The weekend Bundesliga action gets underway on Friday with Borussia Dortmund travelling south to face Heidenheim at the Voith Arena as they look to maintain their perfect 100% start to the New Year. After three successive victories, the Schwarzgelben will face a stern test as they take on last season’s 2.Bundesliga champions at their compact home stadium.
Wins over Darmstadt, Köln and Mainz so far this year has given BVB the full nine points and seen them leapfrog RB Leipzig into fourth place and move to within one point of third-place VfB Stuttgart. Memories of last season’s fantastic Rückrunde performance are being rekindled and the hope is that a repeat could be on the cards for Edin Terzic’s side.
They will however be fully aware that Heidenheim will provide a sterner test than their previous three matches and it is probably a little too soon to be getting carried away with talk of getting involved in the title race just yet.
When the two sides met on matchday 3 earlier in the season, the newcomers showed just what they were made of with an admirable display in a 2-2 draw at the Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund have however strengthened their ranks since that match with the transfer window loan signings of both Jadon Sancho and Ian Maatsen. While Sancho has settled back into life at the club instantly, the start made by Maatsen has been even more impressive with the Chelsea fullback becoming an instant hit with his performances so far.
The home side are also unbeaten this year so far with three 1-1 draws on the trot against Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Köln, but if you take into consideration their matches before the Winterpause they are on a six-match unbeaten streak, which is why this sit in the relatively healthy position of tenth in the Bundesliga table.
In stark comparison to fellow promoted side Darmstadt, FCH have found their feet in the top flight and have found a formation and game plan that has played to their strengths and picked up more than a satisfactory number of points. It is too soon to be getting carried away, but the signs are that the club is here to stay for a while at least.
Their home form has been a particular strength with 17 of Heidenheim’s 23 points this season coming being picked up the 15,000 capacity Voith Arena.
The availability of Benedikt Gimber remains uncertain after the defender was taken off during last week’s draw with Hoffenheim with concussion. There is however better news regarding Denis Thomalla, who could return to the squad after missing the first three games this year through illness.
Frank Schmidt will however still be without the services of both Thomas Keller and Elidon Qenaj, who are still on the recovery list following knee injuries. The coach has the option of Marvin Pieringer for Adrian Beck, while Marnon Busch could play in place of Omar Haktab Traoré. Tim Siersleben would be the obvious replacement should Gimber not make it.
Possible line-up: Müller – Traoré, Mainka, Gimber, Föhrenbach – Maloney – Dinkci, Beck, Schöppner, Beste – Kleindienst
Edin Terzic continues to have a few absentees with Julian Brandt, Gregor Kobel and Marco Reus all still doubtful after illness. The trio haven’t been able to train fully and may only be ready for a place on the bench. Jadon Sancho has also emerged as a doubt after complaining of a tight adductor.
Julian Ryerson, Karim Adeyemi, Felix Nmecha are all out recovering from injury, and Sebastien Haller is still on international duty. Ramy Bensebaini should however be available after returning from the African Cup of Nations following Algeria’s exit.
Possible line-up: Meyer – Meunier, Hummels, Schlotterbeck, Maatsen – Can – Sabitzer – Malen, Bynoe-Gittens – Füllkrug, Moukoko
What they’re saying:
Frank Schmidt: “It’s something special, definitely. That’s clear. “It’s also garnished with floodlights on the Schlossberg, which is a huge highlight for the surrounding area. But we don’t want to have big eyes, we want to achieve a good result. We want to show our self-confidence, use our strengths and a seven streak would of course be nice.
“It’s devastating if you lose too many balls in your own build-up game against Dortmund. We have to defend with high intensity out of the penalty area and have to be well adjusted to know how to defend our strengths in the final third.
“I made it clear that I trust the team. They did well and why should we have to change something? It’s difficult to make good transfers in the winter anyway. I work I like to work with a small group in which every player knows that performance will be rewarded.”
Edin Terzic: “It’s currently very difficult to beat them. They’re having a great season. They’ve not only done well in the last six matches, but also against us at the beginning of the season. It’s a difficult task, especially in Heidenheim. They’re doing extremely well in many areas of football: they are the hardest-running team in the league and are extremely dangerous from set-pieces.
“We know that the match and the result will be influenced the most by our performance. We want to show a good performance and return to Dortmund with three points.”
27/01/24 Hoffenheim (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
20/01/24 VfL Wolfsburg (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
13/01/24 Köln (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
20/12/23 Freiburg (h) 3-2 W (Bundesliga)
16/1/23 Mainz (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
28/01/24 VfL Bochum (h) 3-1 W (Bundesliga)
20/01/24 Köln (a) 0-4 W (Bundesliga)
13/01/24 Darmstadt (a) 0-3 W (Bundesliga)
19/12/23 Mainz (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
16/12/23 Augsburg (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
This will be the first Bundesliga meeting between the two sides at the Voith Arena, this being Heidenheim’s debut Bundesliga season. The meeting on matchday 3 at the Signal Iduna Park was the first-ever competitive fixture between the two sides. Back at the start of September, BVB looked to be cruising with a 2-0 lead after just fifteen minutes, but a superb second half fightback from Heidenheim saw them take a share of the spoils with goals from Eren Dinkci and Tim Kleindienst rescuing a point.
Players to watch:
Having joined Borussia Dortmund as an eight-year-old Jan-Niklas Beste spent ten years at the Signal Iduna Park, progressing to the periphery of the first-team, but only making one appearance in an early Pokal match against Rielasingen-Arlen. His future lay elsewhere with spells at Werder Bremen and Jahn Regensburg before he found his home in Heidenheim.
The midfielder therefore will have a point to prove when his boyhood club comes to visit on Friday. He has already shown his quality this season with five goals and nine assists. His set-piece delivery is superba and the BVB back line had better keep him under wraps if they want to emerge victorious.
The absence of Jadon Sancho should give Jamie Bynoe-Gittens the chance to shine. The 19-year-old has made one start and had two sub appearances in the last three matches and has provided an assist in each of Dortmund’s three wins this year. He has the pace and directness to cause problems for the Heidenheim defence and will want to impress once again if given a rare start.