Bundesliga Tactical Preview: Dortmund to keep the pressure on Bayern

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Dortmund should beat Wolfsburg this weekend.
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Alex Keble picks out four key battles ahead of the 27th round of Bundesliga fixtures, predicting that Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach will produce the weekend's best game...

"Lucien Favre's 3-4-2-1 packs bodies into the number ten space, making Wolfsburg's under-stocked midfield particularly vulnerable."

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Cunha & Lukebakio can pull Union around

Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin
Friday, 19:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Union Berlin might be hardest hit by the Bundesliga being played at a lower intensity and without the emotional impact of crowds. They are a defensive outfit that rely on physicality to intimidate the opposition at the Alte Försterei, topping the charts for long balls played, headers won, and fouls committed, while sitting second bottom for possession.

Union's deep-lying 5-4-1 can be a little too flat and one-dimensional, and therefore vulnerable to good movement from attackers like Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha and Dodi Lukebakio. These two interchange positions neatly in the centre-right space, while completing 5.9 dribbles between them per match. Consequently if Hertha can play with tempo they will pull Union out of position and pierce through them, in turn opening up space on the left side as the visitors become momentarily disoriented.

Maximilian Mittelstadt will be looking to build on last week's two assists with another powerful performance from the left wing. He is a traditional winger, the type who uses his speed to beat the full-back before launching crosses into the box. Should Hertha turn up the heat, he will start finding space.

Bensebaini and Diaby key players in frantic contest

Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday, 14:30
Live on BT Sport 2

Two of the best counter-pressing and possession teams in German football will no doubt produce a high-octane encounter at Borussia Park. However, both sides' meticulous passing and highly organised triangles in midfield could largely cancel each other out until the game opens up to counters. Their respective left flanks will be the key attacking area, primarily because mutual high pressing will create counter-attacking space at both ends.

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For Monchengladbach, the threat of Marcus Thuram as he makes inward runs will open up space on the left for overlapping full-back Ramy Bensebaini, who has scored or assisted six times in 12 league games this season. His battle with right-back Mitchell Weiser will be a key battle as the hosts break following long periods of Leverkusen possession.

The visitors will been relying on Moussa Diaby's brilliant dribbling, reaching the Frenchman via the more direct distribution of central midfielders Charles Aranguiz and Kerem Demirbay. With the array of attacking talent at both ends, and their respective pace getting in behind the defensive line, there should be plenty of goals in this one.

Dortmund's narrow front three to overwhelm Wolfsburg's midfield

Wolfsburg v Dortmund
Saturday, 14:30
Live on BT Sport 1

The last time these sides met Dortmund's front three terrorised Wolfsburg's three-man defence, creating overloads with the support of Julian Brandt and Raphael Guerreiro breaking past a Wolfsburg shape that was pressing far too aggressively. The hosts will most likely find themselves too open once again this weekend, although Dortmund's success will look slightly different because Wolfsburg have switched from a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1.

The change is unlikely to make Wolfsburg any better. They are an excellent side against inferior opposition, but their two-man central midfield isn't strong enough to cope with the sort of runners Dortmund can provide. Their furious counter-pressing and direct, vertical attacks should pierce straight through Xaver Schlager and Maximilian Arnold.

Jadon Sancho should return to the starting line-up, and his threat with Guerreiro on the left will be a huge distraction, helping Brandt, Thorgan Hazard, and Erling Haaland pummel through the middle. Lucien Favre's 3-4-2-1 packs bodies into the number ten space, making Wolfsburg's under-stocked midfield particularly vulnerable.

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Bayern to grind down one-dimensional Frankfurt

Bayern Munich v Frankfurt
Saturday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Bayern were not at their best in the 2-0 win over Union last weekend, but their quality eventually shone through as they ground down their hosts. Hans-Dieter Flick's side ought to do something very similar on Saturday given that Frankfurt are easy to trap in their own half.

Their main tactical goal is to shift the ball out to the left flank for Filip Kostic to cross into the box towards target man Bas Dost; Frankfurt attempt the most crosses in the division, 26.6 per game, and Kostic manages an impressive 3.0 accurate crosses per game. Frankfurt are happy to play plenty of long balls forward to get the ball out wide, and indeed against Monchengladbach they made no attempt to pass their way through the opponent's press.

Bayern, then, can simply turn the screw, camping in the Frankfurt half and waiting for chances to come. Benjamin Pavard will need to play deeper than usual in order to keep an eye on Kostic, but there is enough quality in Robert Lewandowksi, Thomas Muller, Alphonso Davies, and Serge Gnabry to pierce through - even if it takes set-piece goals, as it did at Union.

Alex Keble,

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