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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Predictable Dortmund face defensive concerns

Mark Langdon assesses the Bundesliga giants

Dortmund star Mario Gotze
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Freiburg 0 Borussia Dortmund 0

Tottenham will have sent scouts to the Schwarzwald-Stadion before Wednesday's Champions League date with Borussia Dortmund and the reports from Germany's Black Forest will give boss Mauricio Pochettino plenty of positive thoughts going into Wednesday's clash.

This was a poor performance from Dortmund, who failed to justify odds of 4-9 even though Freiburg played for an hour with ten men following a deserved red card to Yoric Ravet after the VAR system was successfully used to highlight a shocking tackle on Marcel Schmelzer.

The left-back was taken to hospital and fellow defender Marc Bartra was also a first-half injury casualty to compound the misery for new Dortmund boss Peter Bosz. Schmelzer would be harder to replace than Bartra as Omar Toprak is an experienced centre-half to slot alongside Sokratis.

Dortmund finished with 83 per cent possession but they managed only three shots on target and created few clear-cut chances despite being just 1.26 on Betfair's exchange at half-time.

It was predictable stuff, lacking ideas in central areas with no Plan B and by the end the long-distance shooting was simply desperation. The only real threat came when Christian Pulisic drifted in from the right wing.

The American and top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was strangely subdued for the most part and seemed slightly irritated by a knock to the knee, will be the biggest dangers to Tottenham at Wembley but the whole side will seriously need to step up.

Pulisic came closest to breaking the deadlock for Dortmund in the second half but it could be argued the best opportunity of the 90 minutes fell to Freiburg forward Tim Kleindinst who shot straight at Roman Burki when the game was 11 v 11.

Kleindinst's chance came via a swift counter and Dortmund are vulnerable to quick turnovers with Bosz adopting a high-risk defensive line with space behind the full-backs which opponents can exploit.

Midfield anchor Nuri Sahin is sometimes left with too much to do on his own as fellow central players Mario Gotze and Gonzalo Castro are encouraged to get forward in support of the front three. When they are in possession that's a positive. When they don't have the ball it is another matter entirely.

That should mean goals at Wembley and Tottenham will fancy their chances of getting at Schmelzer's replacement at left-back, 18-year-old Dan-Axel Zagadou, who was bought from Paris St-Germain as a centre-back and looks uncomfortable on the flank.

New signing Jeremy Toljan may be a more suitable back-up option to Schmelzer but he is yet to make his Dortmund debut which is not ideal going into such a crunch Champions League contest.

Dortmund have shown themselves to be a classy outfit in recent years - much better than the evidence from Saturday - although some of the magic in their play has departed with the sale of winger Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona. 

My initial pre-game temptation for Wednesday was to back Dortmund with a 0.25 start on the Asian handicap and it is possible they will be able to enjoy more space behind Tottenham's defence but I am starting to believe it's correct that Spurs are narrow favourites.

The opposition

Freiburg made six changes to the side thrashed by Leipzig last time out and they were tactically excellent. They have been tipped by some for relegation following a poor start but the battling qualities highlighted against Dortmund should stand them in good stead.

Ravet's disgraceful tackle made it virtually impossible for them to win the game but in young Turkish centre-back Caglar Soyuncu they had the best player on the pitch. Remember the name - Soyuncu will be signing for a big club soon enough.

Freiburg 4-2-3-1: Schwolow; Kubler, Lienhart, Soyuncu, Gunter; Abrashi, Sierro (Frantz 43); Ravet, Haberer, Terrazzino (Stenzel 89); Kleindienst (Niederlechner 65).

Dortmund 4-1-2-3: Burki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra (Toprak 18), Schmelzer (Zagadou 31); Sahin; Castro, Gotze (Yarmolenko 79); Pulisic, Aubameyang, Philipp.

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This was a poor performance from Dortmund, who failed to justify odds of 4-9
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