It's time for the big one — Bayern Munich versus Borussia Dortmund. We don't usually get Klassikers with actual stakes anymore these days, but for once it's different. Just two points separate these two teams at the top of the table, so this is a game that could decide the season.
So, with that in mind, how is coach Niko Kovac likely to approach the game? Let's take a look.
Let's start with injuries. Arjen Robben and Alphonso Davies are sure to miss the game, but thankfully they seem to be the only ones thus far. Both Manuel Neuer and David Alaba are back in team training and should be ready to start, but James Rodriguez remains doubtful due to a small adductor problem that surfaced during HT against Heidenheim in midweek.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the lineup. Robert Lewandowski is certain to be the man starting up top, and, for once, he may get adequate support on the flanks. That's because Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are both fit (as far as we know) and should be ready to start. Having Coman will be a huge boost for Bayern, since he missed the game in the Hinrunde due to an ankle injury.
With James Rodriguez doubtful, Thomas Muller is the most likely man to start behind the striker. He's probably the best choice for the role regardless, as without him it's easy for opposition defenders to isolate and nullify the threat of Robert Lewandowski.
The midfield configuration is interesting to ponder. Thiago Alcantara, who was badly missed in Bayern's 3-2 loss in the Hinrunde, is certainly going to be a starter — the Spaniard will be crucial in the midfield battle against Axel Witsel. The question is who will pair up alongside him.
Corentin Tolisso hasn't played in over six months, so we can safely rule out him making his comeback in a game this huge. Renato Sanches, meanwhile, clearly doesn't have the backing of his manager to start a big game, and he probably isn't ready for it to begin with. That leaves Javi Martinez and Leon Goretzka, both of whom are extremely different in terms skillsets.
Javi is a more traditional defensive midfielder, and he could be useful for limiting the BVB offense, especially if Marco Reus ends up playing centrally. Goretzka meanwhile is more of a box-to-box midfielder, and his presence in the box provides a tertiary scoring threat in addition to Mullendowski. He is also much faster than Javi, which might prove important against a pacey team like Dortmund. However, considering how awful Bayern's defense looked against Heidenheim, we think Kovac will prefer Javi Martinez in midfield, just to shore things up at the back.
In contrast to the midfield, Bayern's defense is practically set in stone. We will likely see a back line of David Alaba, Mats Hummels, Niklas Sule, and Joshua Kimmich, with Manuel Neuer in goal. A very familiar setup.
Without further ado, here's how we think Bayern Munich will line up against Borussia Dortmund: