Surprise, surprise ...
The days after Saturday's draw in Leverkusen have proven a huge discepancy between Dortmund supporters and German media once again. While the entire away sector seemed to be happy with the clean sheet against Bayer, a number of sports journalists saw Borussia on a sure way to relegation, with not much happening offensively and a shockingly low rate of successful passing attempts. This is true in terms of numbers, but a key difference to the first part of the 2014/15 campaign had been overlooked: While Leverkusen had outplayed us for almost the entire season opener in August, this weekend's game saw two teams on a similar level. Of course, the level was rather poor, but that is not the point: A sound defensive match plan allowed Borussia to prevent its opponents from beating us with their tremendous quality in pressing. (And this was the reason for the bad passing rating: Sometimes the best option is to kick a ball away. Then take it.)
This different approach to the game (compared with what went wrong for most parts of the first half of the season) was rather surprising to me and made me confident for what is yet to come. Adapting to the opponent's game plan was really missed earlier this season, and right now it seems as if much time in training camp had been invested in working hard on tactics and strategies. Of course, it remains open whether we find solutions against opponents with a defensive game plan as well, but it's a huge improvement compared to most prior games before that we do a good job in defense, constantly and against a strong team like Leverkusen. One might not have expected that before Saturday's game, as this was a huge problem in fall.
Surpring as well is tomorrow's opponent from Augsburg. Coach Markus Weinzierl and his team had been looking great for most parts of last season already, but this year they appear to be even stronger. With ten victories and eight losses, Augsburg currently is the only team in German pro football without a draw at all. Tied with Mönchengladbach and Schalke (which are sitting in third and fourth place), this record is good for the fifth spot in Bundesliga, with a good chance to come in close to this position at the end of the year. Luckily for us, Augsburg has proven its strength in home games particularly, of which they lost only two: One against Bayern, and ... yet another surprise ... one against us. Back in Indian Summer, when Borussia's season still appeared to become a rather normal one. Things have changed since then, but as Augsburg lost six of its nine away games, a win or at least a draw should be possible for us.
Regarding the personnel, Borussia has a lot of options again, but yet another lesson from the previous games is that a first-choice starting eleven might be a better idea than changing four or five players from game to game. In this respect, most positions seem to be fixed, particularly in defense. The only question remaining is whether Piszczek is able to play and (if not) whether Sokratis or Durm would replace him. In midfield, more options seem to be possible: Sahin, Reus and Kampl should be on the pitch, the rest depends on the fitness of Gündogan, Aubameyang, Kagawa and Mkhitaryan, and, of course, on our coaches' plan.
Whoever will be on the pitch, we will see a team as passionate as the crowd in the beloved Westfalenstadion. Remember the last home games, which were quite successful and, more importantly, which have shown that team and fans together can beat any opponent. No matter whether it's Mönchengladbach, Hoffenheim or Augsburg.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Schmelzer, Hummels, Sokratis, Piszczek (Durm) - Ginter (Gündogan), Sahin - Kampl, Reus, Mkhitaryan (Immobile) - Aubameyang
FC Augsburg: Manninger - Feulner, Callsen-Bracker, Klavan, Verhaegh - Baier - Werner, Höjbjerg, Bobadilla - Ji, Altintop
Attendance: 80,667 (sold out)