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Bundesliga

Width shows the path for Dortmund ahead of Bayern clash

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Dortmund's Portuguese defender Raphael Guerreiro (C-L) and Dortmund's English midfielder Jadon Sancho celebrate after Dortmund's Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi (R) scored his team's second goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match V

Image credit: Getty Images

ByPete Sharland
23/05/2020 at 15:11 | Updated 23/05/2020 at 16:40
@PeteSharland

It was far from a fluid display from Borussia Dortmund but their wide men could prove pivotal in Tuesday’s title clash against Bayern Munich.

In the end the performance never really mattered.

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For Dortmund, as it would be for Bayern later on, it was all about getting the win to maintain the status quo ahead of Der Klassiker on Tuesday.

Dortmund did exactly that, without the golden boy Erling Haaland getting on the scoresheet, and without any fireworks from Julian Brandt in the midfield as was the case the week before. In the second half they had to do it without Mats Hummels, who went off at the break.

Instead it was their two wide players (which is a nice compromise description between full-backs, wing-backs and wingers) who did the business. Raphael Guerreiro opened matters, picking up from where he left off in the derby, and Achraf Hakimi finishing them.

Lucien Favre’s tactics are not perfect (which manager’s are to be fair?) but it cannot be denied what he manages to get out of his wing-backs. Guerreiro is on eight goals now this season, with two further assists, whilst Hakimi has four goals and ten assists.

Two players who perhaps are not defensively solid enough to really shine as a top-level full-back but with an extra player behind them, as well as the two central midfield players, they have been allowed to realise their full attacking potential. They can do this whilst still providing defensive support for their team, perhaps a good prototype for the archetypal modern full-back.

The arrival of Haaland has lessened the need for goals; Brandt and Thorgan Hazard are wonderful technicians but neither will be regular sources of goals. With Marco Reus out at the moment Dortmund will need options for when Haaland doesn’t fire and right now their wide players are proving to be the answer for the team.

The second goal, the one that made sure of a result that already seemed pretty certain, came after the arrival of Jadon Sancho, whose minutes have been restricted thus far due to a slight knock. The link-up between Hakimi and Sancho, who looked bright when he came on, was sublime and the defender’s finish was Sancho’s 16th assist of the league season.

Along with his 14 goals it makes Sancho the first player in Germany this season to hit 30 goals combined, joining Lionel Messi and Ciro Immobile as the only players to reach that landmark thus far in Europe’s top five leagues.

Of course Sancho is the other ace in the pack for Favre along with the wing-backs. He’s the third-highest scorer in the Bundesliga this season. He has shown how he is capable of being a key player in one of Europe’s top teams, he has rewarded the faith shown in him by Favre and the club as a whole.

Sancho is the perfect embodiment of what can be achieved when Favre’s system clicks perfectly, drifting between wide and central positions in order to expose the opposing defence as much as is possible.

And if Dortmund are going to find a way past the juggernaut that is Bayern Munich it is going to have to be through their attack.

The last time Dortmund kept Bayern out in the league in Der Klassiker was November 2016, a 1-0 win at home. In the six league matches between the pair that have followed Bayern have scored an astonishing 24 goals with the last two matches being 4-0 and 5-0 hammerings.

Bayern have scored 75 goals this season, from one game fewer than Dortmund and boast the division’s top scorer in Robert Lewandowski.

If the Hummels injury turns out to be serious Dortmund are going to be vulnerable, they are already without Dan-Axel Zagadou for the rest of the season.

Favre has to trust his attacking instincts and unleash his wide players. Alphonso Davies has been a revelation at left-back but he will leave gaps that can be exploited. Hakimi and Guerreiro will always be a risk to central defenders but the beauty of them is that they are dangerous to the opposition as much as their team-mates.

If Dortmund want to have any chance in this title race they have to win on Tuesday, they have to go for broke. Bayer Leverkusen are waiting, the irrepressible Kai Havertz was at it again on Saturday, this time scoring twice whilst playing out of position up front.

One slip can quickly become a fall; this is one of the tightest Bundesliga’s in recent history and if the wheels come off for Dortmund they might find themselves out of the Champions League next season.

Momentum is a fickle thing, particularly in football. Dortmund have it, but for how much longer?

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FootballBundesligaVfL WolfsburgBorussia Dortmund
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