Match Preview: Borussia Dortmund vs. RB Leipzig
After an international break that seems to have lasted for an age (in this country at least) the Bundesliga finally returns to Signal Iduna Park on Saturday with RB Leipzig’s visit. BVB will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Bundesliga ahead of second-placed Hoffenheim and third-placed Bayern Munich, who are looking to revitalise their season under Jupp Heynckes. They have been the early season pace-setters, leaving the rest of the Bundesliga in their wake.
In Friday’s pre-match press conference Peter Bosz noted how lucky he is to have a big squad to pick from which is also full of quality. Not many can say they disagree with him, especially when you consider the regularity with which he has changed his team this season. Bosz seems to have been able to pick completely different teams for domestic and European games, doing his best to ensure his side is kept fresh in as many positions as possible. He is struggling at fullback though, with Marcel Schmelzer, Raphael Guerreiro and Erik Durm ruled out long term. Dan-Axel Zagadou and Jeremy Toljan are the only fit natural full-backs currently available- and they all play on the right. This comes after Lukasz Piszczek picked up an injury playing for Poland which Bosz has said could rule him out for “weeks, possibly months”.
With the full-back injury conundrum to ponder it looks as if Jeremy Toljan will be chosen to replace Piszczek with Zagadou filling in at left-back in the meantime. Sokratis Papastathopoulos has also returned injured and is likely to be deputised by Marc Bartra. Bosz looks set to decide on the day whether to rest late returnees, such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic. Two players likely to start though are Mario Gotze and Julian Weigl who didn’t feature for Germany in the international fixtures. Jadon Sancho has returned from playing in the under-17 World Cup for England could appear from the bench.
Dortmund have been incredible defensively so far this season, conceding only two goals domestically. This is likely to worry Leipzig who have struggled for goals this season. It is obvious that they are struggling to juggle domestic and European football. They come to Westphalia on the back of two league wins, against Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt, but lost their last Champions League game 2-0 away to Besiktas (a game that is now synonymous with Timo Werner complaining about the noise the Turkish fans made during the game). Despite their trials and tribulations in front of goal this season, they are still performing to a similar standard to which they set themselves last season, sitting fourth in the league.
Ralph Hassenhutl has received a welcome boost going into this game. Last season Bundesliga second top goalscorer, Timo Werner, is clear to play. Werner missed Germany’s games against Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland during the closing stages of the World Cup Qualifiers due to a neck injury picked up against Besiktas in the Champions League (maybe it was the noise.) Hassenhutl is still without Stephan Ilsanker with a toe injury and Marcel Sabitzer due to a broken tooth. Naby Keita returns from suspension however.
With BVB currently on a 41 game unbeaten streak at home, having scored 13 goals at Signal Iduna Park this season and being in their best position after seven matchdays in their history, it is fair to say that confidence is high in the black and yellow camp. There is plenty of reason to be confident for this game apart from the form of the collective. Individually there have been some very pleasing performance. For instance, Max Phillipp has scored two braces at home so far this season and has largely impressed since arriving from Freiburg. Roman Burki has been excellent this season behind and fantastic defence, which includes Omer Toprak.
Leipzig are no pushovers though and should not be taken lightly. They have been criticised for some poor form this season and probably unjustifiably considering their current league position. They have managed to largely maintain the standard they set last season and are, for now at least, dispelling the myth that they are a one season wonder. It is true that Champions League football is probably hampering their early season form but they remain in touching distance with Bayern, Hoffenheim and Dortmund above them. That being said they will have to be in top form to beat this Dortmund side today and another home win seems highly likely. 42 not out?