They may not currently be the Bundesliga’s No. 1 and No. 2 and there may be a host of big names absent, but Borussia Dortmund versus Bayern Munich remains undeniably Germany’s biggest attraction. The first “Der Klassiker” of the Bundesliga season will take place at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion on Saturday in the midst of a league campaign that has so far proven far more competitive than recent years. While Bayern is a less dominant presence at the top of the league, Dortmund finds itself trailing back in fifth.
Dortmund had a stirring first campaign under the charge of young coach Thomas Tuchel last season to finish second behind Bayern. But with a heavy injury list and the demands of the Champions League Tuchel’s team has won just one of its last five Bundesliga matches and trails Bayern by six points after 10 games.
The injury issues have yet to completely ease, with Marco Reus, Neven Subotic, Sebastian Rode, Erik Durm and Sven Bender, while there is also a doubt over Portugal international Raphael Guerreiro is a major doubt. Tuchel, though, believes a match against Bayern could be the perfect tonic.
"It is a good opportunity for us to surpass ourselves," he said in his pre-match press conference. "It is football, anything is possible. We are going through a phase during which many things simply are not going our way, and there is much we need to work on."
“[It’s] no bad thing in a game against Bayern Munich that we do not simply take to the field in a purely technical or tactical manner. There is a third plane on which we must fight. We need passion, aggression when defending, a proactive attitude, and we must be brave. That is key in this game, and that will get the viewing public on our side. In this way, we will be able to give as good as we get technically and tactically."
Bayern lost its place at the top of the Bundesliga after the season’s surprise package RB Leipzig scored another impressive victory when winning 3-2 at Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night. And manager Carlo Ancelotti now has his own injury problems. Arjen Robben, Javi Martinez and Kingsley Coman are definitely ruled out, while Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa are doubts after returning from international duty in South America.
Ancelotti does, though, have Franck Ribery back available. And he can also count upon a 100 percent record against Dortmund as Bayern coach having guided his team to victory in the German Super Cup at the start of the season.
The former Real Madrid coach suggested he believes his side can take advantage of a Dortmund defense that has conceded twice as many goals as Bayern thus far in the Bundesliga.
"Dortmund have an attacking style with a lot of fast player,” he said. “Sometimes, however, they have defensive problems, which is normal. We just have to play our game. We have many options: 4-3-3 is an option, 4-4-2 is an option, 4-2-3-1 is another. It's important that we show our identity.
"It's easier for the coach to prepare the players for such a game. They're all focused. That's more important than tactics."
Prediction: Three of the last five meetings between these sides have ended in draws. And with injuries on both sides and a sense that neither team may be too disappointed with a point, a draw could be the outcome once again on Saturday.
Predicted Score: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayern Munich