Borussia Dortmund will have the opportunity to extend their winning run to four games in all competitions as they take on Union Berlin on Sunday.
After a midweek UEFA Champions League affair against Besiktas, Borussia Dortmund return to Bundesliga action this weekend as they welcome Union Berlin at Signal Iduna Park on Sunday.
Although we are just four matches into the new season, the Bundesliga table is really shaping up well with all the top clubs except RB Leipzig looking strong early on in the campaign. Dortmund are currently fourth, trailing Bayern Munich, VfL Wolfsburg, the only club to have maintained a hundred percent winning record, and Mainz.
With Bayern cruising to an easy win against Bochum this weekend, Die Schwarzgelben will be under pressure to perform. Marco Rose’s side are on a three-game winning run in all competitions, but they have had to work hard to clinch all the victories with defence, in particular, remaining a massive weakness.
It is a weakness Union Berlin will look to exploit as Urs Fischer’s men are one of the most lethal counter-attacking sides in the league. The club from East Berlin have enjoyed their best-ever start to the season, with six points in four matches. However, they were recently thumped 3-1 in midweek’s UEFA Conference League clash against Sparta Praha.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of their enticing match-up at the Signal Iduna Park this weekend.
Team News& Tactics
Marco Rose has been dealt with a fresh injury blow in the form of Julian Brandt. But the Dortmund coach might be boosted by the return of Thorgan Hazard, who might make the bench after another injury layoff. Mats Hummels, too, is available from the start, while other options like Dan-Axel Zagadou are recovering quick.
Julian Brandt got substituted due to muscular problems at half-time. He had been at Dortmund for further checks today. He's at least a doubt for Sunday.
Meanwhile, Mats Hummels went off simply because he was tired. Not more or less.#BVB
— BVB Newsblog (@bvbnewsblog) September 16, 2021
Hummels is likely to start this game alongside Manuel Akanji. His wealth of experience and exceptional passing will be key in facilitating BVB’s build-up play, with additional support from Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro.
However, they will need to be careful defensively, as the four-man backline looks to help goalkeeper Gregor Kobel earn his first clean sheet. Set pieces, in particular, need to be worked on, which could bring the tall Marin Pongracic into the equation later in the game.
Further up the pitch, Dortmund are missing two key playmakers in Giovanni Reyna and Julian Brandt while Thorgan Hazard is only fit to start on the bench. It means Mahmoud Dahoud might be given the opportunity to operate a little further upfront alongside Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus, with Axel Witsel screening the backline from the number six slot.
As for the attacking department, the Black and Yellows will once again rely on the services of Erling Haaland. The Norwegian is likely to be partnered by Donyell Malen, although Youssoufa Moukoko is another option while Hazard is expected to make a late appearance from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Kobel; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Bellingham, Witsel, Dahoud; Reus; Haaland, Malen
Union Berlin head coach Urs Fischer is well aware of Dortmund’s weakness in defence, especially from set-pieces. In Taiwo Awoniyi, he already has a lethal marksman, who is going to be supported by the industrious Max Kruse.
The two usually gel well, offering an excellent mix of pace, creativity and productivity in the final third. The presence of Levin Oztunali and Genki Haraguchi adds more fuel to Union Berlin’s offensive ranks, though their main objective will be to close down the Dortmund ball-carriers.
Elsewhere, Rani Khedira is expected to operate in the number six position. But given the strength of the opposition, Fischer might be tempted to deploy Grischa Promel in a supporting role, at the expense of Haraguchi.
Union’s biggest assets, though, are the two wing-backs in Niko Giesselmann and Christopher Trimmel, whose set-piece deliveries are expected to serve as the team’s biggest source of creativity.
Meeting those set pieces will be the imposing defensive duo of Marvin Friedrich and Robin Knoche, while Timo Baumgartl should replace Paul Jaeckel, thus completing Union’s three-man backline that covers Andreas Luthe in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Luthe; Friedrich, Knoche, Baumgartl; Trimmel, Khedira, Promel, Giesselmann; Oztunali; Kruse, Awoniyi
- Erling Haaland is averaging a goal every 72 minutes in this season’s Bundesliga.
- Borussia Dortmund are the second-highest top scorers so far this season with 13 Bundesliga goals.
- Union Berlin forward and former Liverpool starlet Taiwo Awoniyi is averaging a Bundesliga goal every 97 minutes in 2021/22.
- Max Kruse has had a direct hand in 15 goals in 18 meetings with Dortmund.
- Union Berlin- one of four teams still unbeaten after Matchday 4 – have made their best-ever start to a Bundesliga season.
Player to Watch
Marco Rose on Donyell Malen (22): "He’s integrated himself well and has played his part in all of our games so far. We’re giving him the time he needs and we’re challenging him and encouraging him."
— Felipe (@Felipe_Update) September 14, 2021
Donyell Malen has been in the news lately around the Dortmund camp after Marco Rose went public about the Dutchman’s performances since joining from PSV Eindhoven. While the BVB head coach has mostly praised the former Arsenal prodigy, the player is certainly under pressure to deliver soon, having failed to score or assist a single goal so far.
The attitude around the camp, though, is mostly positive. Many fans have already acknowledged Malen’s improved performances over the last few matches and this upcoming game against Union Berlin could potentially be the big breakthrough the Dutchman was hoping for this season.
However, time is running out, especially with Hazard now back to full fitness and Moukoko starting to make an impression in the first-team. As such, this could arguably be the most important game for Malen so far in his Dortmund career.
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Union Berlin
Union Berlin are always a difficult opponent for Borussia Dortmund due to their counter-attacking prowess and effectiveness from set-pieces. However, Die Schwarzgelben have proven to be quite strong at home, notably beating Urs Fischer’s men 2-0 in the corresponding fixture last season while winning 5-0 the season before.
On that note, we are expecting another win for the hosts, although things could get a bit trickier with the Dortmund defence once again likely to be compromised.