Borussia Dortmund in Europa League

Getty Images

With the Premier League taking a break this weekend, we turn our attention to the German Bundesliga. On Sunday, second place Borussia Dortmund will travel to take on third place Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena. Going into the match, a massive 13-point gap separates the two sides and it’s looking more and more like Dortmund has the second spot all wrapped up. While overtaking their visitors may be out of the question now, only three points separate Bayer from a spot in the Champions League and seventh. Can the hosts salvage a result this weekend and keep their European hopes alive?

Starting with the visitors, no team has managed to beat Dortmund in their last six matches in all competitions. Only two teams have even been able to find the back of the net during that six game run, while BvB have piled in 11 goals of their own. Two players that have really stood out during that run have been Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The two wingers have combined for 27 goals this season (17 in the league) with six of those coming in this six-game unbeaten run. The last time these two sides met, Dortmund dominated proceedings at took a massive 3-0 victory at the Signa-Iduna Park. In that match, Mkhitaryan and Reus couldn’t find the back of the net, but look for them to be heavily involved this time around.

A possible concern for Thomas Tuchel going into Sunday’s fixture is a short recovery period. On Thursday, the former Mainz manager was forced to play his first choice team against Porto in the Europa League. Stars like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Reus, Mats Hummels and Mkhitaryan all nearly played the full 90-minute match. With less than four days to get full fitness back, it will be interesting to see how Tuchel picks his starting 11 and whether or not he’ll be forced to throw some rotation players into the mix. Will Dortmund’s leaders be able to recover in time, or will we see a half-hearted performance from the men in yellow?

Bayer Leverkusen won’t be without some selection problems of their own going into Sunday either. After getting knocked out of the Champions League group stages, Roger Schmidt’s side was relegated down to Europa League competition. Just like BVB, Bayer had to face off against Portuguese opposition on Thursday as they traveled to Lisbon for a match against Sporting CP. Unlike their opponents, however, Bayer were forced to travel to Portugal for their match in addition to playing a large chunk of their normal starting lineup. The hassle of travelling can never be overlooked, and it will add another roadblock into the team’s recovery schedule. Luckily, they won’t have to travel to Dortmund for the match, but there will still be questions about their fitness leading all the way up until the final whistle.

One player that wasn’t featured during Bayer’s trip to Portugal was their star striker: Javier Hernandez. The Mexican has been an instant hit in Germany after making the move from Manchester United this summer. He’s currently the team’s leading scorer with 13 goals, nine more than the next closest player. Unfortunately for Bayer’s fans, Chicharito has been ruled out for several weeks due to a muscle injury. His absence will put the pressure onto Karim Bellarabi and Stefan Kieβling to find the goals. Neither of those two have shown the same nose for goal as their Mexican counterpart this season, but if Bayer has any hopes of winning Sunday they’ll need them to step up.

Borussia Dortmund was always going to be the favorites going into this match. Dortmund going up against a Chicharito-less Bayer Leverkusen makes them nearly a lock in my mind. I just don’t think that Bayer can produce enough in the final third to really trouble an in-form Dortmund backline, or compete with their attacking prowess. Final Score: Leverkusen 0-2 Dortmund


Tags: , , , ,