Second and third in the Bundesliga table respectively, the game pits two of German football’s heavyweights up against one another, and victory is imperative for both in terms of keeping pace with leaders FC Bayern Munich and cementing their respective UEFA Champions League aspirations.
Both unbeaten in 2013
The two sides go into the match unbeaten in 2013, having laid the foundations for a successful campaign in the Hinrunde. Something has to give in this one - and gaining the edge in the clash of two intriguingly different tactical systems will of course be pivotal to success for either.
Despite being away from home, Dortmund are likely to lead the dance and coach Jürgen Klopp will probably stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation which has served him so well thus far. Having two defensive midfielders provides added protection but also allows Borussia to constrict the midfield. This is where their merciless pressing is best illustrated. The champions have enjoyed an average of 57 per cent possession of the ball in the current campaign, a figure second only to Bayern.
and Sebastian Kehl have been the two players most regularly used in defensive midfield by Klopp. and Moritz Leitner have also filled in on occasion, and returning hero Nuri Sahin is another candidate for the position. Yet despite Klopp being spoilt for choice in the middle of the park, the one thing he wouldn’t change is the formation. That was attempted with disastrous results in the 2-1 home defeat to Schalke 04 on Matchday 8.
Leverkusen will adopt a more reactive approach. One of the team’s key strengths is playing on the counterattack, so they tend not to dominate possession as Dortmund look to do. Instead, die Werkself line up with a third defensive midfielder to protect the back four, typically . They have the fifth-lowest possession statistics in the league (47 per cent), but remain deadly on the break.
In this 4-3-3 system, Leverkusen also constrict the midfield, not with relentless pressing but simply by using an extra player. Reinartz, Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes comprise a formidable wall of resistance before the back four is called into action, let alone a talented goalkeeper Bernd Leno. This has also been a key reason for Bayer’s impressive defensive record of just 23 goals conceded in their 19 league games so far.
The three-man midfield will certainly make it difficult for Dortmund’s impressive attack to function with optimum effectiveness. Reinartz has permitted an average distance of just 13.8 metres between himself and his back four, meaning that , employed as a playmaker of late, will have next to no space in which to operate. Reinartz has also won 58.9 per cent of his challenges, meaning Götze is likely to be in for a tough afternoon.
With Leverkusen so strong in the centre, it will be crucial Borussia’s wing-men Marco Reus and Jakub Blaszczykowski to exploit the entire width of the pitch. Right-back Lukasz Piszczek, who has four assists this season, will also play a part in attack, but the Pole will also have to keep one eye on Schürrle - pushing too high up the pitch will play directly into the Germany winger’s hands.
The onus will be on Dortmund to determine the direction of play as Leverkusen look to funnel the game into the middle, where their added presence facilitates a quick turnover of possession. The second part of that plan will be to hit Dortmund on the break by releasing to exploit any space that the BVB backline may leave in behind.
The result could well hinge on which side makes the best use of the pitch’s width. With a collection of 22 outstandingly gifted footballers on show, however, the match-winning moment could come from just about anyone. Either way, a mouthwatering clash awaits spectators both at the BayArena and from afar, with the game set to be broadcast on television around the world.