After a brilliant 3-2 comeback against Bayern Munich last weekend (10/11), Borussia Dortmund resume their quest next weekend for the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League titles. They face Mainz away on Saturday (24/11) before taking on Club Brugge at home the following Tuesday (27/11). The two fixtures present a real challenge to Dortmund who have lost two consecutive games for the first time since last season. I think it’ll also be interesting to see if Lucien Favre makes any changes to this Dortmund side or if he keeps his faith in the same player and systems he’s used so far this season.
Away at Mainz, Dortmund will have to be at their damaging best if they’re to ensure that they maintain their four-point lead in the Bundesliga. Coached by Sandro Schwarz, Mainz present a stern test for any Bundesliga side and playing away will just make the test even more difficult for Dortmund.
Dortmund’s away form though has been quite good and they’ve picked up 11 points out of 15 on the road already in the Bundesliga. What I hope to see in this next game, aside from a win, will be the inclusion of some fringe players like Mahmoud Dahoud and Julian Weigl and Raphael Guerreiro who can all add to the attack from midfield in different ways. I’d really like to see more experimentation, especially at this stage of the season where it’s still safe enough to take large risks. Who knows, it might just be the key to winning crucial games later on in the season.
One of Dortmund’s most interesting opponents this season so far was Club Brugge on UCL matchday 1 back in September. Ivan Lenko’s side are the current Belgian champions and it’s no surprise as to why. Their system revolves around a narrow defensive shape and occupying attacking areas in numbers on the break. For that, they usually use a 3-5-2 structure and Dortmund certainly found it hard to penetrate them and control counter-attacks last time out.
What changed the game that day was the introduction of Dahoud late on, as Lucien Favre adjusted his side formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1. Gotze and Reus were isolated for most of that game and as the team’s focal point that day, it meant that the team spent long periods circulating the ball in non-threatening areas, in front of Brugge’s defensive block.
Dahoud though, replacing Weigl, was positioned within Brugge’s defensive block and this allowed Witsel to dictate play from deep, while Dahoud helped to distribute the ball in higher areas to disorganize their opponents. He ended up playing the key pass for Pulisic’s goal.
A 4-2-3-1 shape is probably what Lucien Favre will set the side up in and if Ivan Lenko goes for a 3-5-2 like he did in the last game, again, Dortmund might find it hard to penetrate them and control their counter-attacks. Their use of width is also impressive with their fullbacks playing a big attacking role. The synergy between their wingbacks, attacking midfielders(no.8’s) and the ball near striker is usually very good. From a positional point of view, the 4-2-3-1 is a better tool for controlling counters right? However, without any penetration and occupation of the opposition in advanced areas, any time Dortmund lose the ball, they’ll most likely be defending on the backfoot. Their counter-pressing is usually much more effective when they’re able to form close connections, and they’ll need to be able to consistently create those in higher areas if they want to create more chances and create more defensive balance.
Adding an extra midfielder would also give Dortmund the opportunity to create isolated situations or at least 2v2 situations in wide areas. Dortmund are by far superior in these areas, but it requires patience, discipline and a high tempo to constantly generate such moments. However, Dortmund are certainly capable of doing so and I think if they adjust their structure(the earlier the better) to take advantage of Brugge’s lack of pressure on their defensive line, then they might win the game and secure qualification to the UCL Round of 16!