term injury.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Burki; Piszczek, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Bellingham, Can, Dahoud; Sancho, Haaland, Reus

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RB Leipzig

Julian Nagelsmann will be tempted to make one change in defence by replacing Willi Orban with Ibrahima Konate after the experienced defender struggled in dealing with Marco Reus in the last match.

Konate, therefore, should be reinstated in the Leipzig backline, alongside Dayot Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann, who is a childhood Borussia Dortmund fan. These three pack quite a punch in set-pieces, and it won’t be surprising to see Nagelsmann putting more emphasis on such situations this midweek.

Can Nagelsmann mastermind an upset over PSG? (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Eyeing his first major trophy before switching to his native Bavaria. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In midfield, Kevin Kampl and Marcel Sabitzer will hope to continue in the double pivot, but one change could see Nordi Mukiele replacing Benjamin Henrichs on the right flank. Angelino, too, is facing pressure from Amadou Haidara, but it appears Nagelsmann could deploy the midfielder in a more attacking role instead after an impressive substitute appearance on the weekend.

In fact, with Christopher Nkunku remaining a doubt, Haidara could operate alongside Dani Olmo in the attacking midfield role, ahead of Emil Forsberg.

Further forward, Nagelsmann could be tempted to persist with Hee-chan Hwang in the number nine role, ahead of Alexander Sorloth. The former Red Bull Salzburg forward offers more dynamism and pace to his game that could cause problems for a relatively older Dortmund backline.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Konate, Upamecano; Mukiele, Sabitzer, Kampl, Angelino; Olmo, Haidara; Hwang

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Key Stats

  • Jadon Sancho has been the most dangerous attacking outlet in this season’s DFB Cup, with four goals and four assists coming in at a rate of one every 54 minutes.
  • Borussia Dortmund have won the DFB Cup four times, most recently in 2017 when Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired them to a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
  • Like Julian Nagelsmann, Edin Terzic is also one win away from his first major trophy as a coach.
  • Yussuf Poulsen is the top scorer in this season’s competition with five, one more than Sancho.
  • RB Leipzig – the Bundesliga’s youngest club – were runners-up in 2019, losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich.

Player to Watch

Mahmoud Dahoud

Embed from Getty Images

Amid all the talented players on show in the DFB Pokal finale, Mahmoud Dahoud is shining the brightest at the moment, having enjoyed a terrific turnaround under the leadership of Edin Terzic.

Indeed, the former Borussia Monchengladbach starlet has emerged as Dortmund’s best midfielder, mesmerising with his skill and composure on the ball that has proven to be useful in possession. He notably played a key role in helping Die Schwarzgelben dominate the proceedings against RB Leipzig on the weekend, with things only starting to turn sour after his substitution.

Dahoud will be hoping to replicate that performance against Leipzig, knowing another such display in the middle of the park should help his team win the DFB Cup, while also boosting his chances of being included in Germany’s squad for the upcoming European Championship this summer, making him the one to keep an eye on this midweek.

Prediction

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig and Julian Nagelsmann do not boast a great record against Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. And after falling to a 3-0 defeat to Bayern in 2019, Die Roten Bullen might be in for yet another heartbreak, as they are likely to struggle in keeping up with the attacking prowess of the Black and Yellows, especially after the return of players like Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham.

Leipzig, though, might offer much more juice going forward and could even unsettle the Dortmund backline, particularly from set-pieces. That is something Terzic’s men need to improve upon if they are to get their hands on the coveted cup this midweek. The Hard Tackle, nonetheless, predicts a narrow 2-1 win for Dortmund.

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