What does it take to beat us?
A lot of something that for a long time now no one in the Bundesliga seems to be able to find. Cryptonite maybe? Our young guns have been riding a incredible undefeated streak now. Long enough to make most people have to look up the last game we lost. Despite Dortmund’s dominance in the recent weeks (months really), the game Saturday against Mainz may heat up quickly. While our Borussia has taken the lead in 12 straight games now, Mainz is boasting an impressive 10 goals within the first 15 minutes. Looking at the big picture, scores are pretty even as well. In eleven games, the BVB was able to win three times while Mainz won twice. Six games ended in a tie. Off the pitch, our coach Juergen Klopp will be meeting a lot of his former colleagues when Mainz comes to town. It’s always a special game for the former Mainz player and coach.
Countdown to 10
With the game against Mainz on Saturday, our young guns will have completed their 24th game of the Bundesliga season. While it was easy so far to dismiss outside speculations around the Meisterschaft and such, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. 10 games to go, 10 more weeks of play. That is less than a third of the season remaining - the home stretch. Last year this time around, the situation was quite different though. Our Borussia had a gigantic lead of 10 pts over 2nd placed Bayer Leverkusen. Eleven games later we won the Meisterschaft with a final lead of 7 pts. The slight slowdown last year eventually didn’t hurt us and was probably at least partially caused by the quite unexpected high-pressure situation that the young guns suddenly found themselves in. A situation likely to repeat given that the team has matured dramatically over the course of this season.
While the outcome of this season is most certainly undetermined right now, looking at a few statistics can’t hurt to put our collective minds at ease. Equipped with my magic 8-ball and random-number calculator, I present to you my statistically completely insignificant prediction of the end of the season. Looking back at last year, with 11 games to go Borussia had 55 pts (2.4 pts/game) and a 10 pt lead. By the end of the season, the point total was 75 and Bayer finished 2nd with 68 pts, a 7 point lead. This means that for the last 11 games, the average points per game dropped to 1.8 (20 pts out of 11 games).
Equipped with this information, let’s examine this season. After 23 games, the glorious BVB has collected 52 pts which is 3 less than last season and results in a average of 2.3 (-0.1pts/game). From here, we can use the two data points we have to project the outcome - 2.3 pts/game from this season continued brings us to a season total of 77 points (+2pts vs. last season). The lower “home-stretch” average of last season gives us 72 pts (-3pts vs. last). Considering that Bayer Leverkusen finished with 68 pts last year and the Bavarians are tracking towards about 70 pts given their current average, things are looking rather good.
Now to the last step. Throw all that information out of the window. Get up. Get a beer. Go to the stadium. Scream your lungs out in support of our Borussia and trust our coach and players to give their all. We don’t want nor expect anything more or less.
Back to the game at hand. The story in Mainz is an obvious one this weekend. Former Dortmund player Mohamed Zidan is back with his old(new) club and will be facing his former team-mates on Saturday. To make things even more interesting, Zidane has been on a hot-streak ever since he returned to the carnival city. In four matches since the winter break, he as scored every time. Not just impressive but a all-time Bundesliga-record for players who transfered during the winter break. Surprisingly though, the Egyptian would like to see this impressive streak end tomorrow. “For once I wish that I won’t score” was Mohamed’s comment on the game against Dortmund. That he wished his team-mates would seal the deal nonetheless may be ignored in his favor. One way or another, the 30 year old may not even play this weekend. A thigh injury has been plaguing him and as the time of writing his start is not clear.
As a team, Mainz is also back on track, thanks in part to Zidane. Klopp said this week that Mainz is “a confident opponent that will try to come up with something for this game”, eluding to his counterpart Thomas Tuchel who likes to change the system here and there. With key players leaving the club at the end of last season, FSV has found what seems to be new stability. The impressive 4:0 against Kaiserslautern is a clear sign that things are looking up. Lastly, captain Nikolce Noveski is scheduled to return on Saturday after a 10 day absence.
How in the world did we miss the arrival of the Terminators? It seems obvious in hindsight but somehow we managed to ignore (or were tricked into it) the fact that Sven “Manni” Bender is clearly made out of steel. As a clever disguse, Sven will be wearing a very colorful facial cover that looks like he actually sustained bruises in his face. With that new-found knowledge, it is obviously no surprise that Manni will be playing against Mainz on Saturday and for the next 120 years, then enslave us and rule the world. Who can beat us then? Count me in.
In other news, all Dortmund players who were called to their respective national teams this week returned injury free. Only Moritz Leitner will be missing Saturday due to a infection. Considering Leitner and the fact that our captain Sebastian Kehl will be forced to sit this one out, the indestructibility of Manni comes in quite handy for Juergen Klopp. Alongside him will be Guendogan who showed a solid performance against Hannover and may be finally on track to his old strength. Also, Robert Lewandowski who was away with the Polish national team but didn’t play the match against Portugal, will be available despite some tension in his thigh during the week.
Line-up: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Gündogan, S. Bender - Kuba, Kagawa, Großkreutz - Lewandowski
Bench: Langerak (Goalie), Felipe Santana, Löwe, Owomoyela, Bakalorz, da Silva, Perisic, Barrios
Line-up: Wetklo - Caligiuri, Bungert, Noveski, Zabavnik - Baumgartlinger, Polanski, Soto - Ivanschitz - Szalai, Zidan
Bench: Karius (Goalie), H. Müller (Goalie), Fathi, Malli, N. Müller, Stieber, Allagui, Choupo-Moting, Ujah, Yilmaz
Referee: Gagelmann (Bremen)Assistants: Anklam, Thielert (both Buchholz)4th Official: Winkmann (Kerken)
Match time: Saturday 6.30 pm CET (12:30 pm EST)
Location: The Temple