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Wolfsburg have picked up under new management but Marco Rose’s side should prove too strong here.
Back Borussia Dortmund to win (+135)
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Borussia Dortmund were unexpectedly handed a golden opportunity last weekend. The Bundesliga returned from the final international break of 2021 with a Bavarian derby on Friday night. Bayern Munich were widely tipped to make light work of their trip to Augsburg – and with good reason. Yet the champions came unstuck at the WWK Arena, going down 2-1 to an Augsburg team who had won only one of their previous six games and were occupying the relegation play-off spot.
Bayern do not slip up often, so it was vital that Dortmund took full advantage the following day. They did just that. A 2-1 victory over Stuttgart was secured when Marco Reus scored the winning goal in the 85th minute. Signal Iduna Park erupted and Marco Rose’s side moved to within a point of Bayern at the summit of the standings. Perhaps we will have a title race in the Bundesliga after all.
Dortmund’s defeat of Stuttgart means they have yet to draw a game this term. BVB are an all-or-nothing team. So while they have lost three of their first 12 matches – the same amount as Koln way down in 12th place – no team in the division has won more encounters than their nine. This Dortmund side is far from flawless but they remain in the hunt for now.
BVB did not turn in a vintage performance against Stuttgart last weekend, but that is beside the point. The criticism most often aimed at Dortmund in recent years is that they are not sufficiently adept at grinding out wins. But that was exactly what they did in that narrow 2-1 triumph, and Rose will have been delighted with the way his team withstood Stuttgart’s pressure and then found a late winner through the excellent Reus.
This has been an eventful season for Wolfsburg so far. They were the surprise pacesetters in the Bundesliga after winning each of their first four matches. Mark van Bommel received widespread praise for his approach after replacing Oliver Glasner in the summer. The Dutchman was credited with building on his predecessor’s work and not making unnecessary changes just for the sake of it. Wolfsburg looked well equipped to challenge for the top four – or perhaps even more.
Then everything unraveled. The Wolves lost four on the bounce and decided to part ways with Van Bommel after the last of those defeats, a 2-0 home loss to Freiburg. Florian Kohfeldt, the former Werder Bremen head coach, was handed the reins. Recent results suggest Wolfsburg were absolutely right to call time on Van Bommel’s tenure.
Kohfeldt has got off to a fine start at the Volkswagen Arena. Wolfsburg have taken seven points from a possible nine since he took charge a month ago. Having sunk to mid-table under Van Bommel, Wolfsburg are up into sixth place and just one point outside the top four. They did concede two goals to Arminia Bielefled last time out, but back-to-back clean sheets before that suggest they have recaptured some of their defensive resolves.
It was that solidity at the back that underpinned Wolfsburg’s successful challenge for a top-four place under Glasner last time out. Kohfeldt is a bright young coach who will look to marry that defensive strength with greater attacking productivity. If he can do that, Wolfsburg will once again be right in the mix for the Champions League places.
For the most part Wolfsburg got the job done against the teams below them in the Bundesliga table last season. That is not to say they did not slip up on occasion, but they were pretty reliable in the games they were expected to win. The problems came when they faced fellow top teams. Wolfsburg did not win any of their six matches against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzig, the three sides who finished above them.
On paper one might have expected Dortmund to struggle against a Wolfsburg team that was happy to sit deep and pack men behind the ball. In fact the Yellow-Blacks won both meetings by two goals to nil. Wolfsburg were unable to get the balance right between attack and defense in those matches. And with Kohfeldt still finding his feet at the Volkswagen Arena, Dortmund will hope that proves to be the case this weekend too.
Even with Erling Haaland absent through injury, Dortmund’s attack has continued to produce the goods. The ever-reliable Reus deserves considerable credit for his recent contributions, and there are signs that Donyell Malen is beginning to find his feet after his summer switch from PSV. Wolfsburg will look to make life difficult for Dortmund on Saturday, but keeping their attack quiet is easier said than done. Back BVB to win.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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