Borussia Dortmund will be eyeing for the top spot in the Bundesliga when they take on 1.FC Koln at Signal Iduna Park this weekend.

Borussia Dortmund have bounced back well after their humiliating defeat to Ajax in the UEFA Champions League. The German giants maintained their good form in the league by thrashing Arminia Bielefeld 3-1, followed by a 2-0 victory over Ingolstadt in the DFB Pokal.

Their rivals Bayern Munich’s subsequent 5-0 defeat at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday now makes Dortmund the undisputed favourite to defend their DFB-Pokal title this season. For now, though, Marco Rose’s men will shift their attention back to the Bundesliga as they take on 1.FC Koln on Saturday.

With the dejected Bayern facing a tricky test against Union, this could be an excellent opportunity for Dortmund to overcome their one-point deficit at the top.

Die Schwarzgelben have been imperious at home this season, with Rose becoming the first-ever trainer to start the team’s Bundesliga journey with five back-to-back wins at the Signal Iduna Park. They will be aiming for their sixth consecutive victory at home in an attempt to pip Bayern at the top.

Koln, though, are no slouch, especially under the leadership of Steffen Baumgart. The charismatic head coach has been influential in shifting the dynamics of the Billygoats, who had been fighting relegation last season. This time around, they are currently in a mid-table spot, with a chance to potentially break into the European spots with a win on Saturday.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial match-up at the Signal Iduna Park this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund were dealt with a massive blow this week, as their key frontman Erling Haaland has been ruled out until December. Donyell Malen had missed the midweek game due to a stomach infection but should be fit enough to spearhead the attack against Koln this weekend.

However, Marco Rose has confirmed that he will be without Emre Can due to a fresh injury. Mahmoud Dahoud has failed to return to full fitness either, which guarantees a start for Axel Witsel. The Belgian veteran should continue in the holding midfield role, just behind the two advanced midfielders in Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt.

Marco Reus should also return to the starting eleven, effectively acting as the third number ten behind Malen. As for the wider areas, Thorgan Hazard is destined to start after his match-winning cameo against Ingolstadt. He is expected to occupy the left wing-back slot in the absence of the injured Raphael Guerreiro.

Hazard and his compatriot, Thomas Meunier, are set to provide the valuable width going forward. However, it won’t be surprising to see Marius Wolf getting the nod ahead of Meunier at right wing-back, as the former Eintracht Frankfurt star had a short stint with Koln last season and has been performing very well recently.

Rose could make one change in the defence, with the injured Can making way for Manuel Akanji. There should be a return for goalkeeper Gregor Kobel as well, after picking up a knock against Arminia Bielefeld.

Probable Lineup (3-1-4-2): Kobel; Akanji, Pongracic, Hummels; Witsel; Meunier, Bellingham, Brandt, Hazard; Reus, Malen

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1.FC Koln

Koln’s midweek game saw Steffen Baumgart rest some key first-team players, including top-scorer Anthony Modeste. The talismanic forward should return to the starting eleven this weekend. His heading and physical prowess could be useful for the Billygoats, especially from set-pieces, which is a weak point for Dortmund defence.

The traditional centre-forward could be partnered by another fully-fledged target man, in the form of Sebastian Andersson, as Baumgart looks to shift to a generic 4-4-2. The new shape should see the dynamic Mark Uth operating in a slightly withdrawn role, ahead of Ondrej Duda.

The three forwards are set to form the first line of the Koln press. Their energy and willingness to win back possession for their team could pose pressure on the BVB ball carriers.

As for the midfield, key operator Ellyes Shkiri is out injured, which means Effzeh might opt for Dejan Ljubicic in defensive midfield once again. The Austrian might be supported by Salih Ozcan in midfield as well as the in-form Florian Kainz, though the latter will be given more freedom going forward.

Defensively, Koln have their main left-back Jannes Horn out injured, forcing Baumgart to start Jonas Hector in the said position. The onus will be on the experienced club captain to marshall the defensive unit consisting of him, Benno Schmitz, Rafael Czichos and former BVB youth player Luca Killian.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Horn; Schmitz, Kilian, Czichos, Hector; Ljubicic, Ozcan; Uth, Kainz; Andersson, Modeste

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Key Stats

  • Erling Haaland has scored nine and assisted three of Dortmund’s’ 25 Bundesliga goals this season. BVB have struck five times in the three games he’s’ missed through injury.
  • Borussia Dortmund have won their last eight Bundesliga home games in a row, dating back to 3 April.
  • Anthony Modeste is fourth in this season’s Bundesliga scoring charts, behind only Patrik Schick (eight), Haaland (nine) and Robert Lewandowski (10). The Frenchman has registered a league-high four headers.
  • Jonas Hector is joint-third in the division’s assists table with four. Five would mark a single-season career-best for the former Germany international.
  • Koln were one of three teams BVB failed to beat in the league last season. Last November, their 2-1 win in Dortmund ended a run of 20 Bundesliga visits without victory dating back to April 1991.

Player to Watch

Marco Reus

With Borussia Dortmund missing out on creative players such as Raphael Guerreiro and Giovanni Reyna, the onus will be on Marco Reus to offer the creative essence in the final third. The veteran attacker has not had the most productive season so far, scoring just twice in eight Bundesliga outings. However, he has registered five assists while becoming a consistent feature in Rose’s creative setup.

In the midweek game, the former Borussia Monchengladbach starlet made an immediate impact after coming on. His ability to operate in tight spaces and play quick one-twos with his teammates is going to serve as a major strong point in Dortmund’s chance creation this weekend.

It is even fair to suggest that Reus’ performance on Saturday could go a long way in dictating the fate of this result. And Koln will surely keep a close eye on the German international in an attempt to prevent him from influencing the game too much.

Prediction

Borussia Dortmund 2-0 1.FC Koln

Borussia Dortmund have performed brilliantly at home, and despite their series of injuries, the exciting form of Jude Bellingham, Julian Brandt and Marco Reus could be a bit too much for a Koln side that recently conceded five goals against TSG Hoffenheim.

Although Steffen Baumgart’s men went on to register a point against Leverkusen while beating Stuttgart in the DFB Pokal, they do not have the quality to outmuscle the Black and Yellow, especially in front of a packed Westfalenstadion.

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