Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund go head-to-head in what could turn out to be a ‘winner takes all’ affair at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
Only seven matches remain this season and the biggest game of all – Der Klassiker – is fast approaching. Will the result propel Dortmund to just their sixth Bundesliga title or will it help Bayern towards their seventh consecutive?
Each side has plenty of quality, but there are a few areas of the pitch where the 100th rendition of the fixture could be won or lost. Free Super Tips takes a look at the key Klassiker battles that could prove pivotal…
Jadon Sancho vs David Alaba
Jadon Sancho is without a doubt Dortmund’s most direct attacking threat. The English teenager has shown a willingness to run at defenders with confidence far beyond his age, and that approach has been working well enough for him so far. He’s tallied 8 goals and a league-leading 13 assists from 26 appearances – in fact, no one in Europe’s top five leagues has more assists than him across all competitions – which was enough to earn him his first competitive start for England over the last international break.
His self-belief to continue taking on players, even when the first few attempts don’t go his way, make his head-to-head with Bayern’s David Alaba an interesting prospect. Alaba has been one of the highest rated left-backs in football for a number of years and his physical attributes are similar to the man he’ll be up against. Can Alaba push Sancho back and limit his impact on the match? This battle will be key in influencing the ways in which Dortmund may be able to break through the Bayern back line.
Robert Lewandowski vs Manuel Akanji
Dortmund’s goals might often come from multiple sources, but Bayern’s flow via the usual channel of Robert Lewandowski. The Poland international, a three-time winner of the Bundesliga Golden Boot, once again sits atop all the charts with 19 goals so far this season. He recently became the highest-scoring non-German player in Bundesliga history – he boasts 199 goals and counting – and regularly torments his former-club – he’s netted a whopping 14 goals in 16 appearances against Dortmund.
How do you stop a player like Lewandowski? That’s a question for Dortmund centre back Manuel Akanji. Since joining the club from FC Basel in January 2018, the Swiss international has become the cornerstone of the Dortmund defence. Lewandowski needs just one more Bundesliga goal against Der BVB to join Gerd Muller as the all-time leading Klassiker scorer (14). Will Akanji be able to show the concentration and awareness needed to keep the Pole from reaching that target or will Dortmund fans once again be left cursing their former-man?
Marco Reus vs Joshua Kimmich
If someone asked you who has been Dortmund’s most important figure this season, you’d almost certainly end up saying Marco Reus. Born and bred in the city, he’s been living his dream as club-captain of the side he grew up supporting for a few years now. Reus is Borussia Dortmund. His presence (or absence) is often reflected in their results and his on-pitch contributions this season show why. The German forward has tallied 15 goals so far this season – his highest total since 2013/14 – and just under half as many assists.
Stop Reus and you’re most the way towards stopping Dortmund. That huge task falls to Joshua Kimmich on the right-hand side of Bayern’s defense. Kimmich hasn’t been quite been at his best since a disappointing World Cup last summer, but he’s not unfamiliar with big occasions. He has been a staple in the Bavarians’ starting line up since 2015, over which he’s amassed three Bundesliga titles and a DFB Pokal. Will a strong run of defensive form at the Allianz Arena in the league help him shut out an in-form Marco Reus?
James Rodriguez vs Alex Witsel
Real Madrid-loanee James Rodriguez is probably Bayern’s most-talented player. You could argue he’s unequalled in the Bundesliga in terms of his quality on the ball, the way he finds passes in ways other players can’t. One need only look back over his recent outings at the Allianz Arena to see why; his switches of play and crossing are pinpoint, and his movement consistently causes problems – he took out the entire Mainz defense cutting across the edge of the box to score Bayern’s fourth last time out at home (one of two he scored in that game).
As the man protecting the back four, Dortmund’s Axel Witsel has the tricky task of marshalling James. Bayern will likely take the lion’s share of possession, with Witsel having to defend deep in his own half. That could work to his advantage as the space in which James can operate would be restricted. However, the Colombian is more than capable of finding unmarked territory from where he can cause problems, which could give Witsel, a positionally disciplined player, some headaches. It should be one of many fascinating duels in this potential title-decider.
Paco Alcacer vs Jerome Boateng
Borussia Dortmund might no longer be the top scoring team in the Bundesliga, but they do boast the most individual goalscorers (18) – only defenders Toprak and Schmelzer and goalkeepers Burki and Hitz are yet to find the back of the net among players within the squad to have played at least one minute. Dortmund’s main threat up front, however, has been wonder-signing Paco Alcacer, who took the Bundesliga by storm when he joined the club last August. Highlights include scoring the winner in the reverse fixture and also setting the record for most goals scored by a substitute in a single campaign.
Jerome Boateng will be the defender focused on stopping the in-form Spaniard (16 goals total). Unlike his BVB counterparts, whose main focus will be on Robert Lewandowski, Boateng will have to make sure Reus and Sancho don’t end up drifting through the lines either. Alcacer’s ability to strike from anywhere adds another dimension to Dortmund’s goal threat and it does give them some advantage in that regard. All eyes will be on them as they look to hold their spot atop the table, whether that be through a win or a draw, and this duel could be key to seeing Dortmund bring the title back to the league’s founding city.