Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund match analysis, “Hoofenheim” looking to be the Leicester of Bundesliga

The youngest coach in top European leagues, Julian Nagelsmann (29), is still the only undefeated manager in Bundesliga this season after the clash with former boss Thomas Tuchel and his Borussia Dortmund. Although Borussia was favourite to win the game, Hoffenheim managed to prolong their great form so relegation candidates remain close to the top and above Borussia.


Dortmund team wasn’t in great form ahead of the match drawing last two games with only two wins in last five Bundesliga matches. Late Friday game was a great opportunity for Borussia to overcome several teams including the hosts which were sitting in fourth spot with a point in hand.

Hoffenheim, on other hand, had yet to lose a game this season and despite being high up the table they had won only one game since November. Luckily for Nagelsmann, important midfielders Karem Demirbay and Sebastian Rudy had recovered from their injuries and could get into the team sheet for the match against Borussia.

While Nagelsmann opted for proven formation that conceded only four goals in last six matches he could also strengthen the team with two recovered players. Tuchel had more problems assembling his defence without injured Sokratis and Lukasz Piszcek.



Tuchel remained true to his play style, with Weigl as pivot that coordinates the play out of the defensive third and links the play with more attacking players, injuries forced him to use 3-4-3 formation. This, however, transformed heavily.



Dembele drags his marker to allow space for outplaying Hoffenheim pressing


While Hoffenheim didn’t press heavily high up the pitch, when they did, Borussia found their way around it quite efficiently. Above we see the situation where Hoffenheim is pressing the back pass but Ginter exchanges a wall pass with Pulišić and overcomes the pressing. Very important for the move is the off ball movement from Dembele who is pulling away his marker Amiri creating the space for Ginter’s advance.



While Reus and Dembele dropped deeper, wingbacks advanced in line with a central attacker to create numerical advantage on flanks

Most interesting transformation in BVB game happened in the middle third. Schmeltzer advanced and same did Pulišić (out of the picture on right side). They both joined Aubameyang in the attacking line. This served to keep the width and stretch the 5 men defence.

At the same time Reus and, more so Dembele, were dropping deep to receive the ball between the opposition lines where Dortmund could find 3v1 advantage.

Dembele had a great game as he was able to find more space as he was dropping deeper while Reus was often much higher looking to run into the box to receive the pass.


Without possession BVB was playing in 5-2-3 or 3-4-3 shape depending on the position of the ball. When the ball was in the attacking third, front three (Aubameyang, Reus and Dembele) were tasked with closing down Hoffenheim defensive line. Wing Backs, Pulišić and Schmeltzer were monitoring the wide players while Weigl and Gotze kept the centre of the pitch closed off. This occurred as soon as Hoffenheim had the ball in their defensive third no matter if it was a back pass, goal kick or a build up from the back. Tuchel tried to impede the opposition with high pressing on every occasion which included preventing the ball being played short from the goalkeeper.

Once the opposition reached the middle third they would collapse into 5-3-2 but still with a high defensive line due to intended pressing.

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When unable to regain possession high up the pitch, BVB collapsed into 5-3-2 shape. This served well Hoffenheim as they had plenty of space behind defensive line to hoof the ball to


The situation from the second minute illustrates BVB defensive organization and the dangers it posed. Front three failed to close down the defensive line quickly enough. This allowed Hoffenheim to reach Hubner who had enough time and space to pick his pass. Due to high defensive line BVB uses in conjunction with high pressing, long balls behind the defence provided several chances and the first goal.


Julian Nagelsmann’s offensive organization is heavily dependant on great defence. Their press resistant abilities and passing accuracy from Hubner are fundamental to the way they attack. This allows them to confidently sit back and either outplay the pressing or search the opportunity for a break with a long ball behind the opposition high defensive line.

Borussia offered them great opportunity as they weren’t able to effectively cut off the supply from rear with their pressing and they still kept the high defensive line. Hoffenheim was thus allowed to hoof long balls to Wagner who would then cushion them for onrushing central midfielders who had a numerical advantage in the middle of the pitch. The other route was to isolate Kaderabek on the right side where he can break his marker 1v1 and precede directly to goal or serve air dominant Wagner with a cross.


While Dembele had a great night at Rhein-Neckar-Arena and was the best player throughout the match, Hoffenheim dealt well with opposition with great defensive teamwork. Once Reus was sent off it was always going to be a difficult match for Borussia but, surprisingly, they didn’t change their approach despite a man down.

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Despite being a man down, Tuchel stuck to three man in attack during the second half, albeit the formation altered between 4-2-3 and 4-3-2


Tuchel was a goal and a man down but he kept three up front and decided to risk in the defence. From five at the back he went to four looking for equalizer. Weigl and Gotze remained in the middle while Pulišić replaced Reus in attack.

When in possession that meant Dembele was the man who was playing a link up with midfield and a third attacker. When without the ball he was still up front with Pulišić and Aubameyang to close down the defence.

While Hoffenheim could have increased the lead due to spare man in attacking third, BVB was rewarded for their brave approach and equalized immediately.

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Until the later stage of the game, Hoffenheim were reluctant to send more man in attack and exploit the space Borussia was offering in their search to win despite they were outnumbered

While Borussia did adapt their approach after the equalizer, they were still playing two men upfront looking for a winner. This created opportunities for Hoffenheim who had half spaces open for exploiting as three men in the middle couldn’t cover the width of the pitch. While Hoffenheim tried and towards the end threatened the guests, they didn’t commit enough men to consistently overload the space Borussia was offering mainly due the constant threat Borussia provided by leaving the men upfront despite being a man down.

This analysis was first published at soccerspecific, a coaching education platform with the mission of creating and sharing the highest quality of coaching information in order to positively impact player development around the world.

CL: Borussia v Real Madrid, read what late changes made the difference

Highly anticipated clash between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid ended peacefully but didn’t provide football quality that was expected despite four goals scored.
Teams came on the pitch with quite different baggage. While Borussia scored 20 goals in last four matches it seemed everything is clicking in Thomas Tuchel’s side. They even won last three clashes against Spanish heavyweights on their stadium. However, BVB was missing Marc Bartra, Marco Reus and Sven Bender, all important players.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, came to Germany after two draws and severe problems were reported among the front three. If you count that two very important players like Casemiro and Marcelo are also out injured, it didn’t look good for Spaniards.

Problems with injuries and between Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Gareth Bale coupled with poor recent form and fact Real plays away, urged Zidane to opt for more cautious approach relying on quick counter attacks.

Borussia, on the other hand, encouraged by recent form wanted to cut Real off early.

Everything evolves around Weigl in Borussia. However, Ginter provided a Great performance running from deep into middle third. Too bad Real was good on defence and Borussia front line didn’t have their day

Above you can see Borussia in early stage of the match. Rarely you can see a whole team so high on the pitch, and it is even more stunning to see it against Real Madrid. What strikes is that Borussia is inside quite a small space since both full backs are sitting very narrow. While it allows for quick short passing it also gives opportunity to opposition to close down quicker and with fewer players.

Everything in Tuchel’s side evolves around Weigl who is in deep lying playmaker role and truly connects the defence and attack. However, he is heavily supported by Ginter who is surging forward almost in line with Weigl.

Although Weigl is the man that connects BVB lines, it is Ginter’s offensiveness that provides an extra player in Tuchel’s team

Above is a map of all touches on the ball that Ginter has made during the match. With 117 touches he is above all other BVB players and represents a true ball playing defender. It isn’t just touches that makes him important part of the team but his forward passing as well. His insertions deep into the middle third is also a reason why Schmeltzer is often playing a bit more centrally than a full back normally would.

However, few quick and direct passes Real managed early in the game urged Tuchel to drop defence below half way line. The match was fairly even in the opening quarter until Real scores afte quick break and Borussia gets firmly on the ball and possession.

The way teams played didn’t really change much until Real scored again. Tuchel started to move things more rapidly as Borussia was very slow in build up which allowed Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to get back in position and assist three central midfielders who did great job forcing 30 interceptions and turnovers.

As time passed Tuchel changed Schurle for quite poor Goetze, but real change came when Pulišić and Mor came on the pitch. They were more direct and their dribbling and speed meant Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to get back and effectively help the defence. Tuchel did well with his subs as they provided an equaliser since Real couldn’t cope anymore with pressure fresh players provided.

To summarize, both teams had sound plans for their offensive game. Real was fortunate to have scored and could keep on defensive looking for their attacking players to counter while Borussia was always under pressure. In the end great speed of decision and technique from Mor and Pulišić really turned it around for the hosts to make both teams happy. Real got yet another draw but Modrić, Kroos and Rodriguez proved they could cope with highly offensive opposition even without Casemiro.