Dortmund - Last season’s Matchday 34 clash between Borussia Dortmund and 1899 Hoffenheim at the Signal Iduna Park will go down as one of the most dramatic encounters in Bundesliga history, but while there may not be as much on the line this time around, Saturday’s clash (kick-off: 13:30 GMT/15:30 CEST) promises to be just as entertaining.
Goals, at the very least, should be guaranteed in a meeting of two of Germany’s most prolific sides, but BVB head coach Jürgen Klopp is hoping his side can get another positive outing under their belt before an extended stay in the capital. “It's our last home game of the season before we go to Berlin twice and we want to enjoy it in the right way,” said the 46-year-old.
Dortmund have lost just once in their last seven league encounters, ensuring they clinched second place despite a difficult run-in, including last weekend’s 2-2 draw at fellow top-four aspirants Bayer 04 Leverkusen, which left BVB with plenty of food for thought. “When we play our own game, press high up the pitch and win the ball, we excel,” explained Marco Reus. “However, when we play like we did in the second half against Leverkusen, it makes life very difficult.”
With an eye on the DFB Cup final against FC Bayern München on 17 May, a week after their league programme comes to an end at Hertha Berlin, Klopp has been making the most of a full week’s preparation, without the distraction of a European fixture. “For us it was important that, after what seemed like an eternity, we had a full week of training where we were able to work on tactical things,” said the charismatic coach. “If we play like we did in the first half in Leverkusen, we'll win the rest of our games and head into the final with a lot of confidence.”
This weekend, however, Klopp is having to manage a depleted squad and, with just 15 players, including the previously injured Marcel Schmelzer, at his disposal, has urged his charges “not to take any risks” before claiming that they will have to “defend well and take our chances when they come”. Key to that will be Robert Lewandowski, who is set to make his final appearance as a BVB player on home soil. “Lewandowski has been a brilliant striker for us and it's been great having him here. I hope he gives it everything in his last three games.”
The Dortmund boss had words of praise for this weekend’s opponents as well, categorically stating that “Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland are in the form of their lives right now”. With first-choice striker Anthony Modeste suspended following his sending off in Hoffenheim’s goalless draw with Eintracht Frankfurt last time out and Sven Schipplock out for the remainder of the season, the visitors’ star duo are set to be thrust further into the limelight on Saturday.
For Volland, though, a return to the Signal Iduna Park brings with it “very, very good” memories of his side’s 2-1 win on the final day of the 2012/13 campaign, which led to them escaping the drop by the skin of their teeth. “That victory last season was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced as a footballer,” explained the German U-21 captain, who, like many of his team-mates, has wowed fans and neutrals alike with some jaw-dropping performances this season.
Last weekend’s goalless draw - their first of the season - did not fall into that category, but Volland is confident his side will raise their game for what he believes will be a heated battle in the Ruhr district. “There’ll be a great atmosphere awaiting us,” admitted the 21-year-old. “I’m expecting us to play with passion once again and leave everything on the pitch. Then we’ll see what we can get out of it. We’ve reached out targets for the season, but we want to end this year on a high note.”
Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer – Jojic, Sahin – Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus - Lewandowski
Hoffenheim: Grahl - Beck, Abraham, Vestergaard, Johnson - Polanski, Rudy – Herdling, Firmino, Gyau - Volland
Relive last season's dramatic Matchday 34 encounter between Dortmund and Hoffenheim courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: