On the surface, the disparate table positions sucks the meaning out of another Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. However, this match has a lot of meaning for both clubs.
Bayern have now lost to the top two sides in the Bundesliga, which did not happen in the previous two season. Not only did VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach take the three points from Bayern, but they clearly outplayed Bayern as well. That does not bode well for a team trying to make their third UEFA Champions League Final in fourth years.
Dortmund meanwhile have resurrected their Bundesliga campaign to the point they can dream about European spots again. Just five points out of sixth place, a full three points against the top team in Germany would certainly go a long way.
The two clubs will need to tread carefully though, for they have tricky DFB-Pokal quarterfinal matches at midweek. When the ball is kicked off in Signal Iduna Park, the only focus will be taking the reverse fixture of the Klassiker.
The Match (108th Meeting)
Location: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany
Head: Knut Kircher
FC Bayern: 23 W, 12 D, 5 L – 62 YC, 2 RC
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Television and Streaming:
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UK: BT Sport 2
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FC Bayern: LWWWW
Bundesliga: 40 W, 28 D, 23 L
DFB Pokal: 5 W, 0 D, 2 L
UEFA Champions League: 1 W, 1 D, 1 L
DFL Supercup: 1 W, 3 L
Ligapokal: 2 W, 0 L
Largest Victory: 11-1 (Bundesliga: November 27, 1971, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 3-6 (Bundesliga: September 9, 1967, Dortmund)
For a match of this magnitude, Pep Guardiola certainly does not have the chips to play with that he wants. The two players – Frank Ribéry and Arjen Robben – who could take Dortmund's fullbacks to the cleaners are injured, and the one who provided Bayern with versatility in defense – David Alaba – did not return from the International Break in one piece.
The player Guardiola does have is captain Philipp Lahm, a player who has now become critical to Bayern's midfield. The combination of him and Bastian Schweinsteiger is important to managing the chances the defense has to deal with, and he will be a co-director in Bayern's attack with Xabi Alonso.
Guardiola deployed a back three the first time around, but that was in response to the diamond midfield and the two strikers Dortmund were using at the time. With the Schwarzgelben using just one upfront at the moment, a back four is the appropriate response this time around. Juan Bernat has provided a full alternative to Alaba all season, and Guardiola will need to rely on the Spaniard again.
Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze will both make their returns to the Dortmund, which will add to an already raucous atmosphere. Bayern have taken points from Signal Iduna Park the last two years, and they will need to step up for this game in order do so again.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Mario Götze – Robert Lewandowski – Thomas Müller
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm
Juan Bernat – Jérôme Boateng – Mehdi Benatia – Rafinha
Bench: Pepe Reina, Holger Badstuber, Dante, Mitchell Weiser, Sebastian Rode, Thiago Alcântara, Sinan Kurt
Out/Suspended: David Alaba (knee), Javi Martínez (knee), Claudio Pizarro (muscle issues), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (back)
In the relegation zone at the end of the Hinrunde, Dortmund have mustered the might to thrust themselves back in mid table. As a result, transfer talk has swarmed their club a bit less, and Dortmund without Jürgen Klopp is much harder to forecast.
What changed? Health was surely a major factor. Ilkay Gündogan's return restored some stability to Dortmund's midfield, taking pressure off of the attack. Marco Reus has also brought class back to the final third, even if it merely draws the attention of opposing defenses.
The real knight in shining armor is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a vigilante who has scored seven goals in Dortmund's last eight Bundesliga matches. He is the one who has stepped up in Lewandowski's absence, leading the line with the gusto that his former teammate once did. He could be the one that unlock's Bayern's defense, a guy that the Rekordmeister's defenders will have trouble keeping up with.
Dortmund would not be Dortmund without key injuries, though. Lukasz Piszczek's absence at right fullback will force Sokratis Papastathopoulos to the flanks, a player Bayern could surely exploit. Marcel Schmelzer might not be 100 percent healthy either, but Klopp will have to use him on the left should he be fit enough to go.
Even with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at midweek, Dortmund will have to put everything they have into this match, and hopefully the glebe Mauer can boost them to a much-needed result.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Marco Reus – Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Kevin Kampl
Ilkay Gündogan – Sven Bender
Marcel Schmelzer – Mats Hummels – Neven Subotić – Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Bench: Mitchell Langerak, Matthias Ginter, Erik Durm, Sebastian Kehl, Milos Jojić, Shinji Kagawa, Ciro Immobile
Out/Suspended: Oliver Kirch (knee), Lukasz Piszczek (ankle), Nuri Sahin (groin)
Tensions will surely be high in the third Klassiker of the season, and the match will probably have a lightning pace to start. Bayern's strong midfield will be able to keep Dortmund at bay, but the Bundesliga leaders will struggle getting into attack because of it. The match will be a white-knuckler for both teams, but ultimately Bayern will find the chance to help them prevail.
Projected Score: Borussia Dortmund (0-1) Bayern Munich
The Other Action
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hamburger SV (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Wolfsburg vs. Stuttgart (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Werder Bremen vs. Mainz 05 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hannover (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Freiburg vs. Köln (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)
Augsburg vs. Schalke 04 (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hertha Berlin vs. Paderborn (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
FC Porto vs. Estoril (Monday, 3:00 PM ET)
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||12||9||5||45||29||+16||45|
|FC Schalke 04||11||6||9||37||31||+6||39|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||10||7||9||40||38||+2||37|
|SV Werder Bremen||9||7||10||41||54||-13||34|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||6||12||8||35||36||-1||30|
|1. FC Köln||7||9||10||26||32||-6||30|
|Hertha Berliner SC||8||5||13||31||44||-13||29|
|SC Paderborn 07||5||9||12||23||50||-27||24|