Two of the major contenders for the Champions League slots in the Bundesliga met at Borussia-Park on Saturday afternoon. Leverkusen secured 3rd spot with their 6 game winning streak but were without the excellent Julian Brandt who had scored in 5 of those games, Kampl and Bellarabi two other big factors in their excellent form. These absences presented Gladbach an opportunity knowing that a win would put them in 4th position with one matchday to go. What followed was a highly intriguing encounter where both sides showed why they are amongst the upper echelon of the Bundesliga.
Whilst Bayern Munich lead a 2-team group ahead of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga, Hertha Berlin have quietly been making strong performances and find themselves in 3rd place, holding a 4-point advantage over 4th-placed Schalke. The side from the capital have developed a strong team despite finishing 15th last year – just one place above the relegation play-off position. Throughout this season however, we have seen a significant turnaround in performance under coach Pál Dárdai. In this article, I’ll be aiming to take a closer look at what has seen them hold such a strong position in the table.
Borussia Dortmund maintained their unbeaten record in the Rückrunde after coming from behind to beat FC Augsburg 3-1.
After Bayern recorded their 2nd loss of the season to the hands of Mainz, their clash against Borussia Dortmund had some added interest as a Dortmund win would see the Bavarian lead cut to just 2 points. Tuchel took inspiration from his former club’s win and opted for a 5-chain in defence which a number of similarities between the two systems.
Martin Schmidt’s Mainz side continued their tradition of producing excellent results against the Bavarian giants and left the Allianz with a 2-1 win in this mid-week clash. They came into the game on brilliant form with Schmidt leading his side to now 5th place with a system centred around the excellence of Yunus Malli.
After reaching the last 16 of the Europa League, Borussia Dortmund played host to 2nd-bottom Hoffenheim idho have recently gone under the leadership of the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history – 28-year-old Julian Nagelsmann. The away team looked far better than their league position suggested and until the red card (as well as during periods at 10 men) were more than a match for Dortmund. Tuchel’s side again showed some staleness in their game though his mid-game adaptions as well as the Hoffenheim red card brought about a late comeback for the 2nd placed team.
After overcoming Schalke at home, Mainz moved up into the top 5 in the Bundesliga, (albeit temporarily) ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg.
Tuchel’s Dortmund progressed in the DFB Pokal after they overcame Stuttgart with a slightly rotated squad as Durm came into the side at LW and Matthias Ginter took on the 6 position in place of the rested Weigl. Stuttgart used an interesting asymmetrical shape which shifted between formations situationally.
In what was a highly interesting match from an analytical standpoint, Hertha BSC held Borussia Dortmund to a 0-0 draw. The Berlin side put a serious challenge in front of Thomas Tuchel’s team.
After numerous failed rumours of incoming players at Dortmund, Tuchel’s side went into the 2nd match-day of the Rückrunde with a rotated squad which showed their limitations as they struggled against Ingolstadt.