Borussia Dortmund v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Bundesliga

Preview: FC Bayern – Borussia Dortmund

For Borussia Dortmund, the last six months have been more than just a little patchy. Peter Bosz was dismissed before the winter break, and the playing style was far from matching pre-season expectations. Nevertheless, the year’s finale against BVB is a great danger for FC Bayern.

Under Bosz, Dortmund were defensively quite weak. In our preview of the Bundesliga duel, we analysed the weak points. Now Stöger is set to save the team’s tactical organisation.

Although he will not be able to do so immediately, he has shown in recent years that his teams can hold up well in defense. It will be exciting to see how BVB will develop in the second half of the season.

Can Stöger’s defense stop Dortmund from petering out?

In any case, FC Bayern now quickly needs to adapt to a BVB that does not run into traps as often as the team under Bosz did. In Mainz, Dortmund had about 60% possession, but over long periods of the match they were rather passive and staggered deeply. Especially in the beginning, it was rare to see them move up the pitch aggressively. Stöger wanted to create stability by keeping his players in their positions.

This worked well in the end, as Mainz only got three dangerous shots within the penalty box, plus one from outside the box that hit the bar – the rest was either harmless or blocked at the last second. For the first time in a long time, Dortmund managed to keep a clean sheet. The usual Expected Goal models also confirmed a good defensive performance by the Borussians.

However, it must also be said that Mainz were not a relevant opponent for the cup game on Wednesday, because they themselves played very passively. Dortmund’s deeply set play led to Borussia not managing to develop much offensively and still remained dependent on individual class. In the end, it was a game that didn’t provide much evidence of the BVB that Bayern can expect in the cup.

The 2-1 win against TSG Hoffenheim was more meaningful in that way. Hoffenheim had eight shots in the penalty area of Stöger’s team and three of them were in a very promising position. A number that is acceptable against Hoffenheim’s offensive flexibility, but which also shows that Dortmund still offers space at the back. Taking Expected Goals into consideration as well, the 2-1 was justified and the subjective impression was that Dortmund was the slightly better team.

It can be said, therefore, that Stöger has already achieved his first successes in defense. His team had only 45.8% possession of the ball against Nagelsmann’s team, but had more shots, more dangerous actions and more goals, although the winning goal happened late. In contrast to the Bosz period, the team has been much less vulnerable over the last two games, especially as many goals conceded in the past were the result of poorly secured pressing. This risk seems to have disappeared under Stöger, although it remains to be seen whether this much deeper system serves only as a transition.

During his tenure in Cologne, Stöger made a name for himself for very good defensive organisation. The fact that a team with such fast-moving players can score goals is out of the question. The team will also want to bring the final speed onto the lawn in Munich.

Finally: a coach that makes merchandising happy. Peter Stöger in Dortmund attire will take some getting used to.
(Image: Lars Baron / Bongarts / Getty Images)

What Bayern should look out for

While still in charge in Cologne, Stöger regularly failed with the idea of sitting back deeply against FC Bayern and then scoring through single, concerted attacks. In six clashes, he conceded 16 goals. Only two goals were scored by his “Effzeh”. After all, this was enough for a 1-1 on last season’s matchday six, but the remaining five games were lost.

In Dortmund, he now finds higher individual quality. In addition, BVB has always been at its most dangerous against the record champion when they could create danger from counter attacks. On Wednesday, this will be achieved mainly on the wings.

Pulisic and Yarmolenko most recently started there. While the latter, on the right, tended to play the role of a freethinker, Pulisic harmonised very well with Guerreiro and Schmelzer. This triangle should receive the highest amount of attention from Bayern. From there, against Hoffenheim, Dortmund again and again procured diagonal access to Aubameyang, which Heynckes’ men must prevent.

Kimmich has looked a bit weak under pressure recently and didn’t always seem completely secure against the ball. The young right-back must therefore be supported by the midfield and the right centre-back when Dortmund attacks via the left or half-left.

On the other hand, the Munich team also have great opportunities themselves to make use of the gaps that Yarmolenko leaves behind – if he starts. The Ukrainian is not a good defender and could therefore become a risk for BVB. Especially since Dortmund’s play against Hoffenheim was very focused on the left. If Bayern manage to win balls there, they can make good space gains with fast lateral shifts to their own left side. It might not be unwise to use Coman’s tempo on this side and either take Ribéry off the bench or use him more centrally.

Bayern will face a more compact shape compared to their last meeting. Weigl uses the central midfielders as orientation and covers for them slightly deeper. BVB are still struggling with spacing in that area. Several times Hoffenheim were successful with vertical passes to their forwards.

Bayern could exploit this well with Hummels and/or Boateng. The centre-backs have the range to bypass Dortmund’s first line and could find Lewandowski or Coman pushing inside. They could square it to James, who’d have the game in front of him in a promising position.

Dortmund are leaving gaps in exactly that area. A roaming Müller would fit in well to open these passing lanes for the centre-backs. However, Munich have to be careful not to fall into too many vertical patterns. Against Stuttgart that became a problem. In midfield there was no reliable outlet and the distances into the final third even became too long for Boateng and Hummels. This led to simple errors.

Due to their technical ability Borussia are always able to punish losses of possession. Especially with Weigl in the centre, who is finally allowed to evade the opponent’s pressure in any direction again. His football intelligence is high enough to prove a massive test for Heynckes’ pressing.

Munich have to be vary that Weigl doesn’t open any space for Dortmund’s central midfielders. Martínez will have a massive responsibility as the covering defensive midfielder. He has to coach his central midfielders. Next to James Vidal will probably start, who has to avoid being pulled out of position by Weigl.

On the same note, James will have to replace Thiago even more than he’s been doing already. For one, he has to be the reliable passing option going forward and at the same time, the most important playmaker in the playmaker zone. He has to master this balancing act. Another good alternative would be Kimmich moving inside to help the current technically limited Bayern midfield.

On the wings Bayern have to pull out the opponent’s full-backs to have access to the half-spaces. Hummels and Boateng have the quality to find a way there or a route to Lewandowski. From there James can receive passes and distribute the ball into the gaps. Kimmich’s role is central, too. He can support the midfield in the second third to give James more freedom going forward and provide cover for the build-up. Müller would support every attacking position with his typical runs off the ball. A lot of movement is vital against Dortmund.

FC Bayern should expect a very dangerous match, because they can only lose. If Munich win against an average Dortmund, everything is okay. If they lose, they’re out of the competition and are giving BVB a good feeling heading into the winter break, despite a rocky first half of the season.

Borussia regained confidence in the first two matches under Peter Stöger and will travel to Munich with positive feelings. Compare this to Bayern, who recently had good results with the performances being rather uninspired and lethargic, though.

Despite all of that, they’re still the clear favourite. Just like in 2015, when they went out on penalties after a dominating performance and BVB didn’t even know how they won. Maybe just like last season, when Bayern were on the final straight and suddenly stopped playing football.

This shouldn’t happen in the last home game of the calendar year. No matter the score-line or how dull some of the performances have been lately: on Wednesday evening Bayern need another 90 minutes of their best Heynckes football. Only then, the autumn champions will leave the Allianz Arena’s pitch without extra time, penalty shootout or disappointment. That the technically more adept team is coming from Munich hasn’t been more clear in quite some time.

Expert tip

In the expert tip an external expert gives a prediction for the result of the game. It’s three points for a correct score, and one point for the right outcome (win, draw, loss). This will then be compared with a second expert tip, coming from the Miasanrot.de editorial team. At the end of the season we’ll see if the guest experts have more points than the editors.

I was close, but the second goal didn’t happen in the end. From last week’s tip both are getting a point which means the score is now 26-17 for Miasanrot.

This week I picked a fan from Twitter again. Maurice had the quickest fingers and is our guest today. He is a BVB fan and editor at schwatzgelb.de.

Maurice: Through tweaking a few things Stöger slightly stabilised BVB’s defense. Bayern’s attack won’t miss as many chances as TSG Hoffenheim did. It won’t be a trashing but Bayern will deliver a commanding performance and BVB will finally go into their winter break. My prediction: 3-0.

Justin: Bayern won’t get into the game early and Dortmund might even take the lead. However, Stöger won’t be able to mask BVB’s defensive weaknesses – especially not in Munich. Bayern will create several chances throughout the game and will win 3-1.

Translators: Bettina & Michael

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