Tuesday’s Der Klassiker had more at stake than usual, with the title as well as the usual bragging rights on the line. Bayern arrived at the empty Signal Iduna Park with a four point gap over their old rivals, knowing that the home side would be without their twelfth man (the Yellow Wall), as games continue to be played behind locked doors. Despite the glaring absence of fans, the early intensity was akin to that of a usual derby, with the first half played out at a frantic pace. Within the first 40 seconds Bayern’s high defensive line was exploited, with Neuer just about sweeping up a long ball over the top. With the keeper miles off his line, Haaland managed to collect the ball and thread it through Neuer’s legs, only for Jerome Boateng to clear off the line.
Dortmund were fizzing one touch passes around early on, set up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Jadon Sancho the notable absence, as Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard were preferred on the wings over the unfit Englishman. Brandt and Hazard acted as inside-forwards, moving inwards to make space for the attacking full backs Guerreiro and Hakimi when Dortmund were in possession. Bayern opted for a solid 4-2-3-1 when they had the ball, defending in two banks of four, constantly pressing and always looking for the opportunity to catch their opponents on the counter-attack, hence the inclusion of the pacy Coman and Gnabry on the wings, as they looked to expose the space left behind the Dortmund wing backs.
Another early Dortmund move featured a nice switched ball from Hakimi to Guerreiro on the left and resulted in a Brandt shot which was comfortably saved. Whilst Dortmund looked to patiently build moves, Bayern rapidly progressed the ball with ease, with their forwards often running at Hummels due to his fitness issues of late. In the 12th minute Dortmund had the ball in the back of the net following amazing play from Brandt as he evaded three Bayern players before feeding Haaland, who’s shot inside the area was blocked, the rebound falling to Hazard who scored from an offside position, with the linesman quick to cancel out the goal. The visitors put together an amazing move in the 20th minute, culminating in Coman spinning his marker inside the box and drilling a pass low towards Gnabry who poked it past Bürki in goal only for Piszczek to clear off the line. As the half wore on, Bayern gradually started to take more control of the game, with Piszczek again on hand to wonderfully challenge Lewandowski when his Polish teammate was clean through on goal, although Haaland was still able to get away five first half shots as Dortmund carved out occasional chances for themselves. However, none of Haaland’s shots were struck as cleanly as he would have liked, as he managed only a solitary attempt on target all game. In the 43rd minute, with half time looming, Kimmich won possession on the edge of the opposition box, looked up and spotted Bürki off his line before chipping a delightful shot over the Dortmund keeper. It was a superb finish but it looked as though Bürki should have kept it out having got a hand to it.
With a pivotal 45 minutes in the context of the season to come, Lucian Favre ,the Dortmund coach, decided to throw on Sancho and Can for Brandt and Delaney. Before the break in the season Sancho was arguably the form player in the world with 5 goals and 7 assists from just 8 games at the start of 2020, but he looked rusty yesterday and had little attacking impetus. Dortmund’s chances took another huge blow in the 73rd minute as Haaland was substituted off whilst clutching his thigh. With his replacement the young American Geo Reyna, it was immediately unclear where Dortmund would get a much needed equaliser from. Unsurprisingly the game drew to a close without any real Dortmund threat, as they were forced to shoot from outside the box by Bayern’s incredibly well marshalled defence and midfield. The biggest chance fell to Hazard as he somehow contrived to miss the target from less than six yards out, although he was in an offside position. The other key moment of the second half was the potential handball by Boateng on the hour mark, as he lay on the ground and appeared to rotate his upper body so that his arm hit a goal-bound strike from Haaland, deflecting it just wide. Neither the on pitch referee nor the Video Assistant Referee were interested. Showing their experience and knack for winning as they hunt their 8th successive title, Bayern closed the game down excellently, slowing down the ball when in possession and limiting Dortmund to scraps. Lewandowski still had time to curl an amazing left foot effort onto the post before being hurled to the floor by the flying Akanji in the games’ dying moments, with the referee adjudging it to be a fair shoulder barge rather than a penalty.
A slightly subdued second half should not detract from what was overall a very entertaining game decided by a goal of pure beauty, but the stats show that Dortmund can feel hard done by, with expected goals (xG) scoring the game 0.8-0.8. It was Bayern’s experience and ability to take their chances and close out the game which ensured they got the upper hand in this crucial match up. With some of Europe’s brightest talent on display, how did the big names and some of Chelsea’s rumoured interests get on?
Following speculation as to whether or not his time at Bayern was up following their acquisition of highly rated 23 year old Schalke keeper Alexander Nubel, German legend Manuel Neuer signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2023, when he will be 37 years old! He was tentatively linked with Chelsea earlier this month, and you can see why we would be interested as despite his age he is having a brilliant season. His strong form continued last night as he made 4 saves and had an amazing 50 touches as he sought to build play from the back wherever possible, making 42 passes at an 81% completion rate. The legendary keeper showed he was far from finished and reminded watching Chelsea fans of the importance of having a reliable, imposing figure between the sticks.
One of the biggest breakthroughs this season has come courtesy of the Canadian star Alphonso Davies. The 19 year old has been moved from left wing to left back and has excelled in his first season of regular football in Bavaria. With Chelsea in dire need of a left back right now it was painful watching the frightening pace and power of Davies, the man who ripped us apart and foiled so many of our moves in our 3-0 defeat to Bayern in the Champions League last 16 first leg. It was not the youngsters best performance, as he was dispossessed 5 times (more than anyone on the pitch) and made a game high 6 ‘bad’ touches according to whoscored. Yet his phenomenal pace allowed him to recover and often put right his mistakes, making 3 tackles and interceptions as well as a couple of clearances. It was his offensive work, however, which caught the eye. He showed everyone why he was once a winger, his 5 dribbles the most of everyone playing, and he constantly had the beating of Hakimi. All in all it was another fine display from the most exciting left back in world football, and he won the battle of youngsters on the pitch, as he was well clear of Haaland and Sancho.
Frank Lampard seems keen to recruit a left footed centre back this summer, to suit his playing out from the back system, and there are few better than David Alaba in the world right now. The 27 year old Austrian is reportedly ready to move on after almost a decade of service at Bayern, and Stamford Bridge was touted by some as a potential destination. The solid, reliable presence in Bayern’s impressive back line, Alaba is like a metronome, making 65 passes at a 95% completion rate. In fact he rarely ever misplaces a pass, his average of 86 passes every league game coming at a 91% accuracy rate. He managed to bypass the Dortmund press with three accurate long balls as Bayern managed to transition up the pitch with incredible speed and ease, and he did his part defensively as well, with 5 clearances relieving Bayern of pressure. His ability to play at left back, as well as his contract expiring next summer, make him an incredibly attractive prospect for Chelsea. Last night he again showed why he is one of the best defenders in the world.
Kingsley Coman has suffered with a lengthy run of injuries since moving to German giants Bayern Munich. The Frenchman has been so frustrated with his string of bad fortune that he said earlier this season that he would be forced to retire if he picked up another injury. He promptly managed to get injured again. Luckily for Bayern fans he did not stick to his word, and on Tuesday night the 23 year old put in a solid performance full of pace and trickery. His highlight was when he managed a vicious shot on target in the first half but it was kept out by Bürki. A key pass and a single dribble were poor by his usual standards, but his pace caused Dortmund problems on the counter, which is why he was included. He will be upset by his failure to find a teammate with any of his 3 attempted crosses, although he managed to make 30 passes as he helped on occasion exploit the space left behind Guerreiro, although the Dortmund player often came out on top in their duels. Still young, it looks like his injury record will hold him back, but 4 goal contributions in 13 league starts show that the Frenchman has the potential to still succeed.
Serge Gnabry was another of Chelsea’s tormentors when the two sides met in March. When we faced Bayern every attacking move went through him, and last night it was his left flank which saw most of the ball. With Davies constantly overlapping, Gnabry played his part in some good attacking moves and managed a couple of key passes, although he was only able to get one shot off, 2 below his league average, and was unable to add to his 20 league goal contributions this season. He completed two dribbles as he looked to help fast counter-attacks, and tracked back, completing a couple of tackles as well. He was anonymous at times, but it should not detract from the incredible season he has had domestically and in Europe.
Real Madrid’s right wing back Achraf Hakimi has been stunning on loan at Dortmund this season. A staggering 4 goals and 10 assists in just 25 league starts so far this season, as well as an amazing 4 goals in 8 Champions League games show what a threat he is going forward. His frequent offensive play, however, inevitably leaves gaping space in behind him for opposition players to exploit, hence why Dortmund deploy 3 centre backs to try and cover the right flank when Hakimi bombs forwards. Unfortunately for the home side, Davies attacked with such vigour that often Dortmund were overloaded on that side. Hakimi must take some of the blame for the string of attacks down his flank, despite making 5 tackles and interceptions as well as 3 clearances, it was his absence which hit hardest. A poor defensive header under no pressure which fell straight to Goretzka to hit at Bürki summed up his game. Fouled three times as Bayern tried to halt his attacking runs, the Moroccan managed just one accurate cross, although a good ball to Hazard was ruled out for offside. With Real Madrid overloaded with right back options, Chelsea could go in for him, not to replace Reece James but to play as a right winger, a position we are not well stocked in. He is a truly fantastic player who failed to make his mark on this game, but at 21 years old there are plenty more big games for him to impress in in the future.
Two of Europe’s finest left backs graced the field last night, with the better of the two on the night ending up on the losing side. Raphael Guerreiro has been in red-hot form all season, the 26 year old netting a huge 8 goals, including a brace against Schalke in the first game back after the season’s break, and chipping in with a couple of assists this season from his left back or left wing back role. Constantly looking for the ball and trying to force his team forwards, the Portuguese star managed 3 dribbles as he had the beating of Pavard all night. His 3 key passes showed how inventive he was in the final third, as he looked to tee up Haaland and Brandt where possible, with a nice ball to Brandt leading to a curled effort straight at Neuer. Not only was he arguably Dortmund’s best attacking outlet, he also contributed defensively with 6 tackles and interceptions, and unlike Hakimi, he always seemed like he was back in position in time to avoid a Bayern overload. He rarely put a foot wrong all night, his 69 passes coming at a 93% completion rate, as he bombed up and down the left flank. Playing as either a wing back or a full back in a back 4, Guerreiro would be an incredible addition to Lampard’s side, contributing both offensively and defensively in equal measure.
With the eyes of the footballing world firmly fixed on Germany’s top tier given the lack of other elite football action, many have questioned why they had never heard of Julian Brandt, the versatile forward who had been immense in his previous 2 post-restart displays, contributing a couple of assists against Schalke and threatening all game against Wolfsburg. The German’s statistics don’t do him justice, his 7 goal contributions fail to paint the full picture of his game. He is simply at the centre of most of Dortmund’s play, linking his teammates with tidy flicks and tricks, always composed when on the ball. So to see him hooked at half time was a surprise, Jadon Sancho coming on in his place as Dortmund looked to get an equaliser to keep their title chase alive. He managed 3 accurate long balls as he switched the play with ease, but he couldn’t quite get himself into the game, only managing a shot straight at Neuer at the end of a good team move. A disappointing night for a very bright talent, I’m sure he will come back stronger.
Chelsea fans will always have a vested interest in Thorgan Hazard. Not only did the Belgian play for Chelsea from 2013 until 2015, but he carries the surname of Chelsea’s modern day messiah, Eden. The forward has shown us all what we are missing with his incredible performances for Mönchengladbach and now Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Last night he was a creative outlet, his 4 key passes were the most on the pitch, as he drifted into dangerous positions, trying to feed Haaland. After a very bright first half he faded, robbed of a centre forward to link up with after Haaland was taken off. Entering his prime at 27 years old, Thorgan Hazard has become the player Chelsea fans always wanted him to be.
Erling Haaland is a walking headline. From his incredible footballing ability to his Zlatan-esque arrogance and his awkward interviews, the young Norwegian has set the world alight this season. However, in the biggest game of his Dortmund career so far, he was unable to score his 11th league goal in 11 games. He at times cut an isolated figure, having to come deep to try and win back the ball,and yet he still managed to fire off 5 shots, despite only touching the ball 17 times in the first half. His problem was that he didn’t catch any of them as sweetly as he wanted to. His goal-bound effort that was blocked by Boateng on the line was his only shot on target, while his other four efforts were not up to his usual standard. A frustrating night for the striker, ending in a possible injury to his thigh, showed he is still only human.
Saving our biggest transfer link until last, an out of sorts Jadon Sancho had to warm the bench in the first half before entering the game after the break, where he had little more impact than he did on the sidelines. The £105 million rated (according to transfermarkt) 20 year old still managed a couple of dribbles and key passes as he was afforded little space by the vicious Bayern press. It felt like every time he received the ball, Kimmich and co. were snapping at his heels. Despite seeing plenty of the ball, making 37 passes, he was unable to take a shot as he was suffocated out of the game by his opponents. Without doubt he remains one of the brightest talents in world football, and Frank Lampard and the Chelsea board will be desperate to bring him to Stamford bridge, he is just a little rusty for now.
After an exciting title race to date, it appears Bayern will once again clinch the title. With early pace setters Mönchengladbach falling off the pace, as well as RB Leipzig, it was left to Dortmund to halt their rivals’ title procession, but unfortunately they were unable to do so. The race for Champions League spots is now the interesting one, with Bayer Leverkusen staking a claim as well as the four aforementioned clubs. From Guerreiro to Davies, Sancho to Alaba, there were plenty of potential Chelsea targets on show, many of them impressing. It is exciting thinking of any of them playing in Blue next season but for now we have to wait, and enjoy the return of football.
Written by Daniel New