Dortmund can't be overconfident against giant slayers Sportfreunde Lotte
DORTMUND, Germany -- On Tuesday night, Borussia Dortmund will travel to Osnabruck for their makeup game with Sportfreunde Lotte in the quarterfinal of the German Cup. Originally, the match was supposed to take place on Feb. 28, but was called off due to the "unplayable condition" of the pitch in Lotte after snowfall. The German FA decided that the match will take place at VfL Osnabruck's Stadion an der Bremer Brucke to guarantee that the match won't have to be called off again due to precipitation.
A few extra days off a fortnight ago helped Dortmund to comprehensively beat Bayer Leverkusen 6-2, as centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos reaffirmed to ESPN FC after the match -- and it also contributed to Dortmund's sharpness in their 4-0 win against Benfica, but as the Greek centre-back pointed out, they "eventually will have to play the game" for the once gained advantage to turn into a disadvantage.
BVB's 2-1 loss to Hertha Berlin on Saturday once again showed that Tuchel's men struggle to play consistently at their best in a two games per week rhythm. Although the Ruhr side arguably played well enough to claim all three points at the Olympiastadion, a slight drop-off in quality was enough to lose yet another league match after a buzzing Champions League night.
Overall, Dortmund only managed to win four out of 12 league matches following a midweek game this season. With that in mind, the Dortmund coach will have to choose his lineup for Lotte wisely, as the Westfalenstadion side host FC Ingolstadt on Friday night. And after BVB's fifth league loss on Saturday, there is little margin for error.
Hence Tuchel will have to choose wisely when picking his lineup for Tuesday, as it will have an effect on the league match three days later.
With defender Sokratis being suspended after being sent off in BVB's previous cup match, it should be an opportunity for Matthias Ginter to redeem himself after committing two errors that lead to Hertha's goals on the weekend, and thus costing Dortmund a win on the road.
The BVB manager also revealed on Monday that midfielder Julian Weigl is doubtful for Tuesday due to muscular problems. Either way, the match against Lotte will be a decent opportunity to give Weigl, who has played 2247 out of a possible 3300 minutes this season, a much-needed rest.
20-year-old Mikel Merino could start his third game of the season, and his first one in midfield filling in for Weigl after Tuchel underlined last Friday that Merino was "very close to the team."
Meanwhile, there is little word about Nuri Sahin's status, who is another candidate to chip in for the German international. Sahin returned to team training at the beginning of February after overcoming knee problems. However, he is yet to be included in the matchday squad since then. Sahin surely must be one of the players that will look for greener pastures in the summer, as his perspective looks grim at a club that is betting on the future.
17-year-old Alexander Isak is Dortmund's latest bet. The Swedish international, who joined the club from Swedish club AIK Solna in the winter could be included for the first time in the squad since arriving, and maybe even grab some minutes depending on the course of the game.
A complete second string, however, is not expected to play, as Tuchel once again warned, that Sportfreunde Lotte are a team that plays on the level of a second division side. "They've claimed third place in 3. Liga in the meantime, which makes them comparable to 2. Bundesliga side Wurzburger Kickers. And I can tell you, playing a second division team in a cup quarterfinal isn't fun."
Roman Weidenfeller, who was the designated goalkeeper for Dortmund's cup matches on the team sheet for the match in Lotte in February, is not even expected to play showing that the Black and Yellows are very much keen to progress to the semifinals. If they progress they will go up against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on April 26th, but if Dortmund find an embarrassing elimination to Lotte, who already swept aside Bundesliga sides Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen, the harmony in Dortmund that Tuchel talked about after the win against Benfica would once again slip through his fingers.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.