Borussia Dortmund will be aiming to keep up the pressure on Bayern Munich at the top when they take on TSG Hoffenheim on Saturday.
After a shocking exit from the DFB Pokal at the hands of FC St. Pauli, fans are starting to have doubts over Marco Rose’s term at Borussia Dortmund so far. Although the coach has the complete backing of the board, the disappointing results in crunch games, especially in the cup competitions, means the club could be set for a trophy-less campaign.
However, thanks to an impressive comeback win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund are still in the race for the Bundesliga title this term. They are currently trailing league leaders Bayern Munich by six points and will have the opportunity to momentarily bridge the gap to three when they take on TSG Hoffenheim on Saturday.
With two wins in two matches, Dortmund have started the year well. But they have a disappointing record away from home this season, having collected only 13 points out of a possible 27, a tally bettered by four other clubs.
Things won’t be made any easier by a Hoffenheim team currently standing fourth in the league table. After a mixed first season at the club, it appears Sebastian Hoeness’ tactics are bearing fruit for the Sinsheim outfit, with the club racking up 31 points from 19 matches. They are ahead of traditional giants such as Borussia Monchengladbach, VfL Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig in the league table.
The reverse fixture between these two sides saw Hoffenheim lose 3-2 to Dortmund, with Erling Haaland scoring a last-minute winner. The Black and Yellows are hoping for a more comprehensive result this time out against Die Kraichgauer, who are hoping to maintain pressure on Bayer Leverkusen for the third spot.
The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at these two sides ahead of their crucial encounter at the Rhein-Neckar Arena this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Some of Hoffenheim’s most notable absentees heading into this game include Robert Skov, Mijat Gacinovic and Diadie Samassekou, who is currently playing in the Africa Cup of Nations. In Christoph Baumgartner and Kevin Akpoguma, two more key players remain doubts due to injury, giving Hoeness a massive selection dilemma.
"Hoffenheim have a good squad that is difficult to predict. They are a caliber that deserves to be placed up there. We must be ready."
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) January 21, 2022
On a positive note, Florian Grillitsch returns after being sidelines by COVID-19 and is likely to accompany Chris Richards and the highly experienced Kevin Vogt in Hoeness’ three-man backline.
Grillitsch’s return should pave the way for Stefan Posch to operate at right wing-back. The Austrian is set to be deployed in a conservative role, and he will be expected to help out the three defenders more often than not, whereas David Raum, on the opposite flank, will hope to cause trouble for the Dortmund defence with his driving runs forward.
Raum’s offensive partnership with Ihlas Bebou, Georginio Rutter and Andrej Kramaric could indeed play a vital role in breaking the shackles of the Dortmund defence. He is also a threat from set-pieces, while Hoffenheim also have some serious firepower on the bench, with Munas Dabbur and former Dortmund starlet Jacob Bruun Larsen all gunning for a substitute appearance.
Meanwhile, the onus will be on fan-favourite Dennis Geiger and Sebastian Rudy in midfield to add stability. It won’t be surprising to see Grilittsch moving forward to form a 4-3-3 by helping out the two midfielders in the build-up.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Baumann; Vogt, Grillitsch, Richards; Posch, Rudy, Geiger, Raum; Kramaric; Rutter, Bebou
Borussia Dortmund have one bit of positive news ahead of Saturday, with Mahmoud Dahoud hoping for a return to the starting eleven after missing out against St. Pauli with back pain. As for the others, both Emre Can and Giovanni Reyna are yet to recover from their respective injuries, while Mateu Morey remains a long-term absentee.
"Apart from Mo Dahoud, nothing will actually change in the personnel situation. With Gio Reyna, we continue to hope for the time after the international break. Emre Can is still unavailable for tomorrow."
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) January 21, 2022
Marco Rose is unlikely to make any defensive changes, with Manuel Akanji forming the central defensive pairing alongside Mats Hummels. Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro also remain guaranteed starters, although both need to improve their performances after a disappointing game against St. Pauli.
In midfield, Dahoud should replace Axel Witsel in the number six slot. His composure and ability to rotate the ball quickly should serve Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham well, though it remains to be seen if the German international is truly fit enough to start.
Alongside Bellingham and Brandt, Marco Reus is set to occupy the number ten slot. It could be a big game for the Dortmund captain as he looks to create consistent goalscoring opportunities for the two centre forwards in Erling Haaland and Donyell Malen.
Dortmund don’t have much firepower on the bench, though, with Thorgan Hazard the only recognised player capable enough to make a difference. It will be interesting to see if Youssoufa Moukoko gets more game-time this weekend, whereas Ansgar Knauff was sent out to Eintracht Frankfurt on a loan deal this week.
Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Kobel; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Dahoud; Bellingham, Reus, Brandt; Haaland, Malen
- Andrej Kramaric has seven goals in nine Bundesliga meetings with Dortmund. He needs one more to bring up his 100th competitive strike in Hoffenheim colours (204 appearances).
- Ihlas Bebou is Hoffenheim’s top scorer this term, with seven goals spread over three of his 15 league outings.
- Hoffenheim are unbeaten in their last seven Bundesliga home matches, winning six.
- Reus is set to make his 330th Bundesliga appearance. He’s had a direct hand in 235 goals in that time, scoring 139 and setting up 96.
- Dortmund have won just three of 12 Bundesliga games in Sinsheim.
Player to Watch
Among all the Dortmund stars, it is Marco Reus who is feeling the pressure of late. The German international has had a disappointing start to 2022, failing to produce a good performance in any of the three competitive matches so far.
Operating in the number ten role, Reus has been uncharacteristically sloppy with most of his first touches. There has been a dearth of focus and athleticism, which poses a question over the longevity of his football career. But perhaps more importantly, the Dortmund captain has missed a series of excellent goalscoring opportunities.
Reus simply cannot afford to produce another underwhelming display in front of goal if Dortmund are to secure three points in this crucial Bundesliga match-up.
TSG Hoffenheim 2-3 Borussia Dortmund
This promises to be another high-scoring affair, given the sheer vulnerability of the two defences. Dortmund, in particular, are bound to struggle in coping with Hoffenheim’s lighting quick turnovers and chance creation from wider areas, whereas their attacking might could prove to be too much for the opposition defence.
As for the result, a lot may depend on how well the Dortmund midfield performs on the night, with Reus, in particular, due a big haul after a few disappointing performances.