Ordinarily, even without Bundesliga title implications or associated sub-plots, d]Der Klassiker is a matchup that needs no introduction in German football. However, tomorrow’s clash between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich bears a great deal of significance. The reigning Bundesliga champions are only a mere point above Dortmund at the top of the table, so a win for either side could either see Dortmund leapfrog to the top spot, or further cement Bayern in pole position. Bayern is still without midfield stalwart Joshua Kimmich, while Dortmund has just welcomed back Erling Haaland, but both sides are coming off of wins last weekend.
Both Bayern and Dortmund have shown defensive frailties and with the top class strikers in Haaland and Robert Lewandowski that they posses, the danger is always there. For the first time since the end of October, though, Bayern did keep a clean sheet last weekend against Arminia Bielefeld.
In a newsletter to Bayern fans earlier this week, Thomas Muller promised an intense effort from Julian Nagelsmann’s side and said they are well poised to take care of business in North-Rhine Westphalia. “Dortmund is by far our closest pursuer, so the match is a defining and trend-setting moment. Looking at the table, in particular, this is about much more than ‘just’ prestige,” the Raumdeuter wrote (Tz).
With so many players recently sidelined due to coronavirus-related quarantine measures, Nagelsmann had a razor thin squad, who’s problems were highlighted in the 2-1 loss at Augsburg two weeks ago. “The defeat against Augsburg was very annoying. We just didn’t deserve it either,” Muller vented of the loss to Bayern’s Bavarian rivals, but he feels his side showed a “positive response” with wins against Dynamo Kyiv (Champions League) and Bielefeld.
Muller is absolutely no stranger to playing in Der Klassiker, as he’s already played in 12 of them during his professional career at Bayern. He’s very well aware of Bayern’s necessity and ability to turn in a stellar performance against their bitter rivals and recent history has shown that it’s exactly what we can expect. “As a team, we could and can always rely on delivering a top performance to the point in these top games against Dortmund.” Bayern has won the last five matches against Dortmund, outscoring them 14-7.
Bayern welcomed back Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, and Niklas Sule last weekend against Bielefeld after they were in quarantine. Joshua Kimmich is still out, but having the trio of players back is an added boost for Bayern ahead of Der Klassiker. “Before the hit against Dortmund we can draw more from our full staff again,” Muller said of having those players back.
Bayern will have also had a full week of preparation for the Dortmund clash, without having a midweek fixture for the first time in what feels like a long while, especially with the two international breaks earlier this season. Nagelsmann and his coaching staff have had plenty of time to work on tactics specifically tailored to Dortmund and Muller feels that the full week of training has been highly beneficial. “Because there is no game during the week, we can prepare even more intensively for the game. It starts with the tactics that our trainer and his team prepare. This is also about predicting the opponent’s style of play as well as possible. In fact, it is easier for teams that are in good shape because there are often clearer structures and fewer rotations are to be expected. We have a lot of experience with Dortmund and can therefore pick up on many starting points from the past. For example, I’ve been on the football pitch with Mats Hummels for 15 years. That’s why my assessment: The signs are pointing to victory,” he wrote.