Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to resume their Bundesliga campaign on a strong note when they take on Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
The international break has once again hit Borussia Dortmund hard, with Giovanni Reyna being ruled out for a few weeks after sustaining an injury in the game against Canada. It is a big blow for the Black and Yellows, who restart their Bundesliga campaign on Saturday, as they travel to BayArena to face Bayer Leverkusen.
It was an emotional match-up when these two teams last faced each other, in the final matchday of last season. The game witnessed the departure of club legend Lukasz Piszczek, while Leverkusen’s revered twin duo Sven and Lars Bender hung their boots.
However, things could get much more competitive as the two teams now hope to put early pressure on Bayern Munich. For Dortmund, their start of the Marco Rose era has exuded mixed feelings, but seven points from three games certainly isn’t a bad output, and after sealing a last-minute against Hoffenheim in Matchday 3, confidence will be high as they look to move up the league table.
Leverkusen, meanwhile, have enjoyed a splendid start to their new era under Gerardo Seoane. They have also secured seven points from three games, but in a more convincing more, having secured 4-1 victory to Borussia Monchengladbach on Matchday 2 before yet another resounding 4-0 win over FC Augsburg in their last game.
As such, only table-toppers VfL Wolfsburg have ahead of Die Werkself in the league table at the moment, but that could change as we gear up for another exciting round of fixtures in the Bundesliga. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over Dortmund and Leverkusen ahead of their blockbuster encounter at the BayArena this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
It is already clear that the second-placed team [Leverkusen] in the table will have to do without South Americans Charles Aránguiz, Exequiel Palacios and Piero Hincapie for the game against Dortmund (11.9.).
— BVB Newsblog (@bvbnewsblog) August 31, 2021
Bayer Leverkusen are set to miss some of their big guns through injury, including defensive lynchpin Edmond Tapsoba. The same can be said for South American midfield duo Charles Aranguiz and Exequiel Palacios.
In attack, Lucas Alario will remain out, although that is unlikely to faze Seoane, especially with Patrik Schick enjoying a terrific run of form, scoring two goals in three appearances. He will once again be the focal point of the Leverkusen attack, but the selection could get difficult in the creative department.
If Palacios does miss out, there will be a start for Florian Wirtz in the number ten slot. But if the Argentine returns in time, then Kerem Demirbay should occupy that role, with Wirtz shifting out wide. But we are expecting the former, which means Wirtz should form Leverkuse’s creative trifecta alongside Paulinho and Moussa Diaby.
Diaby has been impressive this season and his ability to move in centrally, assures much-needed space for Jeremie Frimpong the exploit out wide. The same can be said for Paulinho, with left-back Mitchell Bakker hoping to terrorise the vulnerable Dortmund fullbacks on the left hand side.
As for the midfield, Demirbay should get the nod ahead of Nadiem Amiri in the number eight slot, but the onus of screening the backline will be on new signing Robert Andrich, in the absence of Aranguiz and Julian Baumgartlinger.
Defensively, Odilon Kossounou has had a brilliant start to his Bundesliga career and should continue to form the central defensive partnership with Jonathan Tah, as they look to protect Lukas Hradecky in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hradecky; Frimpong, Kossounou, Tah, Bakker; Andrich, Demirbay; Diaby, Wirtz, Paulinho; Schick
Marco Rose has provided a damning update on Reyna, with the American international set to miss out for a few weeks. The Dortmund head coach, though, has confirmed that Marco Reus is back in contention despite suffering a knock against Armenia.
Aside from Reyna, Dortmund’s other potential absentees are Dan-Axel Zagadou, Mateu Morey, Emre Can and Thorgan Hazard, even though the latter has been doing much better lately. Mats Hummels, too, is doing well and might be set for a much-awaited return to the starting eleven.
🎙 Marco Rose about Reyna:
"We'll be missing him for a few matches. We hope to have him back after next international break [which is in about one month].#BVB
— BVB Newsblog (@bvbnewsblog) September 9, 2021
The veteran should renew his central defensive partnership alongside Manuel Akanji. Raphael Guerreiro is another guaranteed starter in defence, but Thomas Meunier is a doubt, which means there could be another start for the much-maligned Felix Passlack. Dortmund’s lack of defensive solidity in the wider roles remains a massive weakness – something Leverkusen will exploit.
In midfield, it is hard to imagine Rose tinkering with the combination of Jude Bellingham and Mahmoud Dahoud. They offer a nice balance and are tactically adept in his flexible setup that requires at least one of them to drift forward and combine with Marco Reus, who, in turn, should drop deeper to receive the ball.
As for the vacant role of Reyna, Julian Brandt is a favourite and could be set for a much-awaited start. It will be interesting to see how he performs against his former side, as he looks to provide the supply for Erling Haaland and Donyell Malen going forward.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Kobel; Passlack, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Bellingham, Dahoud; Reus, Brandt; Malen, Haaland
- After going eight Bundesliga matches without a goal, Patrik Schick has scored in back-to-back games for the fifth time in 54 German top-flight appearances.
- It’s Moussa Diaby who leads the way for total goal involvement after three matches, though, with two of his own and an assist.
- Gerardo Seoane is unbeaten in 14 of his last 16 matches as a head coach, including four in all competitions since taking charge of Leverkusen (W13 D1).
- Erling Haaland is averaging a goal a game in this season’s Bundesliga. He’s scored 43 times in 46 Bundesliga appearances, all told.
- Aged 18 years and 287 days, Giovanni Reyna replaced former Leverkusen man Kai Havertz as the youngest player to 50 Bundesliga appearances last time out.
Player to Watch
With Reyna ruled out and Reus only returning from a potential long-term injury scare, this is an ideal time for Julian Brandt to step. There had been much talk about the former Leverkusen man exploding into life under the tutelage of new coach Marco Rose, but he has had a slow start to the campaign, featuring in only 46 minutes of Bundesliga action.
However, on Saturday, he will have the opportunity to prove himself as he looks to replace the injured Reyna. Brandt certainly has a tactical significance to the Dortmund side, too, as his ability to play both centrally and wide will be a huge asset to Rose’s flexible attacking style that can easily oscillate, depending on the situation.
As such, we might witness Brandt staying centrally in the final third, but drift out wide when Dortmund are finding it difficult to get the ball through the middle, with Reus dropping deeper to receive the ball. Leverkusen will definitely have a hard time keeping track of the opposition in this manner, giving the 25-year-old an excellent chance to make things happen in the final third.
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
This game is hard to predict as both sides have had a good start to the season. Leverkusen have been better among the two but they don’t generally tend to perform well against Dortmund, whereas the Black and Yellows themselves often underperform away from home.
Injuries may play a huge role in this encounter, with Leverkusen potentially missing their preferred midfield duo of Aranguiz and Palacios. For Dortmund, the absence of Reyna and potentially Meunier will definitely hurt. But in Haaland and Reus, they have a solid attacking combo, and with new signing Malen also kicking things into the next year, the visitors are the slight favourites here.