The biggest game in Germany is here, and this time it’s probably bigger than ever. While any game between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund is always earmarked as one of the biggest events in the footballing calendar, this game has a sporting significance rarely seen in the last six years of Bavarian dominance.
Bayern Munich are walking wounded. Injuries and poor form have hampered the Bavarians in their quest for the seventh straight Bundesliga title, as new coach Niko Kovac struggles to fill the shoes left behind by his predecessors.
To compound Bayern’s woes, Borussia Dortmund have managed a phoenix-like resurrection after its terrible 17/18 season. Under Lucien Favre’s careful guidance, they are off to a flying start in both the league and in Europe. With Bayern trailing Dortmund by four points in the table, a loss could mean the premature end of the club’s title hopes. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Let me just get Dortmund’s bit out of the way first: only Marcel Schmelzer is injured. All the danger-men on their side, like Christian Pulisic, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, and Paco Alcacer, are fit and available for selection.
Bayern Munich meanwhile have three very key injuries. Corentin Tolisso is probably out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. Kingsley Coman is making good progress on his ankle injury, but he won’t return in time for the Klassiker. The same thing goes for Thiago Alcantara.
Worryingly, a new name has been added to the injury list recently: Arjen Robben. The Dutchman suffered an unspecified injury before thee game against AEK Athens and had to sit it out, but it was hoped that he would be fit for the Klassiker. Niko Kovac however, said in his press conference that they would assess him in training to decide if he was ready to play.
Well, lo and behold:
In case you can’t read German, a journalist from TZ (a Munich-based paper) confirmed that Robben missed the final training session ahead of the game. That puts his participation in the Klassiker in serious doubt.
In the absence of his only fit right winger, Niko Kovac will probably have to play Thomas Muller on the right. While it’s not ideal, it’s better than the alternative — playing Serge Gnabry on the right and Franck Ribery on the left. Let’s hope he doesn’t do that, and instead opts to play James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller together for a change. That combo was incredibly dominant under Jupp Heynckes, and it would be nice to see it again.
Apart from that, the rest of the lineup either builds itself or is pure conjecture. Here are our best guesses: