Bundesliga Matchday 28 preview: Dortmund against Bayern
But Dortmund emerged strongly from the coronavirus break and they not only beat Schalke in a comprehensive 4-0 attacking display, but also showed that they are good at defending a slim lead in the game against Wolfsburg. Dortmund seems to be well set to make life as difficult as possible for Bayern on Tuesday evening.
It is certainly a benefit for the men in black and yellow that Mats Hummels will most likely return fit just in time for the match after he needed to be replaced at the half time break against Wolfsburg. For Dortmund, the return of their mastermind in defense last summer turned out to have been a blessing. With his experience and his positional play, the team’s defensive quality improved a lot.
With the change to a 3-4-3 system, Dortmund got more stability. With the change, a lot of the weaknesses that led to 44 goals against last season and 18 goals against in the first 12 Bundesliga matches of the current season became smaller. In the following 15 games, Dortmund conceded only 15 goals – including four against Leverkusen and three against Leipzig.
The games against Leverkusen and Leipzig show that it would be too much of a praise to attest Dortmund a rock-solid defense no matter what. Nevertheless, they did not concede a goal in six of their last eight matches. Hummels in particular benefits enormously from having two more dynamic and faster players next to him. This allows him to bring his strengths to bear while others make up for his weaknesses, especially his lack of pace.
It will be important for Bayern to ceaselessly put Dortmund’s back five under stress and try to disorganize them with constant runs. If they do this, chances will come. Under Hansi Flick, Bayern have become very flexible, especially during build-up play. In a new video we take a closer look at some of the variations in how they build up and structure their game (German):
Dortmund will hope to be able to intercept the passes in between their defensive line as often as possible in order to then hit Bayern on the break immediately with their four to five attacking players. Counterattacking at speed and with a compellingly fluid precision is something that Dortmund is better at than almost any other team in the Bundesliga. In addition, they have worked on their goal scoring efficiency, enabling the team to even out weaker phases such as the second half against Wolfsburg.
Jadon Sancho is close to his best form again, Julian Brandt shines with his technical ability in confined spaces, and do we have to sing the praise of Erling Haaland? Add to that Achraf Hakimi and Raphaël Guerreiro, who in their very offensive-minded full-back positions know how to use the spaces Brandt and Sancho (or, more recently, Thorgan Hazard) open up for them.
The graphic above shows where Bayern could run into trouble if they lose the ball at the wrong time. The space behind Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard on the wings is not always well protected when they take up a high position. On the one hand, it is David Alaba’s job to shift wide to fill the hole. On the other hand, support must also come from midfield.
Another critical open issue before the “Klassiker” for Bayern is their composure when they are in possession of the ball, which Flick has drawn attention to several times. His team has had many games in recent months where the performance deflated like a punctured balloon during the second half. Reading between the lines, Flick justifies this by saying that his players still lack the ability to let the ball and opponents run more in some phases. Instead, they spend too much energy chasing their opponents after they lose the ball, energy they would need in later moments. In any case, Thiago’s absence will not help to make things much easier at Dortmund.
The four phases of football (according to Louis van Gaal) are the easiest way to explain the problems of Bayern.
Bayern has only minor problems in possession of the ball. Among them is a lack of patience. Sometimes they try to play too many vertical passes upfield in too short a time only then to find themselves caught up in a wild back and forth due to several successive turnovers on both sides. If they lose the ball, they usually are very quick in transition. Gegenpressing has become one of the team’s greatest strengths under Hansi Flick. The players know how to put pressure on their opponents immediately and force them to either play long balls or make mistakes. Bayen are usually good in transition after winning the ball as well, although not as efficient as Dortmund or Leipzig, for example.
The team faces problems, though, when their gegenpressing does not result in an immediate recovery of the ball and the phase of oppositional possession of the ball begins. Then, Bayern usually fall back and deploy a midfield press from which they chase after the ball. Already under Niko Kovač if was obvious that the players usually do not manage to execute this task particularly well.
But especially dangerous seem to be the situations in which Bayern break off their gegenpressing too late and try to win the ball back a a shade too long instead of falling back into shape. Dortmund has intelligent and technically gifted players in the center of midfield. Once Bayern’s first line of pressing is overplayed, they are able to cause danger quickly.
It is the details that make the difference between a good and very good game going by Bayern’s very high standards. On Tuesday evening, it could also make the difference between conceding one too many goals or not. Going by the performances of both teams in the reverse fixture, where Flick was on Bayern’s sidelines as head coach for the first time in the Bundesliga, Bayern are probably the more complete and balanced team of the two.
Added to this is the great advantage that Dortmund has to play their home game without their fans backing the team up. Especially in the Westfalenstadion with its famous yellow wall, the pressure for the guests can become immense. On the other hand, Dortmund has good reason to be confident that they will be able to do without support given their two performances in the Bundesliga after the restart. Taken together, there is every indication that the match on Tuesday will be one of equals.
As is so often the case, details will determine the course of the game. Who will make fewer mistakes? Who will be more efficient in front of goal? And who has the mental and physical strength to be able to take their game to the opponents? There are currently many unknowns. But the match will be a contest of the two teams who have come out of the corona break best, apart from Leverkusen. Moreover, they are the two teams who will in all likelihood decide the title among themselves.
If Bayern win, they will probably not be stopped from winning their eighth title in a row despite a tough run-in at the end of the season . Dortmund, on the other hand, can considerably increase the pressure on their rivals with a win. Should Bayern possibly have to go into the matches against Gladbach or Leverkusen with an advantage of only one point, the end of the season will be really exciting.