Borussia Dortmund will have to cope with a defensive injury crisis if they are to close the gap on Bayern Munich when the two sides meet at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday. With right-back Lukas Piszczek having been absent all season, Neven Subotic was ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a knee injury suffered in a defeat to Wolfsburg last time out. Those issues have been compounded with both Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer going down while on international duty with Germany. For their biggest match of the season to date, Dortmund will be without their entire first-choice back four.
The situation led to manager Jurgen Klopp bringing in veteran free agent Manuel Friedrich and the former Germany international could be forced to go straight into the starting lineup alongside summer signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Erik Durm looks set to come into the side at left-back, with Kevin Grosskreutz continuing to fill in on the right.
Klopp is fully aware of the task that awaits his remaining healthy players against the Bundesliga title holders.
“In life you want things to run smoothly,” he said, according to Dortmund’s official website. “Now it’s all about how we respond to it. We will need to produce something special in a difficult situation. We still have huge quality.”
Dortmund, who will also again be missing Ilkay Gundogan, lie four points behind leaders Bayern following their 2-1 reversal at Wolfsburg. The Bavarians, meanwhile, have been progressing serenely under the charge of Pep Guardiola. Their only defeat this season was to Dortmund in the Super Cup in August and since then they have won 18 matches and drawn two in all competitions.
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As they look to extend their Bundesliga lead to what could already prove to be a decisive seven points, Guardiola too has fitness concerns. Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger have recently joined an injury list that already included Xherdan Shaqiri, Holger Badstuber and Claudio Pizarro. Still, as with his counterpart, Guardiola was keen to focus on the players he still has at his disposal.
"I hate excuses," he said, according to Bundesliga.com. "I have said very often that injuries are no excuses. I'm sorry for the injured players, of course, but other players have a lot of experience too."
Of course, Guardiola is blessed with a far stronger squad than Klopp. One of the players that he can still call upon, and likely will do given Ribery’s absence, is former Dortmund idol Mario Gotze. The attacking midfielder is sure to get a hostile reception on his first return to the Westfalenstadion since his shock move.
The rivalry between the two German heavyweights now brings about comparisons with the Clasico in Spain. Guardiola has much experience of those clashes as a former Barcelona boss and he believes that Dortmund pose a bigger threat on the break than Real Madrid.
“If I were to compare, then I would have to say that Dortmund are a better counterattacking side than Real Madrid," he explained. "And Jürgen Klopp is one of the best coaches in the world. We're going to need a lot of courage."
Borussia Dortmund (probable)
D: Grosskreutz, Sokratis, Friedrich, Durm
M: Bender, Sahin
Blaszczykowski, Mkhitaryan, Reus
Bayern Munich (probable)
D: Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba
Robben, Muller, Kroos, Gotze
Where to watch: Der Klassiker will kick off at 12:30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by GolTV. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.