Our defeat at the hands of Werder Bremen last Saturday brought about more change in the dugout. It was announced the following day that Peter Bosz had been sacked and former Cologne manager Peter Stoeger was given the job until the end of the season. Stoeger himself had been sacked just a week earlier from his previous job but proved the catalyst for an upturn in fortunes in midweek, when he guided his new side to a 2-0 victory over Mainz – our first in the Bundesliga since September 30th. Still, he becomes out third manager this calendar year. He has got off to a good start but there is clearly still some way to go. The journey to redemption for Stoeger and his new side continues today with the visit of Julian Nagelsmann and Hoffenheim.
The Viennese manager remarked in yesterday’s press conference how much change had happened for him and the club lately. He firstly joked about how the Yellow Wall used to be “overwhelming” to him but how much he was looking forward to getting onto the home bench today. He went on to comment on the result against Mainz. “Not everything [went] optimally” on the pitch of course. Stoeger spoke of “a win that has done the team good, meaning the players are calmer and more confident. The mood here is a little more relaxed after the win. We hope that we can keep that going.” When pushed on team selection, Stoeger pointed out that his starting XI today, like the one in Mainz on Tuesday, will be one picked more out of gut feeling than knowledge of his new players.
His team will have to picked with the consideration of more missing players. Jadon Sancho and Andre Schurrle both missed the midweek win with minor injuries and are likely to miss out again today. They added to a list that now includes longer-term absentees like Marco Reus, Maxi Phillipp, Sebastien Rode, Lukasz Piszczek, Erik Durm and Gonzalo Castro, as well as Mario Gotze is on course to be fit after Christmas.
Hoffenheim have now new injury worries but will be without the suspended Dennis Geiger for this game. Julian Nagelsmann, the Bundesliga’s youngest manager at just 32 years old, was unsurprisingly in high spirits in his press conference yesterday following his sides derby win in midweek over VfB Stuttgart. He praised his side’s work rate so far this season, saying, “My team are very fit and have made a very good impression. Against VfB, we ran 127 kilometres – that’s an enormous effort. Above all, when you consider our workload during the season so far and the game in the snow in Hannover. The energy in our performance against Stuttgart impressed me.” He also informed the media of the preparation he personally had put into this game. “I personally went to see BVB play in Mainz on Tuesday as the game was around the corner and as a Bundesliga coach, you don’t often get the opportunity to see an upcoming opponent live. A few things caught my eye that had already changed in the first game under Peter Stoeger.” Nagelsmann went onto show that he seemed to have a decent handle on his opponents but that he was prepared for all they had to throw at him today.
There is plenty of reason to be confident ahead of this game. In 20 meeting between the two teams in all competitions over the years, Dortmund have 9 victories over the side from Sinsheim who have 4 victories themselves. Our loss last week to Bremen was out first at home in a very long time but now seems like a minor blip. However, the defence has been an issue for Dortmund this season and coming up against a free-scoring side like Hoffenheim (only 3 teams have scored more than them in the league so far this season) could provide further problems today. Peter Stoeger does seem to like his side to play deeper but this is still a side slowly regaining confidence, as was evident in the first half performance on Tuesday night.
The task ahead of Peter Stoeger is an awkward one. This is not a team or a club used to prioritising defence over attack. It does seem that this should be the case for the foreseeable future though given our woes this season. Stoeger has to stand by his principals and do what he was brought here to do, while still playing free-flowing and expansive football at the same time. Nobody said the road to redemption was a smooth one.