The most hyped game in the Bundesliga is finally here. Borussia Dortmund lock horns with Bayern Munich in their bid to bridge the gap at the top and also to stay a step ahead of Bayer Leverkusen. This week’s fixtures should also see the European and relegation battles continue to intensify.
Injury-plagued Dortmund face rampaging Bayern
This has grown into the most highly awaited fixture in the Bundesliga over the past few seasons thanks to Borussia Dortmund’s ability to go neck and neck with the superstars of Bayern Munich. Despite Bayern’s scintillating form last season, Dortmund managed to hold the Bavarians to two draws in the league and only narrowly lost to them in the three other fixtures between these two sides. Topping all of this off is Dortmund’s 4-2 victory over Bayern in the Super Cup in the season opener.
The major difference between this season and last season is that Borussia Dortmund have struggled to emulate their performances of the previous years following the sale of Mario Götze. Bayern Munich, on the other hand, continue to go about their business of picking up wins without any fuss at all. To add to this, Borussia Dortmund are going to have to contend with a host of injuries ahead of this game.
The controversy surrounding Joachim Löw’s decision to send back a few Bayern Munich players and none of the Borussia Dortmund players ahead of the friendly against England was compounded by the injuries suffered by Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer during Germany’s win over the Three Lions. Add to this the long term injuries to Lukas Piszczek and Neven Subotic, and Jürgen Klopp now has none of his ideal back four to choose from.
Bayern Munich have no such worries since their squad goes as deep as deep can get. With almost two quality player per position, the effects of multiple injuries are barely felt by Pep Guardiola and his side. The only niggling worry for the Spanish tactician might be the absence of the talismanic Franck Ribery, which should ensure that Götze gets the nod. “I’m sure the team can do it without me,” said Ribery.
This game will mark the return of Götze to the club where he grew from a rough diamond to a continental sensation. The Südtribune will thus be out to give the 21-year-old a horrid time on Saturday. This will prove to be a massive test of the youngster’s mettle, the effects of which could work drastically in either way.
Former German international Guido Buchwald puts both sides on level ground. But with all the injuries that Klopp has to deal with and Dortmund’s inefficiency so far, it seems really hard to see the visitors leave without the three points. Going with Buchwald’s 2-2 prediction might not be the safest option.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Großkreutz, Sokratis, Friedrich, Kirch; Bender, Sahin; Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus; Lewandowski
Bayern Munich: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Lahm; Robben, Müller, Kroos, Götze; Mandzukic
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Bayern Munich
Leverkusen travel to Berlin with the hope of keeping pace with the top two
Are Bayer Leverkusen an outside threat to Bayern Munich? Well, they’ve been hugely impressive this season, managing football on three fronts in perfect fashion. Their draw against Bayern earlier this year was proof of their sheer resilience and that has proven to be a trait that helps sides go a long way. With the top two facing off this weekend, Sami Hyypia will know that a win is a must in order to either leapfrog Dortmund or narrow the gap that Bayern have created but has chosen to focus solely on his side’s game this weekend. “I’m not interested in that at the moment as we’ve got to focus on our own performance levels,” said the Leverkusen coach.
Hertha Berlin have been a pleasant surprise since returning to the top flight. Hosting Leverkusen is going to be far from easy but Jos Luhukay’s side has been adamant at home, considering a meager five goals in six games. Hertha are also keenly involved in the battle for European football, one so tight that even a single loss could mean a slip down into mid table obscurity.
The international period might have provided Hertha with a welcome break but it hasn’t pleased Hyypia too much. “A number of our international players have travelled over a thousand kilometres in the past week,” said Hyypia. “That’s not ideal.”
A lot will depend on Leverkusen’s attacking trio. Heung Min Son’s return to form on the last matchday will be most reassuring ahead of this tie, while Steffan Kießling and Sidney Sam will be looking to build on their brilliant form this season. Hertha’s most potent weapon has been Adrian Ramos, while Fabian Lustenberger has been their backbone defensively.
This isn’t going to be an easy trip for Die Werkself but given their quality it’s hard to look past them. Bayern and Dortmund better keep a close watch on Hyypia’s boys.
Hertha Berlin: Kraft; Pekarik, Lustenberger, Langkamp, van den Bergh; Hosogai, Skjelbred; Allagui, Cigerci, Ben Hatira; Ramos
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno; Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch; Bender, Rolfes, Castro; Sam, Kießling, Son
Prediction: Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…
Stuttgart host Borussia Mönchengladbach in the opening fixture this week in what should be a crucial tie in the European battle. Saturday sees relegation candidates Augsburg face off against Hoffenheim, current cellar dwellers Eintracht Braunschweig and Freiburg look to pick up points and crawl out of the dreaded bottom three, Schalke travel to Frankfurt to face off against the Eagles, while Wolfsburg make the trip to Nuremberg hoping to sneak into fourth spot.
Hamburg play hosts to Hannover in the early kickoff on Sunday, while the week’s action is closed by the fixture between Werder Bremen and Mainz.