A late equaliser in their game against 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Sunday left a Dortmund title challenge looking ever more unlikely, and they will be under the most pressure to get a victory.
Second-placed Leipzig are ten points ahead of nearest challengers Eintracht Frankfurt, but they have already beaten Dortmund this season and have won both of their games since the winter break.
Leipzig flying as Dortmund stutter
The first-ever meeting between these two sides back in August ended in a shock win for Leipzig, with the hosts in that match winning with a late Naby Keïta goal. It was the first indication of what they could achieve in the Bundesliga, and of the kind of stop-start season that Dortmund were going to have.
Few would have anticipated even then that the two sides would meet again with Leipzig eleven points ahead of Dortmund. They are second after their impressive season, and they have resumed after the winter break with two wins, including the 2-1 win against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim last weekend, which ended Julian Nagelsmann’s side’s unbeaten run.
Dortmund on the other hand have toiled in recent games. Their win against Werder Bremen was followed by that frustrating 1-1 draw with Mainz. In fact, the Bremen victory is their only success in five Bundesliga matches, although with four draws they are at least unbeaten in that run.
Dortmund are also without defeat at home in 22 months in major competitions. Having ended Hoffenheim’s unbeaten start to the season, Leipzig would like nothing more than ending Dortmund’s impressive streak in front of the Yellow Wall.
Leipzig under no pressure to win
With the club still, theoretically at least, fighting on three fronts, Thomas Tuchel is looking for a result that inject a shot of confidence and momentum. He described the club’s current situation as “a test of our ability to remain calm,” and was determined that his players didn’t let the “negative pressure” to develop and focused on “the next steps.”
He also had praise for Leipzig, saying that they “deserve to be where they are.” Whilst he no doubt expects a tough encounter, he is unworried about how his team will perform. He believes that they have been “very, very good” in the biggest matches they played this season – such as the victory over Bayern in November.
Conversely though, Ralph Hasenhüttl believes that Dortmund “haven’t been able to turn some tight games to their advantage” and that his side can make the most of that.
However, whilst he says team “want to win” in Dortmund, he admits that they “don’t have to,” suggesting they will be happy with a point. He described them as “a force in their own stadium” and believes their high-pressing style with leave his own team with little space in which to operate.
Piszczek a doubt as Leipzig hit by flu
Tuchel said in his press conference that Lukasz Piszczek is a doubt due to muscular problems in his back. "We need to wait and see,” he said regarding his availability, confirming he would undergo further tests. Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin are definitely still out.
Earlier in the week, new signing Alexander Isak was given clearance to play by FIFA, required because he is still only 17-years-old. However Tuchel suggested the young Swedish striker wouldn’t be involved straightaway. “He is still settling in here,” he said. “We need to weigh up what we can expect from him.”
Leipzig meanwhile have been hit by a flu bug, with Timo Werner, Diego Demme and Marcel Sabitzer all ruled out as a result. Coach Hasenhüttl has also been suffering, although he has now recovered. Emil Forsberg remains suspended following his red card against Bayern Munich in December, whilst Lukas Klostermann remains out of contention too,
Oliver Burke however is available again after missing the Hoffenheim match with illness and with the other absentees the Scot could earn just his second start for Leipzig. Club captain Dominik Kaiser and David Selke could also make rare starts, with just twelve available outfield players having seen action this season.
Borussia Dortmund: (4-1-4-1) Bürki; Ginter, Sokratis, Bartra, Schmelzer; Weigl; Schürrle, Dembélé, Castro, Reus; Aubameyang
RB Leipzig: (4-2-2-2) Gulácsi; Bernardo, Orban, Compper, Halstenberg; Ilsanker, Keïta; Kaiser, Burke; Poulsen, Selke.
Quotes via Borussia Dortmund, ESPN FC and RB Leipzig.