A visit to the Red Bull Arena beckons for Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 6 as they face an RB Leipzig side in need of a win to help them climb the Bundesliga table following a shaky start to the season. With the boys in Black and Yellow a point ahead of Meisterschale-chasing Bayern Munich, avoiding defeat is a must for Edin Terzic’s side.
bundesliga.com takes an in-depth look at how these two sides stack up ahead of a crunch fixture…
Fearsome front lines
Following last weekend’s disappointing 4-0 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, Leipzig find themselves 11th in the Bundesliga. But there is a fearsome attacking talent waiting to pounce on any opportunities presented in this fixture. New coach Marco Rose – only appointed on Thursday to replace Domenico Tedesco and about to face the club he left in the summer – has 2021/22 Bundesliga Player of the Season Christopher Nkunku already picking up from where he left off last season. His brace on Matchday 4 single-handedly sunk Wolfsburg but his two goals in Leipzig’s opening two fixtures were only enough for draws. He has the highest expected goals (xG) value among players in the league (4.0) and right now living up to the model’s outlook.
Joining him in Leipzig’s attack are Andre Silva and Timo Werner, the latter of whom returned to the Red Bull Arena after two years in England with Chelsea. Neither are yet to really fire in front of goal, and Dani Olmo has been ruled out for several weeks, but it’s surely only a matter of time before the goals start to flow from such a menacing frontline.
Watch: Timo Werner – RB Leipzig take II
Dortmund have had to adjust their attacking threat for the new campaign. Preparation for the season following Erling Haaland’s departure was unfortunately hindered by the absence of new signing Sebastien Haller, but Anthony Modeste has provided an alternative attacking threat. The Frenchman was one of the best players in the air for Cologne last season and has posed constant danger both domestically and in midweek in the UEFA Champions League victory over Copenhagen – despite appearing less frequently on the scoresheet so far.
Equally, they possess multiple options in-and-around the box for goal threats. Marco Reus grabbed an early winner last week against Hoffenheim and was also first on the scoresheet in midweek against Copenhagen. Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt seem to appear everywhere on the pitch, with the former being one of the most pressed players in the Bundesliga so far. And it’s likely that US international Gio Reyna could make his way back into the Dortmund side, after impressing in midweek when he was an early replacement for an injured Thorgan Hazard.
“We've had to be patient with him over the past few weeks,” said Dortmund head coach Terzic. “This will continue to accompany us because we do not want to take any risks. But it's incredibly good how he accelerates the game and brings in his creativity.”
Shoring up the defence
On the back of the humbling defeat at Frankfurt, Leipzig were punished once again during the week in the Champions League against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. Goalkeeper and club captain Peter Gulacsi had a moment to forget to allow the visitors an opener and the night got worse for him and his defenders as they succumbed to a 4-1 defeat. Rose will need to eliminate some cheap goal giveaways from their game to counteract the multiple threats that Dortmund can offer in attack.
New loan signing Abdou Diallo – who made his Leipzig debut midweek – has previous Bundesliga experience to align with his peers, who have many miles under their belt despite their relatively young ages. However, regular defensive errors are not typical from Die Roten Bullen in previous campaigns, even boasting the meanest defence in the second half of 2021/22. But they have already conceded nine goals - more than ever before in the first five Bundesliga matchdays.
Watch: Highlights of Leipzig’s thumping in Frankfurt
Dortmund, however, are looked much more assured in defence this season – with a change in personnel paying dividends at this early stage of 2022/23. The arrivals of Nico Schlotterbeck and Niklas Süle have seen a step up at the back. Notably from Mats Hummels, who has so far kept his former Bayern teammate out the side on the back of his own strong performances.
“We're happy that all the central defenders are in such good shape at the moment,” explains Terzic. “We said before the season that we had really strengthened ourselves there. We can always keep the option open of playing in a three-man formation.”
There were pre-match question marks when goalkeeper Gregor Kobel was left out of the squad on Tuesday because of injury, with Alexander Meyer deputising for his Dortmund debut since arriving in the summer from Bundesliga 2 side Jahn Regensburg. But he produced some impressive saves in his first appearance and kept a clean sheet. However, some might say he was ultimately not tested to the level that Leipzig can potentially offer.
Watch: Black-and-Yellow Backline
Pressure, what pressure?
With eight goals conceded in four days and a difficult start to the season both domestically and in Europe, Tedesco was a man suddenly under pressure as Leipzig despite having led them to DFB Cup glory only a few months ago and being the best team in the Rückrunde.
He was dismissed following the home defeat to Shakhtar, with Leipzig quick to replace him with former Dortmund boss Rose. “We had a stroke of luck that Marco was available and agreed to join us at short notice,” said club managing director Oliver Mintzlaff. “He’s a perfect fit because he’s very congruent with the club's fundamental aims.”
Rose knows the Bundesliga well, guiding Borussia Monchengladbach to a top-four finish in 2019/20 and to the last 16 of the Champions League the following season. His single season in charge of Dortmund last year did not go according to plan. Despite securing a second-place finish, the team were far away from challenging Bayern for the majority of the season and fell well short of expectations in Europe, exiting the Champions League at the group stage. They also were knocked out of the DFB Cup by Bundesliga 2 side St Pauli.
However, Rose’s arrival has sparked excitement in his hometown. “I identify really strongly with my home, with Leipzig,” he said. “It's never easy to take on a role in the public eye in your home city. The people here expect a lot from the club and from me.”
He’s also been part of the Red Bull family in the past, guiding Salzburg to the league title in Austria in 2017/18 and 2018/19 before making the move to Gladbach.
Dortmund head coach Terzic will be boosted by the strong start to the season in the league and in Europe. His team sit currently above Bayern in the table, which is always what the young coach will be measured on - despite it being his first full season in charge at the club. They sit second in the Bundesliga, just behind high-flying Freiburg on goal difference, and a result at Leipzig could see Terzic’s men climb to top spot.
But the manner of defeat at home to Werder Bremen on Matchday 3 still lingers in the air for many Dortmund fans, with three goals conceded in final six minutes in what had appeared to look like a hard-fought but routine victory. Any further dropped points are usually Bayern’s gain. That said, this game against Leipzig is another big test for Terzic’s premiership and a win will make the defeat against Bremen seem like nothing more than a bump in the road.
Watch: Dortmund’s historic slip against Bremen
Terzic can be credited with major scalps over Freiburg and Leverkusen so far this season but what’s been most impressive about Dortmund this season is their ability to secure victories in games that haven’t looked their best – with small 1-0 victories over Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim as well meaning that it’s been a respectable four wins out of five so far.
Mixed fortunes in midweek
Leipzig suffered a poor start in their return to Champions League action, losing 4-1 at home to Ukrainian side Shakhtar. Whilst they began the game with attacking superiority, a well-drilled counter-attacking side ultimately undid them. It remains to be seen what effect that latest loss has had on the morale of the team. The club will be hoping that a change of coach avoids any such dips ahead of this game and a crucial fixture away at Real Madrid next week.
Dortmund meanwhile enjoyed a solid 3-0 victory over Danish champions Copenhagen, in what was to be an enjoyable night in front of a packed-out Signal Iduna Park – which saw the return of the Yellow Wall on a European night for the first time since 1998. It was an impressive night from Reus, Bellingham and Brandt, with Dortmund clinical on the counter-attack as well as their movement in-and-around the box. With Leipzig struggling against the counter in midweek, another dose of Dortmund dynamism could pay dividends at the Red Bull Arena.
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