The return of domestic football sees a cracker in the German Bundesliga on Saturday with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich clashing in the world famous derby dubbed ‘Der Klassiker’. It’s the ultimate heavyweight Bundesliga duel of recent years, featuring the clubs who have carved up the last five league titles and last three German Cups between them, as well as contesting the 2013 UEFA Champions League final. Bayern sit 10 points clear at the top of the table while Dortmund lie in mid-table obscurity after a horrendous start to the season. However, come Saturday, the form book will be thrown out the window when these two sides battle for bragging rights in Germany. The return of former Dortmund stars Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski will add some extra spice to this already heated encounter.
A recent revival has left Jurgen Klopp’s side in 10th place but they have fought relegation, rather than contended for the title with Bayern, for most of the campaign thus far. Dortmund bounced back from their disappointing UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Juventus with a narrow 3-2 win away to ten-man Hannover last time out. It should never have been such a closely contested affair with the hosts playing with a man less from the 55th minute, but in the end Dortmund snuck through thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a Shinji Kagawa strike. That result stretched their excellent Bundesliga form to seven matches unbeaten of which they have won five. Dortmund’s top goalscorer this season is the speedy Aubameyang. Despite the club’s wavy form of late, the Gabon striker has continued to offer a genuine line to goal through his incredible pace and acceleration. His pace on and off the ball could see him beating Bayern’s high line of defence and creating clear cut scoring opportunities. Marco Reus is undoubtedly the BVB’s best and most influential player. Most of Dortmund’s horrors this season can come down to the fact that the German attacker was out injured for a large chunk of the season. Since his return, Dortmund look rejuvenated with their key man running at opposition and creating space for his teammates.
There is much at stake for Pep Guardiola and his Bayern Munich team, with their 2-0 defeat at home to Borussia Monchengladbach putting considerable pressure for them to bounce back in an emphatic fashion. It was only their second loss of the league season from 26 matches and their first loss at the Allianz Arena. Bayern will no doubt defend their title, however, they won’t be their buoyant selves coming into this mammoth clash. Both star wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery look set to sit this match out with injury. Ribery is facing a race against time to be fit for this match after only returning to train with the team this week while Robben has been ruled out for several more weeks. Ribery suffered an ankle injury in Bayern’s 7-0 Champions League victory over Shakthar Donetsk early last month. The 31-year-old has struggled with injuries throughout the campaign, starting only nine Bundesliga games. Robben’s absence will be arguably a bigger blow to Bayern and finding a replacement to do his job will be Guardiola’s main priority going into this match. No club has conceded more goals to Robben than Dortmund. The Dutchman has scored nine goals and provided five assists in 16 games against Dortmund over the course of his career. Bayern’s performances have dipped when he has been absent this season. Robben has missed seven games in the Bundesliga with Bayern scoring just 10 goals in those games at a rate of 1.41 per game, with three draws and a loss coming from the matches. But, when Robben has been involved it’s been a different story with the German champions scoring 63 goals in 21 games at a rate of three goals per game. He is their top scorer with 17 goals this season, a personal Bundesliga record for the 31 year-old.
Weidenfeller; Kirch, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Sahin, Gundogan; Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Reus; Aubameyang
Bayern Munich: 4-1-4-1
Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Badstuber, Alaba; Alonso; Muller, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Gotze; Lewandowski
The fact that these teams will be playing this derby without any effect on the title race should not deter them to come out all guns blazing. Dortmund’s back-to-back title success in 2011 and 2012, the latter topped off with a 5-2 thumping of Bayern in the German Cup final, are still a source of background annoyance to the all-conquering Munich outfit. Their acquisition, in turn, of Dortmund stars Gotze in 2013 and Lewandowski last year, will not be forgotten any time soon by the BVB fans. Despite their strong campaign, Bayern have struggled against the Bundesliga’s biggest teams this season, with an uncharacteristically low nine points coming from their five outings with teams in the top five this season. Robben missed two of those big games earlier in the season, with Schalke and Monchengladbach unlucky to take just a single point in his absence. They have met twice at the Iduna Park Stadium this season with Dortmund winning 2-0 in the Super Cup and then drawing in the DFB (Cup) encounter. Without ‘Robbery’ Bayern’s attack does not look any stronger than Dortmund’s. The likes of Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Reus and Aubameyang are tipped to give Bayern many problems and spur the home team to victory.