The Klassiker is back, not only for the second time this year, but back as a meaningful fixture in the Bundesliga season. After staying within touching distance of Bayern Munich for most of the season, they finally gained ground last week to set up a crucial six-pointer for each team.
How is this different from Klassiker's past? These two teams have only played each other once previously this season, outside the norm in terms of the BVB-Bayern rivalry. The last matchup may not be very predictive either with the different fitness fortunes of each club in October and in the present. The tie is therefore too close to call, and small factors will split these two top German teams.
In every title, there is usually one or two big results that define the season. This will undoubtedly be that kind of fixture, and if one of these teams comes out on top, the three points is going to make one club like their title chances a lot more.
The Match (109th Meeting)
Location: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany
Bayern: 10 W, 0 D, 0 L – 11 YC, 1 Y/R, # RC
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
US: FX, Fox Soccer Plus, GolTV, Fox Soccer 2Go
Canada: Sportsnet World, Sportsnet World Now
UK: BT Sport Europe, BT Sport Live Streaming
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live, BVB Total
Bundesliga: 42 W, 28 D, 23 L
DFB Pokal: 5 W, 0 D, 3 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)
Guardiola's Bayern teams have been a matchup nightmare for every team they face, but for once, that will not be the case. The coach has the attacking options to be very precise with what he wants, but he has not figured out how to use them, or how to keep them all in form. He has made do with a stapled together defense against most of Bayern's Bundesliga opponents in 2016, but the back of his formation will go through a crucible against Germany's second best team.
What he will have to do is find a way to properly take advantage of his inform players, most notably of which is Arjen Robben. The Dutchman has put first-half injury issues behind him to be the dynamic player he is, and Guardiola has to make sure the 31-year-old winger is put into a position to succeed. That will mean putting players on the field that can effectively switch the play to him rather than stuffing players who win in one-on-one situations.
The defense is still what it has to be: an interim solution until the proper pieces get fit and refocused. Facing against a precise two-touch team plays into the strengths of David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich, but Bayern will still be in big trouble when it comes to spot kicks and corners. Nonetheless, the goal should be to ensure the orchestrators are not on their game, and that involves interceptions rather than closedowns.
Bayern are not used to being vulnerable in the league, but if they are not careful, they could have a real title race on their hands.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Douglas Costa – Thiago Alcantara – Thomas Muller – Arjen Robben
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Joshua Kimmich – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Medhi Benatia, Rafinha, Sebastian Rode, Arturo Vidal, Franck Ribery, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Javi Martinez (knee)
The transformation under Thomas Tuchel is no longer in the beginning stages; they have fully implemented his system, and opponents have paid the price for that. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may not be in the finest of form, but that has not stopped them from dismantling the adversaries that have come to their door. The scarier part? Tuchel now has a full squad to play with, and he knows how to properly use each of his player's strengths.
The way he approaches their match against Bayern may be the same way he did so against Bayer Leverkusen, though the ball winning abilities of Christoph Kramer and Stefan Kießling called for a more physical approach. He has a distinct physical advantage with the players in his squad, and he does not even have to put all of them in his lineup. Sokratis Papastathopoulos is expected to miss the game, but Sven Bender has filled in well in central defense in his place, and has a great balance between agility and assertiveness.
Dortmund had struggles scoring in recent matches, but the absence of Ilkay Gündogan and Gonzalo Castro were a big reason for that. Along with Shinji Kagawa, Dortmund has one of the best passing attacks in Europe and can play to a level Bayern cannot attain. Tuchel's schemes involve a solid flank presence though, one that can take advantage of a situation when the midfield switches the play. That is what Henrikh Mkhitaryan has done well with this season, and he will be a key figure to determine how well Dortmund performs.
This kind of opportunity has not come for Dortmund in a long time, and with the yellow wall at their back, it may be one they take full advantage of.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Marco Reus
Shinji Kagawa – Julian Weigl – Ilkay Gündogan
Marcel Schmelzer – Mats Hummels – Sven Bender – Łukasz Piszczek
Bench: Roman Weidenfeller, Erik Durm, Gonzalo Castro, Nuri Sahin, Moritz Leitner, Christian Pulisic, Adrian Ramos
Out/Suspended: Sokratis Papastathopoulos (muscle strain)
If Dortmund is known for one thing in the annals of the Klassiker, it is their aggressive approach at the beginning stages. It will be a flurry Bayern will have to handle, and after halftime deficits in two of their last three Bundesliga matches, they may not be able to. The second half is where Bayern tend to shine though, and with the way Robben is playing, an equalizer will be an expectation rather than a hope. With how close these two teams, one should not be surprised if there is not a winner, which will make the title race a very interesting narrative over the next two-and-a-half months.
The Other Action
Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Stuttgart vs. Hoffenheim (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Augsburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. FC Ingolstadt 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Köln vs. Schalke 04 (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)
Mainz 05 vs. SV Darmstadt 98 (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hamburger SV vs. Hertha Berlin (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
|Hertha Berliner SC||12||6||6||33||24||+9||42|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||12||3||9||34||30||+4||39|
|FC Schalke 04||11||5||8||34||31||+3||38|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||10||5||9||33||30||+3||35|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||8||7||9||18||25||-7||31|
|1. FC Köln||7||9||8||25||30||-5||30|
|SV Darmstadt 98||6||7||11||25||38||-13||25|
|SV Werder Bremen||6||6||12||31||47||-16||24|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||4||9||11||25||37||-12||21|