Some of the shine may have been taken off Germany’s Der Klassiker, but Saturday’s clash at the Westfalenstadion retains much importance for both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. Having been the two leading rivals for Bundesliga glory over the past four years, and just two years ago fighting it out for the Champions League title, Dortmund have fallen back alarmingly this season and go into Saturday’s match nine places and 31 points behind Bayern.
It appeared at the halfway point of the season that things could be even worse for Jurgen Klopp’s men. Improved form since the winter break has alleviated fears of a disastrous relegation, but they haven’t been able to go on the faultless run that was required to claw their way back into Champions League qualification. Still, there remains a target to rise from their current 10th position and salvage something from the season by claiming a place in the Europa League. And, despite their struggles this campaign, Klopp remains hopeful that his team can pose Bayern the same problems as they did when winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles between 2011 and 2013.
“We don’t think that we are at the same level as Bayern,” Klopp said, according to Dortmund’s official website. “But we have also never thought that we don’t have a chance. That is the same case this time, even though we are 10th, even though the gap in points in the table is huge, even though a lot is different than it was in the past. It is a home game and that is something that we have generally always taken advantage of before. We don’t want to talk too much and instead we want to play a good game and we will take from this what we have deserved.”
For Bayern the objective is to move a step closer to winning their third successive Bundesliga title. But the match will also be of added importance, with coach Pep Guardiola doubtless eager for his team to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladach before the international break.
Still, the champions’ lead at the top of the table remains 10 points over Wolfsburg, with just eight matches remaining. And likely a bigger concern than defeat last time out will be a worsening of Bayern’s injury problems. Having lost Arjen Robben to a strained abdominal muscle against Gladbach, David Alaba tore a ligament in his left knee while playing for Austria and could now miss the rest of the season, while Franck Ribery will also miss the clash with Dortmund as the French winger battles a persistent ankle problem. After coming on as a substitute in Bayern’s last two outings, though, Philipp Lahm could be in line to make his first start since last November.
Bayern will also be able to call on two men all-too familiar to Dortmund fans: Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski. Gotze scored on his first trip back to the Westfalenstadion with Bayern last season, and Lewandowski insisted he would also be putting sentiment aside on his first return.
“I had four good and successful years with Dortmund and I still keep in touch with my former teammates,” he said, reports Bayern Munich’s official website. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going there to give it everything and come away with all three points if possible.”
Prediction: Defeat to Gladbach as well as a 4-1 reversal to Wolfsburg two months ago could ultimately prove beneficial to Bayern. It was at this stage last season that Bayern wrapped up the Bundesliga title, and their intensity tailed off, culminating in an emphatic Champions League semifinal defeat to Real Madrid. The loss of Robben is a significant blow, with his directness so often a necessary compliment to Bayern’s short-passing play. Yet, while Dortmund have also picked up of late, they are some way short of the level they were at two years ago. A fired up Bayern should pick up a win.
Predicted score: Bayern Munich over Borussia Dortmund, 2-1
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: GolTV
Live stream: Fubo TV