With the likes of Erling Haaland, Rafael Santos Borre, Gio Reyna and Filip Kostic vying for centre stage, who will prevail between Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday? bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
Much has changed since the previous meeting. Frankfurt prevailed 2-1 at the Signal Iduna Park to open up a seven-point lead over fifth-placed Dortmund in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification. Andre Silva was the match-winner with one of his club-record 28 Bundesliga goals in 2020/21.
Silva was on target again the following week as Frankfurt strengthened their grip on the top four with victory over Wolfsburg, but the Eagles peaked too soon. They took just seven points from their remaining six league games, while Dortmund saw out the campaign on an eight-match winning run. Eintracht slipped to fifth; BVB climbed to third - and lifted the DFB Cup.
Haaland more than played his part in the turnaround, chipping in with three league braces, as well as another trademark double in the cup final against Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig. The Norway striker ended the season on 41 competitive goals, including 27 in the Bundesliga. A first-half hat-trick in the opening game of Dortmund’s domestic cup defence against Wehen Wiesbaden suggests he is sharper than ever.
Haaland’s overall tally in a Dortmund shirts now reads a bountiful 60 goals in as many appearances. Silva hit 45 in 71 for Frankfurt, but has since shipped out to league rivals Leipzig. In his stead, Eintracht have turned to Santos Borre. Although the Colombian fired a debut blank as Eintracht exited the cup to third-tier Waldhof Mannheim, he returns to Europe - Borre was once on the books of Spain’s Villarreal and Atletico Madrid - having struck a league-high eight times in 13 Copa de la Liga matches for River Plate last term. With 56 goals in 149 competitive matches all told, he ranks as the Argentine club's record scorer of the modern era.
It goes without saying there will be no shortage of chances for either player to add to their respective hauls. Despite Jadon Sancho’s departure to Manchester United, Dortmund boast one of the most productive supply lines in the business. Club captain Marco Reus and American teenager Reyna pulled the strings against Wiesbaden, teasing an attacking arsenal more than capable of outscoring record champions Bayern Munich. There were also second-half cameos from Thorgan Hazard and summer signing Donyell Malen. No wonder Haaland is so prolific.
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Goals come just as naturally to Frankfurt, thanks in no small part to the laser-guided left foot of Kostic. The Serbian has registered double figures for assists in each of his last three seasons in the Bundesliga, with Eintracht (69) behind only Bayern (99) and Dortmund (75) for total league goals in 2020/21.
Daichi Kamada and Amin Younes complete the creative axis, the duo having had a direct hand in 23 goals between them last term. The marauding Danny da Costa promises to give Dortmund’s stand-in left-back Nico Schulz plenty to think about on the opposite flank, following an eye-catching loan spell at Mainz. New arrival Jens Petter Hauge - a Norway teammate of Haaland's - offers deep impact from the bench.
A heady mix of pass masters, foragers and generals collide in the centre of the park. Axel Witsel missed the second half of 2020/21 through injury, but is back at Dortmund with a string of UEFA Euro 2020 outings under his belt. Teenaged box-to-box supremo Jude Bellingham reached the final with England, Thomas Delaney underpinned Denmark's run to the last four, while Mahmoud Dahoud recently signed a new deal after playing a starring role in BVB’s late-season revival under interim coach Edin Terzic.
Frankfurt’s Sebastian Rode and Djibril Sow are more graft than craft, but formidable opposition all the same. Double acts don’t reach over 250 Bundesliga appearances without ruffling a few opposition feathers.
Defensively, Dortmund are in the habit of adopting a four-man defence. New head coach Marco Rose is no different, though the ex-Borussia Mönchengladbach tactician could be missing up to three of his four preferred starters in Thomas Meunier, Mats Hummels and Raphael Guerreiro. Suitable cover comes in the form of Felix Passlack, Emre Can and Schulz.
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Leipzig took the title of the Bundesliga’s meanest defence (32 goals against), closely followed by Oliver Glasner’s Wolfsburg (37). The acquisition of man-mountain goalkeeper Gregor Kobel from VfB Stuttgart is designed to push Dortmund closer to the top bracket. Kevin Trapp has long had Frankfurt in safe hands, though it was his opposite number who boasted the superior shots-to-save ratio in 2020/21 (66.5 percent to 64.6 percent).
There’s also the small matter of new Frankfurt coach Glasner’s record against Dortmund. The Austrian has lost all four of his previous Bundesliga meetings with Dortmund - to nil. Breaking the cycle in front of 25,000 BVB fans will take some doing...