On Saturday afternoon, a half-empty Westfalenstadion will welcome VfL Wolfsburg and Jakub Blaszczykowski on Bundesliga Matchday 21. Following the events that occurred against RB Leipzig on Matchday 19, the DFB sanctioned Borussia Dortmund and ordered them to close the Südtribune for a game.
The stadium will not have its usual charisma without more than 24,000 fans, or in other words a sold-out match at the Schwarzwald Stadion, home of SC Freiburg.
This ban can be considered as a big blow for the home side, who desperately need support through a difficult season. Thomas Tuchel's team are not performing well having already lost more games this season than during the previous one. Though it is not surprising considering the fact they lost three key players and signed many new faces, such as Ousmane Dembélé or more recently Alexender Isak.
Even if many new signings are talented, it is clear to see that they are struggling and it was obvious last weekend against SV Darmstadt 98 where they lost 2-1 after another underwhelming performance. Despite that, the Scwharzgelben have been good against this weekend's opponent. They won their last three games against them, including two 5-1 victories and 2-1 victory with a late winner from Shinji Kagawa.
On the other hand, the Wolves are still in a bad position in Bundesliga despite a precious victory against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim last Sunday. Valérien Ismaël’s team still need to gain points to escape from the relegation battle even if they have six points more than Werder Bremen, who are 16th.
However, it will not be easy against a team that has not lost for the last 30 games at home. Otherwise, this game will certainly be special for a player in Wolfsburg’s squad. Blaszczykowski will be back at his former club for which he played 197 games between 2007 and 2016.
A crucial game for both teams
On Friday, Tuchel expressed his feelings towards the game in his usual press conference. He praised his striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is going through a difficult period, especially after the clash against Benfica. He missed several big chances and a penalty in a game where his team were dominant even with the loss.
Following this poor performance, Tuchel said: "Now wouldn't be the right time to give him a break" and he added that: “It's very important that Auba plays tomorrow for as long as he can – and the best-case scenario would be for him to score again.” He is clearly trusting his striker and showing how important he is for the team. The German coach also talked about the absence of the support from the Südtribune due to the ban, assuring that the 56,000 other fans would be here to cheer on the team.
On the other side, the French head coach of Wolfsburg, Ismaël declared that he was happy with the victory of his team against one of the best teams this season: "The second-half against Hoffenheim was really good. Everything that this team is capable of, everything we saw in the second-half against Hoffenheim, must be reproduced from the very first minute.”
He hopes that the team will be able to continue on that path against their next opponent: “Our goal has to be to play the like that from the first minute. I know that in football, you can’t win every game in a season, but it’s important to have the intention of giving your all going into every game, so that you have nothing to blame yourself for later."
Then, he spoke about Borussia Dortmund and their playing style as well as the way they will have to play in order to create the upset: "It is important that we are prepared to put in the leg-work, close down the spaces, get close to our opponents and prevent them from picking up pace – that will be the key to our success." He added, "We will need to react to their pressing game with clear solutions and look to get through to their by-line. Then we’ll get our chances, because Dortmund allow a lot through."
Obviously, both teams will have to deal with injuries. The home side might have to do without Raphael Guerreiro who will be tested just before the game, and Sokratis did not fully train on Friday, though he should be available. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg are still missing Joshua Guilavogui who is again absent with a calf injury.