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1.12.2023Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Dortmund seeking next statement win in Bundesliga

Spirits are high at Borussia Dortmund following their impressive display and result away at AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. On Sunday (17:30 CET), they want to keep an impressive week going with another scalp in Leverkusen. Here’s the lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

The 3-1 win at the San Siro saw Dortmund secure their place in the Champions League knockout stage with a game to spare. A draw in the final match at home to Paris Saint-Germain would even see them finish top of the section. Sporting director Sebastian Kehl praised a “very, very mature performance” from his team. “We were very steadfast in the game, tactically well set up and took the chances offered to us by Milan,” Kehl enthused. BVB took an early lead through Marco Reus’s penalty. Although the Italians equalised before the break, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Karim Adeyemi secured all three points for the visitors in the second half. The victory was a “real statement in this group”, according to Kehl. Perhaps so, given the fact that few people backed Dortmund to get out of Group F – dubbed this season’s ‘Group of Death’ – alongside PSG, Milan and Newcastle United. But the Bundesliga club are in pole position with 10 points – three clear of PSG in second on seven. Newcastle and Milan have five each and an outside chance of still reaching the last 16.

As solid and consistent as Dortmund have been in the Champions League, it’s not quite been the same in the Bundesliga. Going into last weekend, Edin Terzic’s side were under pressure after a run of only one point from the previous three league games. And as has often been the case this season, they fell behind at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach. However, they overturned the 2-0 deficit inside the first half with goals from Marcel Sabitzer, Niclas Füllkrug and Bynoe-Gittens. Donyell Malen then added a fourth in second-half added time to bring BVB an important three points in fourth place, but they remain 10 behind leaders Leverkusen, and eight off Bayern Munich in second, whose Saturday fixture against Union Berlin has been postponed.

Personnel

Dortmund had been hit by a wave of flu in recent weeks, meaning some players weren’t at full strength in Milan. For example, Nico Schlotterbeck had to go off after an hour. His replacement, Salih Özcan, also wasn’t fully fit after “a tough night”, according to Terzic. However, that simply made the coach even prouder of the 3-1 win at the San Siro, speaking of a victory “against all the odds”.

Schlotterbeck and Özcan are expected to be fully fit for Sunday’s trip to Leverkusen. Adeyemi and Sebastian Haller had also been ill before the trip to Italy, missing the Gladbach game. Niklas Süle didn’t travel at all but could be back in time for the weekend. The visitors are definitely without midfielder Felix Nmecha (hip) and forward Julien Duranville (match fitness).

Performers

Only Augsburg have earned more points from losing positions this season (12) than Dortmund (11). BVB have fallen behind in seven of their 12 league outings so far, coming back to win three of them – like last weekend against Gladbach – and to draw twice. One way of looking at that stat is that the team has shown they have the strong mentality to never give up. However, it also shows that Terzic’s men have often struggled at the start of games and needed a wake-up call. Mats Hummels preferred to highlight the positives: “We got a lot of criticism last year for our mentality. But I don’t think we can have many complaints there this season. All in all, the attitude and desire with us has grown. We’re now a group that’s ready to work together on the pitch.”

In terms of the quality of the squad, BVB still remain among Germany’s best. They are well manned in attack with the likes of Reus, Bynoe-Gittens, Malen, Adeyemi, Youssoufa Moukoko, Füllkrug – last season’s Bundesliga top scorer – and Julian Brandt. The former Bayer 04 playmaker is Dortmund’s top outlet this term with four goals and five assists, although Füllkrug has started to find his feet since arriving from Werder Bremen and now joins Brandt and Malen on four goals, plus three assists.

Problems

Being on the ball from the very first whistle has been an issue for Borussia this season. They have already conceded six times in the opening 15 minutes of games – the most across the Bundesliga together with Heidenheim. A lack of consistency in the league has been the biggest problem for the team in fourth.

Prediction

Encounters between Bayer 04 and BVB have often been full of goals in recent times. One exception was last season, where Dortmund won both meetings by narrow margins (1-0 and 2-0). Of the last 10 matches, Borussia have won seven to Leverkusen’s three. The visitors will obviously want to continue their run in this fixture on Sunday, taking confidence from their wins over Gladbach and Milan. However, they have great respect for the task at hand at the BayArena. “Leverkusen are doing extraordinarily well. They’re playing amazing football. But we still want to win there on Sunday,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Victory in Leverkusen wouldn’t just keep the Black-Yellows ahead of RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim behind them but also crown a perfect week after those scalps against Gladbach and AC. “We showed in Milan what sort of potential we have,” said coach Terzic. “That’s why we know we now need to show that as well in the Bundesliga as quickly as possible. And we’ve got the next chance at the weekend.” Following the trip to Leverkusen, Dortmund take on VfB Stuttgart in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday before hosting RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga at the weekend. It’s certainly a big run of games for last season’s runners-up.

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