We reached out to our friends at Fear the Wall to talk shop ahead of the first league encounter between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich this weekend. Bayern is traveling to Dortmund after finishing a nervy Champions League game against RB Salzburg with a lopsided 6-2 scoreline, and BVB is coming home after an important 3-0 win against Brügge.
Is reason to think Borussia Dortmund can break out of its funk against Bayern Munich on Saturday?
I wouldn’t say there’s a single reason, more a collage of several smaller reasons. The first is that BVB are, by many metrics, a very good team this year. Borussia Dortmund lead the Bundesliga in xGA, are third in xG, and haven’t given up a goal in any competition since our disappointing loss to Lazio. The second reason is that BVB have played pretty well against Bayern the last two times the two sides have met, and I have no reason to think they’ll be worse on Saturday. The team is healthy and should be well rested after Favre heavily rotated against Brugge.
In my opinion, Bayern are the best team in Europe right now, but the best team doesn’t always win. Borussia Dortmund are dripping with offensive talent right now, and it’s always a possibility that the likes of Haaland, Hazard, or Sancho will grab a few goals. There’s always an element of chance in football so we clearly won’t know for sure until the final whistle, but I could see this being the first time in a few years that BVB are able to carry the day against Bayern.
If you were Bayern Munich, what would be your plan to stop Erling Haaland?
Erling Haaland thrives when he has acres of space to run into and receive the ball. Time and time again we’ve seen him make runs in between defenders and latch onto a simple vertical through ball to get one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Hell, he already did it once against Bayern in the DFL-Supercup this year.
Generally speaking, if Haaland is behind the back line receiving a pass like that, you’ve already lost the battle. If I were coaching a team against him, I would focus on three things: 1) do not force sloppy passes in the #6 space that can be quickly intercepted and played in towards goal; 2) get your offside trap down pat, and 3) have your #6 physically hound any attacking midfielder trying to play Haaland in. If you watch that goal I linked to, Bayern basically botched all three, and BVB were able to turn a poorly-placed routine pass to a dropped-back Lewandowski into a goal in five touches.
Are your fans as irate about Mats Hummels as Bayern’s are about Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng being cut by Jogi Löw?
Well roughly half of our fans are irate that BVB brought back Mats Hummels at all so no, I don’t think we’re as broken up about it as you guys are about Boateng and Muller being left out of the German national team. I’m glad to have Hummels back in the squad, and I definitely think that he deserves to make the team. I’m not a Die Mannschaft fan so I’m not really mad about it; it’s more that I think it’s an objectively stupid decision.
Think about what Mats Hummels has had to deal with this season, and then think about how successful he’s been. Dan-Axel Zagadou hasn’t played a single minute for BVB. First Manuel Akanji and now Emre Can have missed two weeks after testing positive for COVID. Thomas Delaney has now started multiple games at center back! And despite all this, Borussia Dortmund have conceded only two goals and 3.77 expected goals in the Bundesliga, enough to lead the league in both categories. Hummels has been unreal, and the fact that Jogi Low has chosen to field the likes of Matthias Ginter and Antonio Rudiger in his place is pretty baffling.
Under how much pressure is Lucien Favre right now? Would a big win against Bayern help his chances of securing a new contract?
Lucien Favre is under pressure, and you get the feeling from his press conferences that he knows it. I think the pressure has galvanized him a little bit, as in recent weeks he’s been much more animated on the touchline and has been much more willing to take risks with rotation and formation changes. I doubt that a win against Bayern will be enough to earn him a new contract, he would have to win at minimum the DFB Cup for that to be even remotely considered. I think Favre was always going to be a transition manager to buy time while BVB wait for a more ambitious candidate like Marco Rose and Jesse Marsch. They may give Favre another one or two-year extension until either of those two managers’ contracts expire, but beyond that I don’t think he’ll stay on much longer.
What is up with Dahoud’s mustache?
Look, any guy who has the confidence to attempt that look is someone I want on my squad.