Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to keep up the pressure on Bayern Munich when they take on VfB Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Borussia Dortmund are in a bit of an internal crisis at the moment. Although the German giants are doing well in the Bundesliga, the shocking exit from the UEFA Champions League group stage, thanks to losses against Sporting CP and Ajax, has mounted massive pressure on head coach Marco Rose.

The club’s sporting director, Michael Zorc, has further questioned the commitment of the players while stating that the club’s prestige could be at risk. On Saturday, though, the players will have the opportunity to prove themselves as they lock horns with VfL Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena.

It could be a vital game in the context of the Bundesliga title race, as Dortmund only trail league leaders Bayern Munich by one point. The two sides face each other next weekend in the iconic Der Klassiker, so it will be imperative for the visitors to maintain the current gap.

Wolfsburg, meanwhile, are coming on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Sevilla in midweek. Much like Dortmund, they are also expected to be knocked out of the group stages, perhaps even missing out on European football altogether by finishing last in Group G.

In the Bundesliga, the Wolves are currently sixth in the league table, thanks to a run of two wins and one draw in the last three games under new coach Florian Kohfeldt. The former Werder Bremen boss will now be hoping to secure his biggest victory yet in his new stint, as he takes on Dortmund on Saturday. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial Bundesliga encounter this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

VfL Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg coach Florian Kohfeldt has confirmed that Renato Steffen might be in contention for selection. But the Wolves will continue to miss out on their long-term absentees, including Xaver Schlager, William and Bartosz Bialek, while first-choice goalkeeper Koen Casteels is out due to COVID-19.

Pavao Pervan should continue to deputise for the Belgian in goal. But ahead of him, coach Kohfeldt might want to make a few alterations, including the shuffle in the system, including a back three. Maxence Lacroix, John Anthony Brooks and Josuha Guilavogui are the favourites to form the central defensive partnership.

Ridle Baku and Paulo Otavio are expected to operate as the wing-backs. Baku will be given more freedom going forward, as the German international hopes to exploit the vulnerable Dortmund left flank and provide crosses into the box for Wout Weghorst.

Speaking of attack, Kohfeldt has a lot of options to choose from, as far as Weghorst’s offensive partners are concerned. And while Lukas Nmecha remains a guaranteed starter, having scored three goals in the last three matches, there might be a starting opportunity for ex-Dortmund star Maximilian Philipp.

The 27-year-old is a favourite to get the nod ahead of Renato Steffen and Dodi Lukabakio, as he knows the Dortmund team well and will look to hurt the opposition where it hurts the most. As for the Wolfsburg midfield, it won’t be surprising to see Aster Vranckx starting ahead of Yannick Gerhardt, as the youngster looks to form the double-pivot alongside Maximilian Arnold.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Pervan; Lacroix, Guilavogui, Brooks; Baku, Vranckx, Arnold, Otavio; Nmecha, Philipp; Weghorst

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Borussia Dortmund

In what has been a gloomy week, Borussia Dortmund fans have been boosted by welcome news this week, as Marco Rose has confirmed the possibility of Erling Haaland returning to the pitch this weekend. The Norwegian striker is expected to travel with the team to Wolfsburg, and there is a chance he could make his comeback, albeit only in the form of a small stint late in the game.

In addition to Haaland, Mahmoud Dahoud and Emre Can are both in contention to start, while Marius Wolf and Youssoufa Moukoko may return to the bench. On the flip side, though, Jude Bellingham has been ruled out after sustaining a minor knock in midweek. He is likely to join Raphael Guerreiro in BVB’s list of absentees heading into this game.

Bellingham’s absence means Rose could be forced to start with Dahoud in central midfield, alongside Julian Brandt and Axel Witsel. The latter is expected to operate in a deeper role, hoping to screen the backline.

Speaking of which, there might be some changes in defence. Mats Hummels is back after serving a suspension in the last game. He should renew his central defensive partnership alongside Manuel Akanji. Thomas Meunier is a guaranteed starter at right-back, while Guerreiro’s likely absence should pave the way for Nico Schulz to start once again, despite his poor performance against Sporting CP.

As for the attacking department, Rose has no option but to deploy reserve team striker Steffen Tigges upfront, alongside Donyell Malen. This is largely due to the fact that Giovanni Reyna and Thorgan Hazard are unavailable, while Haaland is not fully fit to start.

On the bright side, Tigges does offer a physical and aerial presence upfront, which may combine well alongside the pace of Malen and the creativity of club captain Marco Reus.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Kobel; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Schulz; Witsel; Dahoud, Reus, Brandt; Tigges, Malen

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Key Stats

  • Borussia Dortmund are the only current Bundesliga team that Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst has not found the net against.
  • Wolfsburg have lost their last six matches against Dortmund and have earned only one point in the last 12 meetings of the sides.
  • Borussia Dortmund skipper Marco Reus has scored ten times in his last 14 games against the Wolves.
  • Borussia Dortmund have not conceded a Bundesliga goal against Wolfsburg for 847 minutes.
  • Mats Hummels is set to become the sixth player to make 300 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund.

Player to Watch

Donyell Malen

Donyell Malen is slowly starting to get used to life in Dortmund. After a slow start to the campaign, the forward has netted in each of his last two matches. While his performance against Sporting CP was not particularly impressive, it is apparent that he has worked on his game and is constantly trying to improve himself.

Indeed, the Dutchman has appeared more selfless in the final third, often trying to find teammates in key positions. While his decision making remains a problem, Malen certainly has the quality to make a difference for Dortmund in this crucial fixture against Wolfsburg.

Tactically, the former PSV Eindhoven starlet is expected to spearhead the BVB frontline. His presence on the wider areas, coupled with his combination play with the likes of Marco Reus and Julian Brandt, could go a long way in helping his team breach the opposition defence this weekend.

Prediction

VfL Wolfsburg 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund have appeared quite vulnerable away from home, both in the Champions League and in the Bundesliga. Their troubles on the road could lead to yet another closely-fought encounter, with their defence likely to be compromised once again. The return of Mats Hummels could be a major boost, but it is unlikely that BVB will be able to keep a clean sheet.

Offensively, though, the likely return of Erling Haaland could be a massive morale-booster. Not to mention, the likes of Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen have shown excellent form lately. Hence, we are expecting another narrow win for the Black and Yellows this weekend.

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