The rivalry between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, later dubbed the “Klassiker”, was the pinnacle match that defined the Bundesliga’s two-horse race. That will not be the kind of match that will take place on Saturday evening in the Westfalenstadion.
The new Bundesliga landscape has reshaped this rivalry into something else. The emergence of Leipzig, Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim has taken some of the luster from this showcase.
But the match perhaps has more importance in the table than it has in recent seasons. With Leipzig’s 3-2 comeback victory in Leverkusen, Bayern sit second in the table for the first time this season, while Dortmund sit in fifth place in a very tight race towards the top.
“The team is focused,” said Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti at the club’s press conference on Friday. “We are in good condition. We have to give 100 percent tomorrow, and only then can we win.”
Victory may be harder to come by for Bayern than it was when they traveled to Dortmund in August for the DFL-Supercup. Arturo Vidal and Javi Martinez, both of who played in Bayern’s 2-0 win, will be unavailable. Ancelotti cannot count on the attacking boost of Arjen Robben or Kingsley Coman either.
Fortunately for Bayern, Dortmund was not in the best of form before the November international break. They drew against cellar dwellers Ingolstadt and Ruhr rivals Schalke, and even struggled to top Union Berlin in the Cup. But several of their key attackers, including Mario Götze and Christian Pulisic, seem to be rounding into form, and they still have the very potent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has 11 goals in the Bundeliga this season, leading the line.
But Bayern will get a boost themselves when Franck Ribery comes back into the fold. Ancelotti said the French forward, who has not played since September with a muscle strain, is ready to go, adding: “He has a lot of experience and is very important for us.”
Ribery may be imperative for the mere fact that Thomas Müller is not in his best form. The German international is still looking for his first Bundesliga goal of the season. Ancelotti sat Müller in each of the last three Bundesliga games, but with Robben not expected to return until next week, the Italian coach will have to reinsert the struggling forward into the side.
Bayern’s attacking might will be their most potent weapon against a Dortmund defense that has conceded multiple goals in the Bundesliga three times this season (Bayern have only done so once). But they are going to have to bring their best if they want to keep pace with Leipzig by taking all three points in Dortmund.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw. Bayern’s best performances this season have come when their midfield has taken command of the game. That is some thing that is unlikely to happen against Dortmund since the yellow and blacks like to aggressively press their opponents. Nonetheless, the return of Ribery may help provide Bayern with some width, something Dortmund have not excelled at defending. These two teams are very easily matched though, and there may not be a winner when the full-time whistle blows.
Bayern Munich injuries and suspensions: Kingsley Coman (knee), Javi Martinez (groin), Arjen Robben (muscle problems), Arturo Vidal (thigh)
Borussia Dortmund injuries and suspensions: Sven Bender (ankle), Erik Durm (knee), Neven Subotic (chest)
Television and Streaming:
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