Klassiker clashes between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund rarely need extra hype.
But Saturday’s long-awaited meeting at the Allianz Arena comes with several side intrigues.
The two rivals are separated by just one point at the top of the Bundesliga table with Dortmund desperate to crush Bayern’s decade-long stranglehold on the title that has dogged them since the winter break.
Then we have newly installed Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel taking on his former employers in his first game in charge after succeeding the sacked Julian Nagelsmann.
Tuchel spoke about the way he was sacked from Chelsea before the game, but insisted that he is fully focused on getting off to a perfect start as Bayern manager.
Borussia Dortmund are the Bundesliga leaders and the in-form team in Germany when they head to the Allianz Arena this Saturday night for the Klassiker with Bayern Munich.
Bayern haven’t always had their best performance, but they’re still on the hunt for three trophies
There is a proper title race at last in Germany with Dortmund within one point of the champions.
Saturday night’s result won’t decide the championship outcome, but a Dortmund win would not only give them a four-point lead, it would be a massive statement that a changing of the guard in German football is imminent.
Having exited the Champions League against Chelsea, Dortmund have fewer games and distractions than Bayern in the run up to their quest for a first Bundesliga title since the Jurgen Klopp era in 2012.
Bayern have met Manchester City in a delightful European quarter-final and hope that the intelligence of Tuchel, who led Chelsea to glory just two years ago, can see them through to the end.
But the additional five matches they would have to complete from here are all demanding and will consume precious energy.
Dortmund’s loss at Stamford Bridge was their only setback since the German season resumed in late January after the World Cup and the traditional winter break.
They have won nine of 10 league games, racking up 10 more points in that period than a stuttering Bayern to rise from sixth to first.
The goals have been flowing for Edin Terzic’s side, who have averaged three per game in the league since the turn of the year, with Sebastien Haller, Donyell Malen and Marco Reus all pleasingly in goal in their most recent 6-1 win. about Cologne. .
For now, a certain Jude Bellingham remains his top scorer this season with 10 goals and the English midfielder’s stock rises with each passing weekend.
Thomas Tuchel is the new manager of Bayern after the dismissal of Julian Nagelsmann
Tuchel knows everything about Borussia Dortmund, as he coached it between 2015 and 2017
His attacking contributions for club and country may be more pleasing to look at, but Bellingham has actually won more singles challenges in the Bundesliga (380) this season than any other player.
However, Bellingham’s industry in midfield is just the beginning of Dortmund’s resilience. Nico Schlotterbeck has won a higher percentage of duels (68.2) than anyone this season and Terzic’s men have accumulated 49 yellow cards.
Edin Terzic has put Dortmund within arm’s reach of their first Bundesliga title since Jurgen Klopp was manager
With Emre Can also finding good form (and back from a one-match suspension), Dortmund certainly won’t be under pressure at the Allianz Arena like so many times in the past.
They also have a quality force in depth, who are maintaining their title drive. Dortmund’s substitutes have contributed 10 goals so far this season, an absolutely essential quality for any title winner.
“We have the chance to make a statement,” Terzic said before the game. ‘Both for us and for the competition in the title race.
We can take the energy that we have worked on over the last few weeks and months to create a feeling of being there for each other.
“We have to be brave to take our chances and show a different face than we have in recent years in Munich.”
Terzic alludes to something deeply marked by Dortmund. Title aspirations have been brutally extinguished in Bavaria many times: the last meetings there in the league ended 3-1, 4-2, 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, 4-1 and 5-1 in the Bayern. favor.
Klopp guided Dortmund to their last Bundesliga success in 2012, but Bayern have lifted the trophy for 10 consecutive seasons.
Nagelsmann guided Bayern to title success last season, but his dominance is under threat
If Dortmund can overcome the psychological hurdle that is hampering them so much at the Allianz Arena, they may have a chance of success.
Terzic admitted that Nagelsmann’s departure and Tuchel’s arrival had hampered his preparations.
“We just don’t know to what extent Thomas Tuchel will build on the way Julian Nagelsmann has played in recent weeks, or if he will have completely new ideas,” he said.
We won’t know until kick-off, but Bayern will always be Bayern. Despite the departure of top scorer Robert Lewandowski last summer, they have had no trouble finding the net this season.
They have scored 72 Bundesliga goals so far, considerably more than anyone else, with Jamal Musiala, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry and others posing a major attacking threat.
Jude Bellingham and Emre Can celebrate a Dortmund goal in their recent derby with Schalke
Bayern’s Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (right) celebrates with Jamal Musiala and Leon Goretzka
It’s also the yin and yang, as Bayern also have the worst defense in the division, with just 27 goals conceded in 25 games (and they think that’s too much).
They have seemed prone to mistakes at times, but Dayot Upamecano, Matthijs de Ligt, Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies aren’t exactly a bad backline.
Tuchel specializes in creating teams that are difficult to break through and does so through three central defenders with a holding midfielder, allowing full-backs to move forward.
It is something that Nagelsmann had begun to implement in the last weeks of his reign. In the recent loss to Bayer Leverkusen, for example, Joao Cancelo was pushed forward on the right flank, with Leroy Sane playing the same role on the left.
Davies could do that job well, of course, and Kingsley Coman played on the right side in the Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Bayern also have top-class midfielders Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka to offer security for defenders.
They rarely lose at home, too. It’s 20 Bundesliga home games and 13 months since Bayern were outclassed on their home turf.
Tuchel knows the Bayern mentality and said all the right things in his press conference on Friday.
Bayern took a two-goal lead in the reverse fixture at the Westfalenstadion in October
Dortmund came from behind to earn a point, however, with Anthony Modeste (left) equalizing
“When you arrive at Bayern Munich in April and you’re one point off the lead and in two quarter-finals, you want all the titles, that’s the focus,” he said.
“We want a certain style of play, of course. But we have the opportunity to get three titles, and we will fight for them.”
With the oodles of title-winning know-how in the dressing room now married to a former Champions League-winning boss, Bayern could well achieve just that.
But there is real steel about Dortmund at the moment and they are the fit team here. With the championship race on a razor’s edge, this could easily be the best Klassiker for many years to come.