Preview: FC Bayern – Borussia Dortmund

It’s been a while, since a Bundesliga match against Borussia Dortmund has been this irrelevant for FC Bayern in the table. The duel still holds moral significance, which shouldn’t be overlooked ahead of the quarter-finals against Real Madrid. Author: Justin • Translator: Michael

For the visitors the league means much more. Despite having a ten points advantage to fifth place, which should guarantee qualification for the Champions League, it’s probably not good enough for their ambitions. Due to several departures Borussia, splashed over 100 million Euros for transfers in the summer. All things considered, direct qualification for the Champions League should be the minimum target.

Too young for more?

The aforementioned signings mostly consist of young talents, who had to deal with ups and downs throughout the season. Dembélé was the most consistent of them.

This was to be expected and it seems BVB have certainly counted that in. Once again a fresh start was necessary for the biggest rival of recent years. Hummels, Mkhitaryan and Gündogan were all irreplaceable in their own way. Furthermore, the usually important Marco Reus has missed a lot of games due to injury again.

These gaps can hardly be filled by young debutants and inexperienced players. If you want to accuse Dortmund of one thing this season, it’s definitely the transfer policy for their midfield and defence.

Last season the defence was the main reason why the gap to FC Bayern was this big. Tuchel’s side discovered increased stability as the season went on, but 34 goals conceded is simply too much. Twice as many as Munich.

Especially this season , Weigl suffered for a quite a while without the support of Hummels and a technically adept central midfielder. BVB have improved, though. Their attacking stability has gotten better over the course of recent months, however not as consistent as last season.

This is mostly down to the youthfulness of the team. Dembélé is already one of the most important players, but is still lacking the perfect decision making and consistency. Same applies to many other players in the squad. Obviously BVB are only really dependant on these inexperienced players because of injuries.

Despite all the critisism one thing is for sure: Dortmund are still doing well. And if they’re able to keep this team together, there could grow something, which could quickly become dangerous for Bayern again.

The potential of the attack has to be connected with a much better defence. With Dahoud and Toprak they’ve already signed two players for the summer, who could fill the big gaps. A look into the future is very interesting for the rival.

Dortmund and Bayern defend higher up the pitch than any other Bundesliga team.

Scouting report

On good days, Tuchel’s Borussia is currently a team ranked as one of the best in Europe. Enormous penetration, decent positional play, the ability to play deep passes and chase those with outstanding speed. These are the characteristics of this team. Especially the pace Aubameyang, Dembélé, Pulisic and the rest are operating at, is stunning.

This means for Bayern to block runs off the ball in particular. If these players are of to the races , they’re hard to contain. Accomplished passers like Weigl or Kagawa should be disrupted, when they receive a pass.

BVB will try to pull Bayern players out of the formation to get their fast players into the opening space. The fast attackers shouldn’t be allowed to get into those spaces.

If Bayern’s defensive structure is able to avoid getting into many sprint duels and can effectively intercept passes, they’re already a step closer to victory. Tuchel’s team has nearly scored all of their goals inside the box, which is remarkable. Dortmund finish off attacks well and usually only shoot from a safe distance.

If Schmelzer is ready to play, his role will be important, too. The left-back initiates a lot of attacks, creates shots on goal and has to be considered a key player, who has to be taken ouf of the game.

Should he not play, that would mean a big advantage for Bayern, because there’s no adequate alternative in the squad. Especially against Robben this wouldn’t be a good position to be in.

However, for Bayern Lewandowski is questionable, a player, that is irreplaceable as well.

With or without the Polish international: The play with the ball will be interesting. Bayern had massive issues, when the opponent applied well-organised and aggressive pressing. This was the case against Atlético Madrid as well as in both games against Hoffenheim and in the first meeting with BVB this season. It’s no coincidence the record champion wasn’t able to win any of these games.

It also became apparent in Dortmund, that BVB doesn’t have the same tactical discipline as in previous years. Maybe it was the tactically weakest duel of the two in recent years. Borussia still managed to win.

Bayern is depending on individual players more than ever. The foundation consisting of Neuer, Thiago and Lewandowski is essential. If one of those players is missing, it’s easy to notice.

With Thiago the goal difference per 90 minutes is sitting at 2.1. The midfielder has played 1876 minutes, with Bayern scoring 53 goals, while conceding only 8. In merely 575 minutes without him, it’s already 6 goals conceded and 14 goals scored.

Thiago is the most important player at FC Bayern.
(Photo: Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty Images)

That’s why Thiago will be the key player at the weekend. Will he be able to escape Dortmund’s pressing and develop his usual momentum or can Tuchel partially take him out of the game?

It’s not really worth going deep into the tactical developments of the game, because this will only happen for the visitors. While Tuchel is probably adjusting a few things with everything from a back-five to back-three looking likely, Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t really care how his opponent will line up.

That he was surprised by Hoffenheim’s approach is a revelation, no manager should allow to happen. The Italian can, however. Because up until this point, the results are speaking for him and furthermore, he possesses the experience to channel the power of his players for the highlights of the season. He has proven this several times already, but has to ratify this again.

It’s to be expected, that BVB will play deeper and operate a bit more reactive. Always with the attempt to pressure Munich in the right areas, to get the fast attacking going. Bayern’s plan is Thiago. Through him attacks will be initiated and space will be opened for the attackers.

Which means it might not be the most interesting match of the past years from a tactical perspective. However, it will be the clash of individual class, on its way to its peak and a young team, which is as flexible as it gets. That alone makes this game so exciting.

For FC Bayern it’s not only going to be about avoiding a negative streak on Saturday. It’ll be more about gaining confidence ahead of the game against Real Madrid. And against which opponent could it be better to boost your ego than your biggest domestic rival in recent history?

Five bold predictions

  1. Both teams score.
  2. Three or more goals will be scored.
  3. FC Bayern will win the game.
  4. In the first half at least one goal will be scored.
  5. Aubameyang won’t score.

Two predictions from last preview were correct. Overall: 92/175



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