Borussia Dortmund are looking to keep up the pressure on Bayern Munich at the top as they take on VfL Bochum on Saturday.

Despite a controversial 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker last weekend, it isn’t the end of the road for Borussia Dortmund right now. With still matches three to go before the Bundesliga goes into a mid-season hiatus, commonly known as Winterpause, the Black and Yellows have a substantial opportunity to bridge the four-point gap at the top.

VfL Bochum will be the first of their three remaining opponents in December, as the NRW outfit host Borussia Dortmund at Vonovia Ruhrstadion on Saturday. It is roughly a 15-minute drive from the Signal Iduna Park that witnessed BVB’s comprehensive 5-0 victory over Besiktas in midweek.

Although the victory wasn’t enough to help them get through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, Marco Rose’s men still have the Europa League to look forward to, during the second half of the campaign. In the meantime, though, the focus will be on the Bundesliga, as they take on Bochum, one of the most in-form teams in the German top-flight right now.

Indeed, the newly-promoted club, led by Thomas Reis, have registered six wins in their last eight league matches. The run had included wins over the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, TSG Hoffenheim and fourth-placed SC Freiburg. As a result, Bochum are now tenth in the league table, nine points away from the drop zone.

In Dortmund, though, they face one of the most formidable teams in the division – one that has done extremely well to avoid upsets, especially against lower-ranked opponents. It is imperative for the visitors that they keep that momentum going if they are to maintain pressure on Bayern at the top.

And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial match-up in the Bundesliga this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

VfL Bochum

VfL Bochum head coach Thomas Reis has instructed his players to watch clips of Erling Haaland and thus acclimatise themselves to his style of play. As such, we could expect the two central defenders in Erhan Masovic and Maxim Leitsch to defend deep in their lines, denying the Norwegian space to run in behind.

Additional support will be offered by the full-backs Kostas Stafylidis and Danilo Soares, who have been in excellent form this season. It won’t be surprising to see them operate narrowly with the two centre-backs, thus restricting the opponent from manoeuvring the ball using quick sequence of passes.

This is where Bochum’s hard-working midfield trio of Anthony Losilla, Elvis Rexhbecaj and Milos Pantovic could play a vital role. They are expected to man-mark the Dortmund attackers in the final third, thus forcing the opposition to move out wide and rely on crosses into the box.

But that would mean the defence must be careful of Haaland, who has visibly improved his aerial prowess lately. But at the same time, Bochum’s very own Pantovic will be keeping an eye on the opposition goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, given the midfielder’s recent exploits of scoring long-range goals.

Offensively, Bochum are set to ride on the form of top striker Sebastian Polter. The former Wolfsburg forward has netted three goals in his last two matches, making him the undisputed danger man for Dortmund. His partnership with Takuma Asano and Gerrit Holtmann could go a long way in breaching the lines of the opposition defence.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Riemann; Stafylidis, Masovic, Leitsch, Soares; Rexhbecaj, Losilla, Pantovic; Holtmann, Polter, Asano

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Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund have been dealt with a fresh injury blow this week, with Manuel Akanji being ruled out until January due to minor knee surgery. Donyell Malen is unavailable for this game as well due to injury, while Giovanni Reyna needs a bit more time to recover from his injury.

But on a positive note, Julian Brandt is back in contention after suffering a head injury against Bayern Munich. In addition, Jude Bellingham has been cleared to play after paying a fine for his comments on Felix Zwayer. Thorgan Hazard is back as well and could be an option against Bochum.

While Brandt is unlikely to start, Bellingham and Mahmoud Dahoud could continue to play a vital role in Dortmund’s midfield, with Emre Can operating in the number six slot. Axel Witsel is another option in the middle of the park, in case Dortmund want to give Dahoud a breather.

As for the defensive unit, Akanji’s absence should see Dan-Axel Zagadou start this game in central defence, alongside Mats Hummels. Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro remain favourite to occupy the full-back roles, with the latter replacing Nico Schulz.

However, Marco Rose faces a selection dilemma in the attacking department. With Hazard and Brandt not fit enough to start, we could see Reinier being given a rare starting opportunity in the number ten role, just in behind Marco Reus and Erling Haaland.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Kobel; Meunier, Hummels, Zagadou, Guerreiro; Can; Bellingham, Reinier, Dahoud; Haaland, Reus

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Key Stats

  • In-form striker Sebastian Polter has scored three of his team-high five goals this season in their last two matches, securing wins over Freiburg and Augsburg.
  • Danilo Soares has won more duels than anyone else in the league this term (203).
  • VfL Bochum have five wins from their last seven games. Only Bayern Munich (18) have won more points during that period.
  • Erling Haaland has scored at least once in each of his last six Bundesliga games; the 21-year-old has never previously managed such a consistent scoring streak.
  • Marco Reus made his Bundesliga debut in Bochum on 9 August 2009, while on the books of Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Player to Watch

Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham was a subject of major controversy in Germany last weekend when the young midfielder publicly called out referee Felix Zwayer regarding his past match-fixing scandals. Local reports had suggested that the player might face up to six months ban for his comments, but instead, he was given a fine of €40,000.

Bellingham is now eligible to feature against Bochum which could be a massive boost for Borussia Dortmund. The Englishman has been an indispensable figure in the club’s midfield unit this season, having been involved in 12 goals in 22 competitive matches. One of his assists came in the midweek game against Besiktas, as he started in a comfortable 5-0 victory.

Things could get a bit trickier against Bochum, who will be keen on neutralising the Englishman’s threat in the middle of the park.

Prediction

VfL Bochum 1-3 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund have had a hit or miss record away from home this season. In six matches, they have won three and lost three, but they have looked defensively shaky, something Bochum will, no doubt, take advantage of.

However, the return of Haaland has added the X-Factor in BVB’s attacking unit, with the Norwegian offering the speed and strength that can easily get the better of the Bochum centre-backs. Hence, we are expecting an easy win for Dortmund in this one.

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