This Saturday will see Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund meet for the 100th time. Commonly known as Der Klassiker, the game will be pivotal as both teams fight for the Meisterschale. Entering with a two-point lead, Dortmund have the opportunity to extend their lead at the top. Bayern, on the other hand, nees to win after losing the reverse fixture earlier this season. Sure to be an entertaining game, both teams come in knowing this game could be the difference between winning and losing a title come season end.
Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund Preview
Expected to deploy an attacking 4-3-3, Bayern will look to attack in what is a must-win game. The reverse fixture saw Bayern lose, playing a conservative 4-2-3-1. Recently switching to a 4-3-3, manager Niko Kovač has seen his team improve on the pitch. In games using the 4-3-3, Bayern have won four out of five games since the winter break. Scoring 14 goals in those five games, it’s likely we’ll see Kovač use the formation on Saturday. Coming in, Bayern will be without some key players. Arjen Robben and Corentin Tolisso are both out. Two key doubts for Saturday’s game are Manuel Neuer and David Alaba. Both players have missed the team’s last two games. In their place, Bayern will likely start Sven Ulreich in goal and the experienced Rafinha at left-back.
Expected to deploy their usual 4-2-3-1, Dortmund enter Saturday’s game as underdogs. Winning the reverse fixture at home, Lucien Favre’s team will come in knowing a draw will be a good result. February was a bad month for Dortmund. Winning just one game all month, Favre made changes, hoping the team’s form would improve. Experimenting with a 4-1-4-1, Favre used Axel Witsel as his midfield anchor, a move which worked well. The 4-1-4-1 is an option on Saturday, but the 4-2-3-1 is still Favre’s preferred formation. The big question every Dortmund matchday is whether or not Marco Reus is playing. The Dortmund captain is expected to play, just one week after becoming a father for the first time. Favre will be without Achraf Hakimi (metatarsal) and Christian Pulisic (thigh). Abdou Diallo and Łukasz Piszczek are both doubts for Saturday’s game.
The battle of the managers will play a huge role this weekend. Kovač, the more conservative manager, needs to take more risks, especially in a must-win game. His approach could be the difference between winning and losing, as we saw in the Champions League game against Liverpool. Favre knows he doesn’t need to win to walk away with a positive result. Beating Kovač earlier this season, Favre is under less pressure to produce a win. Due to injuries, Dortmund will likely start two makeshift full-backs. Marius Wolf will start on the right, defending Kingsley Coman, a match-up Favre will watch nervously. On the left, Favre will either start Abdou Diallo, if he’s fit, or Raphaël Guerreiro. Neither player likes to play the position, as Bayern’s Serge Gnabry prepares to go up against an uncomfortable opponent.
The middle of the pitch is sure to be battle as some of the league’s best players will face each other. Marco Reus will hope to play a key role once again, after scoring a brace in the reverse fixture. Set to be marked by Javi Martinez, the Spaniard has been arguably Bayern’s best defensive player since the winter break ended. A good matchup, Bayern will likely support Martinez by bringing more than one player to Reus in an attempt to slow him down. Dortmund will do the same to one of Bayern’s key players. Axel Witsel will be tasked with marking the inform James Rodriguez. Along with Thomas Delaney, Dortmund’s midfield duo must contain the Colombian. Scoring three goals in his last three league games, Rodriguez will look to carry his good form into this weekends game.
Saturday’s game is sure to be entertaining and open. The winner will be top of the table on Sunday morning, as the most competitive title race in years continues. Both managers have injuries to deal with, making the game even more unpredictable. Ultimately, it’s all on Kovač. Just like the second leg against Liverpool, his approach will be the difference. This Bayern team has the talent to beat anyone at home, but the manager’s willingness to attack and take a risk in a big game is the difference between picking up all three points and not. Bayern enters as favourites, but with their injuries and managerial approach, a win won’t be easy. Dortmund will be an aggressive, confident opponent, as Favre wants to make life as difficult as possible for Bayern. When you have a Bayern team with home field advantage and a Dortmund team hoping to avoid defeat, the likely outcome is a score draw.