The Klassiker between FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund always promises so much, but this Saturday’s clash at the Allianz Arena has more riding on it than usual with the two clubs locked in a head-to-head battle for the Meisterschale. The winner will take a big step towards the title and with so many interesting mini stories the game is sure to be a blockbuster.
Here we bring you some of the key battles that will go some way to deciding who emerges the happier from this weekend’s epic encounter.
The tactical line-ups are going to play a huge role in the result. The exact constellation of players is somewhat unknown with players returning from their respective national teams and others on the verge of returning from injury.
Thomas Tuchel must decide whether to go with a traditional back four and a 4-2-3-1 formation or to play with three centre backs as he preferred at Chelsea with Joao Cancelo and Alphonso Davies as wing backs. The alternative would see Benjamin Pavard as the third centre back, but the four seems more likely.
Jamal Musiala has widely been expected to miss out but the current news is that he could be fit enough to take his place on the bench. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was forced to withdraw from the Cameroon squad in midweek with a back complaint meaning there is a slight chance Tuchel will have to tinker with his forward line.
Dortmund coach Edin Terzic also has a big call to make regarding his formation. The previous two games have seen him play Raphael Guerreiro in a more advanced midfield role and the Portuguese has really impressed. The 4-1-2-2-1 line-up would see Jude Bellingham and Guerreiro playing in front of Emre Can with the returning (hopefully) Julian Brandt and Marco Reus behind Sebastien Haller. Julian Ryerson And Marius Wolf would replicate the roles taken on by Davies and Cancelo for Bayern.
Donyell Malen, Karim Adeyemi or Jamie Bynoe-Gittens would add more pace to the BVB side, but the guile of either Reus, Brandt or Guerrero would have to be sacrificed.
A fraction of the battle could be won even before kick-off. The mentality aspect of the game could be huge. Bayern under normal circumstances would see this match as a chance to flex their muscle and, while under-fire, prove that class is permanent with form being temporary. These however are not normal circumstances thanks to the shock coaching change made last week.
The sacking of Julian Nagelsmann sent shock waves through the Bundesliga and although Thomas Tuchel is 100% the logical man to take over the Bayern hotseat, he has had so very little time with the players due to the international break.
Bayern have lost matches in the previous 11 seasons that have seen them win the Bundesliga crown, but the losses endured this season seem a bit different. Bayern can be beaten and there are cracks in their armour as Augsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen have shown.
A question mark has long hung over Borussia Dortmund and their mental fortitude as down the years hugely talented squads have underperformed and found the going too tough when it comes to launching a genuine bid to usurp Bayern as the champions of Germany.
This clash will be one of their toughest yet as a wounded Bayern are a dangerous Bayern.
Joshua Kimmich vs Emre Can
As in most games, the match could be won and lost in the midfield. Bayern captain Joshua Kimmich and BVB’s Emre Can are going to be key in this respect. Kimmich produced a highly disciplined performance against Paris St Germain in the Champions League and will be expected to lead from the front again on Saturday. He was a public supporter of Julian Nagelsmann and is clearly not happy with the recent developments, but as pro he’ll need to put on his big boy pants as he goes head-to-head with international team mate Can.
The former Bayern, Liverpool and Juventus midfielder earned a recall to Hansi Flick’s national team on the back of a highly impressive run of form for Dortmund. He showed on Tuesday against Belgium when he came on that he can instil toughness and fight into the midfield third and he will relish the battle with Kimmich and Leon Goretzka.
In the big games you could always rely upon Manuel Neuer to come up big and it now falls to Yann Sommer in the Bayern goal to be the one to potentially contribute hugely to the result. The Swiss keeper has had a steady start to his career at the Rekordmeister without standing out by producing the fantastic displays he was forced to at Gladbach.
Dortmund’s Gregor Köbel has to play understudy to Sommer at international level and he will no doubt be busier than he would like against Bayern. He’s shown this season that he can make the difference and will be called upon at the Allianz Arena to prove himself once more. Only Augsburg’s Rafal Gikiewicz has kept Bayern scoreless this season. If Köbel becomes the second keeper to shut out the Bavarians, the title advantage will surely be Dortmund’s.
Avoiding the overload
The Schwarzgelben’s ability to avoid the Bayern overload is going to be a key factor in the final result. Cancelo, Davies and Goretzka will press forward meaning Bayern could have seven players attacking the BVB back line. We have seen the impressive performances of Marius Wolf and Julian Ryerson this season, but their defensive abilities are going to be seriously tested this weekend. Wolf impressed for Germany against Peru when allowed to attack, he however looked less sure against Belgium when made to defend.
Whether Julian Brandt and Marco Reus can get Davies and Cancelo going the opposite way will be interesting. Edin Terzic will want to see Bellingham and Guerreiro in the more advanced areas rather than being forced to defend deep and isolating the forward three.
The first goal
It might seem an obvious thing to say, but with all the huge hype and pressure surrounding this Klassiker, the first goal is going to be vital. If Bayern can score first, their confidence and self-belief will take over and they will look to overcome Dortmund with their supposed superior quality. The expectation that BVB will be deflated is there and their mental strength as mentioned earlier will be brought into focus.
Should Borussia Dortmund get the opening goal, the doubts will creep into Bayern minds as they are not used to being the chasers in the title race. The mentality of being the second place team combined with all the uncertainty within the team as a result of the loss to Leverkusen and the sacking of Nagelsmann could weigh heavily on their shoulders.