The start of the competition in this year’s Bundesliga has brought us a tense battle at the top of the ladder since the ten best teams are separated with “just” six points between each other after seven matches behind them. The upcoming weekend brings another big clash – Borrusia Monchengladbach, who entered the season in the best shape of all the contenders and they are currently on the first position, travels to Signal Iduna Park where they will face Borussia Dortmund.

This tactical analysis preview will provide analysis of the tactics that Lucien Favre and Marco Rose will try to implement to win the match, which can secure them the three points that could be key for one of them in the fight for the throne.

Expected lineups

Both teams would be eager to win in this match, so the sides with which they will enter the game will look to be offensive. In the hosts’ squad, there are some problems injuries. Łukasz Piszczek is probably out of the game due to the injury he picked up in the fixture against Freiburg. Nico Schulz has been left out of the team for quite some time now, and Paco Alcácer’s place is also under question.

Although they have some issues, the home team boasts a strong squad for the upcoming match and they will have a respectable lineup on Saturday.

With all of that in mind, here’s what we think Dortmund’s predicted eleven could look like:

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Bürki; Achraf Hakimi, Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji, Raphaël Guerreiro; Axel Witsel, Thomas Delaney; Thorgan Hazard, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho; Mario Götze.

The visitors will probably try to profit on the grounds of their biggest strength – compact transitive play with a balance of pace and strength. They’ve used their best lineup through the season, so they are expected to run their usual team.

Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-2-1-3): Yann Sommer; Stefan Lainer, Matthias Ginter, Nico Elvedi, Oscar Wendt; Denis Zakaria, Christoph Kramer; Florian Neuhaus; Alassane Pléa, Breel Embolo, Marcus Thuram

They’d expected to let the possession to their rivals, waiting and creating their chances out of fast-breaks and good countering, which will probably be the key for both teams.

The factor of pressing

Borussia Mönchengladbach goes to Dortmund in a better place. They surprised the footballing world with their decisive entrance in this year’s campaign and they are on the top after seven rounds of fixtures. They got there using a well-organised high pressing system and pacey attacking options. Rose’s recruitment this summer possessed a wealth of speed in the forward areas.

Mönchengladbach’s main strength in this match will be their man-marking-oriented high press with the idea of forcing opponents into making mistakes.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
Gladbach’s football is high-press-oriented and they could use it to pressurise the opposition and force them into errors

As we can see in the image above, the entire Gladbach team tends to position themselves high and to make the rivals play under pressure, which oftentimes leads to errors in the decisive zones of the pitch. Embolo would probably be the “pressing-trigger” player who will initiate press, but with support provided from wide attackers – Pléa and Thuram, alongside with Neuhaus.

The pattern of their defensive tactics is to exclude Witsel and Delaney from the build-up phase and not let them have the ball in midfield. The away team’s midfielder’s job will quite likely be to man-mark the opposition’s defensive midfielders, and not to let Reus and Götze find gaps between the lines.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
The expected shape of the visitors’ pressing side

The above image is a representation of how it’s expected to look like in the pressing phase. Wide forwards would put pressure on the opposing side’s centre-backs together with the central attacker while closing the passing lanes to full-backs. The visitors will try to force Dortmund into long balls since they clearly have the aerial advantage against their forwards.

In spite of their focus on the press, they do have flaws. If the first pressing line gets broken, the defenders stay too far from the midfielders thus creating a gap. This could create issues for them, especially when the opposing team has the likes of Reus, Hazard and Götze in their eleven.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
Even though their press is often very lucrative for Gladbach, it isn’t yet compact as they would always want to, so they could have issues if they don’t communicate well in similar situations to the one shown in the picture

The home side can profit out of these situations, using their good transformation skillset and breaking down the deficiencies in their rival’s defence. Losing it in those zones of the field can create problems for the away team, so that is the most important part of the pitch for them to close if they want a positive result out of this match.

Dortmund’s chances and Gladbach’s speed

If the initial idea of high-pressing doesn’t work, Marco Rose will presumably let the opposition have the ball for the majority of the time while they’re sitting tight and trying to invite them higher up the pitch so they could use the pace of their attackers.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
The expected shape of both Borussia’s when the away team gets in the low-block shape. They will try to “cage” the main creators of Dortmund’s side, which will probably lead into Sancho having to ask for the ball very wide.

That scenario would leave both of the teams with open options – for the home side the rabbit in the hat would be Jadon Sancho, who will expectedly wait for the ball in wide positions, while the away team could benefit if their fast strikers exploit the high positioning of Akanji and Hummels for runs behind their backs.

Gladbach’s idea could be to “cage” the opposition’s creative players, not letting them get the ball in the dangerous zones, which can lead into Sancho having a lot of 1 v 1s on the right flank, from where he can create opportunities.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
Sancho did position wide in the latest Dortmund’s matches and he has created a lot of good opportunities for his team out of those 1 v 1 isolations

Dortmund were utilising this scenario in their latest matches and were pretty direct, so if Wendt doesn’t get help from his more offensive teammates, he could have problems with the agile Englishman.

Even though these cases could profit Favre’s men, the visitors have their chances out of the same positions if the opponent’s centre-backs aren’t disciplined and well-organised in terms of correction. Since they both have their issues with runs out of their position, the gap behind their backs is often created and could be used against them, especially when the rivals have as pacey players as Thuram, Pléa and Embolo.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
Hummels and Akanji have a habit of jumping outside of their position and leaving a lot of free room behind them which could be very dangerous for their side because Gladbach has the likes of Thuram and Embolo in their lineup

The home team’s central defenders had those problems in their past games, so those scenarios could easily repeat on Saturday. Keeping in mind that Mönchengladbach plays direct football, Favre’s men need to close those gaps and tighten their lines in order to preclude that from happening.

Also, when the away team goes deep in the low block, there is one more thing that could be crucial for the flow of the action – winning the half-space battle. If Rose’s side doesn’t close on the rooms between the lines correctly, the versatile attackers of Dortmund would find themselves in desirable positions from which they could endanger Sommer’s goal.

All of it is based on Götze’s role, as he would most likely play as a false nine. His job will be to lower himself in order to disrupt the opposition’s defensive line and to open territory for the second-line run-ins for Reus, Hazard and Sancho.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
The likely pattern of final third motions of Dortmund’s attackers. The players from the second line could exploit the room their false nine opens for them if Gladbach’s players don’t switch well

This is the pattern that they used before and could be the one that will give them chances to pull out the centre-backs of Gladbach’s team higher. Borussia profited from those motions in their match against Freiburg, as they lead them into creating good chances to score after those runs.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
The example of Götze lowering himself in their past matches, where he creates space for Reus and Hazard for run-ins

On the other hand, if the visitors communicate well and switch guard duties without any flaws, that would not create much room for the attacking side and therefore could be closed with some good defensive work. But if not, Dortmund could benefit from winning the “gap-battle”.

Using Lainer and overloading

Two of the most important progressive-attack options for Borussia Mönchengladbach will probably be their fast-break overloads, and the overlapping from Stefan Lainer. Their right full-back could be the key to their success since he is year in, year out the crucial player of Rose’s systems, due to his aggressiveness and two-way-play abilities.

Therefore the major danger for Borussia Dortmund would surely come from the right-handed flank were he will operate along with Thuram. The offensive right-back tends to create 2 v 1 situations in the opposition half with the more offensive players of his team, where his repeating runs and involvement in the attacking actions come take place.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
Lainer’s overlapping leads his team into creating a lot of surplus 2 v 1 situations on the right-hand flank

In the picture above, we can see the example of him running in behind and providing an extra option for his teammate which is often hard to defend against and enables them to play it wider.

The other usage of the Austrian is when his team tries to play more of possession-oriented attacks. That is when they tend to create an overload in one part of the pitch so they could pull out the opponents and focus their attention on one side, while the 27-year-old keeps on going down the right-hand sideline and waits for long passes which he could turn into assists.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
Rose’s men creating an overload on the left half of the opponents part of the pitch which enables Lainer to have more space on the further flank

Here we can see how Gladbach’s seven players are locked on one half of the opponent’s half, so the rivals need to narrow their block which leads their nippy full-back into open situations at the edge of the box.

When it comes to organised attacks, Rose’s boys could also depend on the strikers’ motions. Physically good forwards of his team are good in sensing the space for in-behind runs, as they are good in the lowering and playing with their backs towards the goal.

They will probably alternately drop in the half-spaces and ask for the balls over the opposition’s defensive line, which could easily disorder Dortmund’s out-of-possession structure.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach - tactical analysis tactics
The decision of the ball handler often depends on strikers’ motions. The deep runs will probably be their pick in Saturday’s match because they have a speed advantage over the opposition’s defenders

As is shown in the image above, the choice of the player with the ball depends on whether the attackers will move higher or come closer to him and their positions in the gaps. That will be their way of dealing with the half-space fight, but they will arguably use more of the run-ins out of those situations because they could get the better of the opposing team’s centre-backs due to their pace in the attack.

Conclusion

As there is no clear favourite in this clash, both sides have set their hopes high before the match starts. This tactical analysis preview has shown that Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach have their ways to hurt the opposition if they make the rivals play in the way they want them to.

The key factor that could decide the winner is the playing under pressure and getting the better of the opposing team in the areas between the lines. The team who manages to control both of those segments of the game will surely have bigger chances to come up with another three points after Saturday’s fixture.

Even though the duel could go in a lot of different ways, we will trust Marco Rose and we’ll go with a 2-1 triumph for his team on the away turf.


artwork by @chapluana

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