The Bundesliga fans will brace themselves for one of the most important matches of the season as Bayern Munich host Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker on Saturday.
It has been quite a month for Bayern Munich so far. The Bavarians first slumped to a horrendous 5-1 defeat at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt, which resulted in the departure of coach Niko Kovac. And while the club is actively searching for a viable replacement, interim coach Hans-Dieter Flick helped them secure a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Olympiacos in the Champions League in midweek.
Yet, the Bundesliga champions will have a humongous task ahead of them, having accumulated just 18 points from their ten matches. They are, in fact, trailing league leaders Borussia Monchengladbach by four points. And caretaker manager Flick will face his first real hurdle as Bayern take on Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
The Black and Yellows, contrary to Bayern, have enjoyed an excellent start to the month, beginning with a 3-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg. It was followed by an incredible second-half turnaround against Inter Milan that saw them register a 3-2 victory after initially conceding two goals inside the first half.
Dortmund are currently second in the league table, trailing Gladbach by three points. And though their chances of overtaking the Foals are pretty slim, a win against Bayern could go a long way in helping them recover from a poor start to the campaign.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of the highly anticipated Der Klassiker at the Allianz Arena this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Bayern Munich will be missing out on the services of Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez this weekend. Both the defenders are ruled out due to their long-term injuries while Jerome Boateng is suspended following his early red card against Eintracht Frankfurt.
That means Flick will be facing a crisis in the defensive department and will be forced to deploy David Alaba and Javi Martinez in central defence once again. The 54-year-old did confirm in the press conference that Alphonso Davies will start. The Canadian, therefore, will occupy the left-back role, with Benjamin Pavard operating on the opposite flank.
Flick’s conservative views on the Bayern team could once again see Philippe Coutinho and Thiago Alcantara starting on the bench, paving the way for Thomas Muller to operate as the Ramdeuter – just in behind the central striker Robert Lewandowski.
Muller could be partnered by the wide-duo of Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, both of whom will look to take advantage of Dortmund’s defensive weakness on the flanks. But, it is equally important that they provide defensive cover to the full-backs, especially Coman as the Frenchman could be playing alongside the attack-minded Davies.
In midfield, Joshua Kimmich will retain his role as the defensive midfielder. His composure and ball distribution will be key as Bayern look to dominate possession. The ex-Stuttgart sensation will be partnered by Leon Goretzka in the double-pivot.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Martinez, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski
Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre could be missing out on two of his trump cards in Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho. Both of them are doubts heading into this fixture, and it’s still unclear as to whether or not they will be fit to make the squad on Saturday.
Favre must have prepped for the contingency plans and fortunately for the Swiss, he has certain players at his disposal who are more than capable of filling the void. Julian Brandt, in particular, has starred for Dortmund in the past two matches and is a sure-fire starter in this fixture.
The ex-Leverkusen star may operate on the left-wing, with Thorgan Hazard likely to deputise for Sancho on the opposite flank. Reus, meanwhile, could be deputised for by his pal Mario Gotze, in case the German international fails to return to full fitness. The Schwarzgelben attack will be led by Paco Alcacer, who is poised to start after returning to full fitness last month.
In midfield, Favre could prefer Julian Weigl ahead of Thomas Delaney, though it’s very hard to predict as both of these midfielders have appeared inconsistent. Same can be said for Axel Witsel as well, but we expect the Belgian’s leadership and composure will be paramount in dealing with Bayern’s quality in the middle.
And finally, in defence, Favre could persist with Lukasz Piszczek and Achraf Hakimi as full-backs while the central defensive slots will be occupied by Manuel Akanji and the experienced Mats Hummels. As for Roman Burki, he is likely to retain his place in goal, with Marwin Hitz suffering from a back problem.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Burki; Piszczek, Akanji, Hummels, Hakimi; Weigl, Witsel; Hazard, Gotze, Brandt; Paco Alcacer
- Robert Lewandowski is the first player in Bundesliga history to score a goal on each of the first ten matchdays of a season, bagging 14 in total. The record after Matchday 11 is 15 from Gerd Müller in 1968-69.
- Bayern have won each of their last five Bundesliga home games against Dortmund. The record champions have scored at least four goals in each of the last four.
- The Munich club have already conceded 16 league goals this season, which is the most after ten games since 2008-09 under Jürgen Klinsmann (also 16).
- Marco Reus has ten goals and six assists in 25 competitive matches against Bayern. No player has scored more Bundesliga goals against Manuel Neuer than the BVB captain (six).
- Borussia have kept clean sheets in their last three Bundesliga games for the first time since August/September 2017.
Player to Watch
It is going to be an important game for Hummels as the Dortmund defender prepares to face Bayern Munich for the first time after returning to Ruhrpott. He missed the DFL Supercup with an injury earlier in the season but will be desperate to prove himself in front of the Bayern supporters.
The defender has already opened up on how Dortmund had the belief necessary to have achieved that turnaround against Inter and that should give them the ideal boost they need ahead of their travel to Allianz Arena. But in fairness, it’s the leadership of Hummels at the back that should pretty much dictate the fate of the visitors, especially with Reus likely to remain on the sidelines.
Bayern Munich 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
It is going to be a tricky game to predict as past records do not matter at all. These two sides are evenly matched, with Dortmund lacking fuel in attack while Bayern have three of their premier defenders ruled out.
The Black and Yellows do have the edge as they will have a more fierce mentality after that win against Inter. And with the hosts recently undergoing a managerial change, it’s going to be tough for the players to adapt to Flick’s new setup. Hence, we expect Dortmund to seal a narrow victory.