Dortmund should beat lowly Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund travel to FC Augsburg on Friday night looking to make up for their first weekend Bundesliga loss against Bayer Leverkusen.
It will be an entirely different game in Bavaria, no "pressing faceoff" like Saturday, but still the usual gritty fight awaits in the SGL Arena. The gap in quality between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg should be a significant one, and thus BVB fans are hoping for only one thing this weekend: gaining three points on Ruhr rival FC Schalke, which will -- spoiler alert -- lose to Bayern Munich.
Looking for new solutions
Bayer Leverkusen was a highly demanding opponent, but they offered a lot of space, which BVB failed to take advantage of. FC Augsburg can't offer the same standard of individual quality. As such, the game won't be as open. Jurgen Klopp will have to find new solutions to break down a deep-sitting Augsburg defense, as his central midfield looked uninspired in buildup play Saturday.
To help out Sebastian Kehl and Milos Jojic, Matthias Ginter might find himself in defensive midfield against the Bavarians. Klopp saw "a good Matze Ginter" in a friendly against fourth-tier side SV Waldhof Mannheim on Tuesday, where the 20-year-old German was tried out as a No. 6.
Ginter, who already showed his versatility at Freiburg, can be of great help to Dortmund's ball distribution and give his side a much-needed spark in midfield. With Neven Subotic returning to the side, Ginter should be free to move up the pitch.
A win is expected
Whether Ginter starts in defensive midfield or not, anything but a win on Friday would come as a surprise. The black and yellows can't afford to drop points again, at least not against an opponent like FC Augsburg.
It might sound harsh on Markus Weinzierl's side, which finished a respectable eighth last season and was involved in the battle for Europa League spots for much of the campaign, but this is simply not the same FC Augsburg as last campaign. Weinzierl has done great work in recent years, managing to build a working unit out of a team with mediocre individual talent. Sadly for FCA, the superb team chemistry has gone with the departures of midfielders Andre Hahn and Kevin Vogt and defender Matthias Ostrzolek.
Weinzierl has to rethink his tactics as his side has lost a lot of pace in attack. Augsburg often relied on solid buildup play, but with newly signed striker Tim Matavz, they have yet to find their rhythm.
The biggest hope for Borussia Dortmund comes from FC Augsburg's back line -- especially centre-backs Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker and Ragnar Klavan, who lack a lot of pace and are prone to errors. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will remember the two fondly; he scored a hat trick in his Bundesliga debut in the corresponding fixture last season. BVB's pacey attack will meet a defense that is low on confidence and struggles when it comes to handling quick combinations, as TSG Hoffenheim already exposed in their 2-0 win Saturday.
Personnel worries continue
How the BVB attack will shape up remains to be seen. Striker Adrian Ramos is still doubtful, but former Augsburg player Ji Dong-won gives Klopp a new attacking option with his return. Roman Weidenfeller will also return between the posts on Friday night, but other than that, it is still feels all too similar like last season.
Jakub Blaszczykowski and Nuri Sahin are both "far away from returning," Klopp bemoaned during Wednesday's presser. Perhaps Sven Bender will make an appearance, but there is still a question mark regarding him. Bender, Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer will need the two weeks granted by the coming international break to get into shape. Hopes are high that Dortmund's situation will ease until Matchday 3.
The biggest worries still surround creativity in defensive midfield with Sahin, Oliver Kirch and Ilkay Gündogan still out for quite a bit. But at least a bit of positive news has emerged from the BVB rehab centre as Gündogan is already training with the ball and close to team training. The midfielder, who has been out for over a year, is making swift steps toward his comeback, but given his long absence, expectations should be adjusted.
But even with injury problems and players who still need a few weeks to get into form, BVB should be able to field a side that is able to win in Augsburg. Any other result would be a setback.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.