Borussia Dortmund seek to keep their top-four hopes alive as they take on VfB Stuttgart at the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund travel to Stuttgart on Saturday, in an attempt to bounce back to winning ways following two back-to-back defeats, one of which came in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester City.
Perhaps the bigger defeat, however, was the 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend that served as a massive blow to their hopes of finishing in the top four. The result saw the Black and Yellows drift seven points behind the fourth-placed Frankfurt, with just seven remaining in the season.
Dortmund, though, have good reasons to continue their fight, especially with Frankfurt facing a tricky test against third-placed VfL Wolfsburg. Therefore, Edin Terzic’s men will be desperately looking to secure all three points this weekend, although in VfB Stuttgart, they too, will be dealt with a stern challenge.
In fact, it was the Swabians who had inflicted the massive 5-1 defeat in the reverse fixture that led to the demise of coach Lucien Favre. Since then, Pellegrino Matarazzo’s men have continued to perform well and are pretty much in contention for a top-six finish following their narrow and somewhat lucky win over Werder Bremen in the last game.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this important clash in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Despite the absence of two key attacking outlets in Silas Wamangituka and Nicolas Gonzalez, Stuttgart have done remarkably well going forward and currently attain the joint fourth-best scoring record in the division.
Tall, Liverpool-linked centre forward Sasa Kalajdzic has been one of their main protagonists having already notched up 13 goals so far this campaign. His imposing presence inside the box could make him the focal point of the Stuttgart attack, especially given Dortmund’s weakness in dealing with set pieces.
As such, the onus will be on creators like Daniel Didavi, Gonzalo Castro as well as left wing-back Borna Sosa to provide those crosses, either from set-pieces or out wide.
Sosa, for one, has registered an impressive nine assists this campaign and is one of the best crossers in the league. Dortmund defence needs to be careful of his deliveries while on the opposite flank, Stuttgart have a pacy operator in Tanguy Coulibaly, who can be used as a runner.
The central defensive trifecta of Konstantinos Mavropanos, Waldemar Anton and Marc Oliver Kempf is going to be screened by the holding midfielder in Wataru Endo. His ability to pass the ball around, coupled with his tendency to move forward make him a potential danger man for the opposition.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Kobel; Mavropanos, Anton, Kempf; Coulibaly, Endo, Castro, Sosa; Klimowicz, Didavi; Kalajdzic
This could be a tricky one for Edin Terzic in terms of team selection given that he will have to rest some of the key players due to the upcoming second leg clash against Manchester City, but he is also missing first-team stars like Jadon Sancho, Axel Witsel, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Youssoufa Moukoko due to long-term injuries.
Off we go! ?pic.twitter.com/WTxhEQuaC1
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) April 9, 2021
Erling Haaland will spearhead the Dortmund attack, without a doubt, hoping to end his mini goal drought. However, the creative unit could undergo a few changes with Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt likely to replace the duo of Marco Reus and Ansgar Knauff, who picked up a knock in midweek, though he does make the squad.
Further changes are expected in central midfield, where Jude Bellingham is due a rest after an electric display in the last game. Giovanni Reyna could fancy a start in his absence, occupying the number ten slot while Thomas Delaney and Emre Can operate in the double-pivot.
Their aggression and work ethic could be vital in offering support to the central defensive duo of Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji – both technically astute centre-backs who love to move ahead of their lines in search of those laser passes.
Elsewhere in defence, Raphael Guerreiro should continue at left-back while Terzic might controversially give Thomas Meunier the nod ahead of Mateu Morey on the opposite flank.
The former PSG full-back received a lot of abuse from fans in midweek, as he was somewhat culpable for the late Manchester City goal. He hasn’t performed very well either and has mostly been a liability. He will be hoping to change that this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hitz; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Can, Delaney; Hazard, Reyna, Brandt; Haaland
- Stuttgart have lost just one of their past seven Bundesliga games (4 wins, 2 draws).
- The Swabians are unbeaten at home in six matches (4 wins, 2 draws) and are currently on a three-game winning streak on home soil.
- Stuttgart have 39 points. No Bundesliga team has ever been relegated with such a haul.
- Erling Haaland has scored a brace in each of his past three away games: at Schalke, Bayern Munich and Cologne.
- From their past six away games, Dortmund have picked up just four from a possible 18 points.
Player to Watch
With Jadon Sancho injured and Marco Reus likely to be rested, one Borussia Dortmund that certainly needs to step up is Thorgan Hazard. The highly coveted winger returned to full fitness earlier this year but is yet to showcase his full potential or find his rhythm in any of the matches he has played so far.
It has left Edin Terzic to turn to inexperienced individuals like Ansgar Knauff. Hazard was also dropped from the starting eleven in the midweek’s Manchester City game, so it will be imperative for him to produce a strong display this weekend, up against a Stuttgart defence that has a record of being vulnerable – giving the Belgian an ideal opportunity to lay down the marker.
VfB Stuttgart 2-3 Borussia Dortmund
With both sides boasting a strong attacking unit, this game has every recipe to become a nail-biter and a highly entertaining one as they look to outdo each other in the offensive department. Dortmund, in particular, could unleash the likes of Erling Haaland and Thorgan Hazard while Stuttgart, in response, could cause havoc with crosses from Borna Sosa out wide. We are expecting a narrow 3-2 win for the visitors.