Ahead of quarterfinals of the Champions League, Borussia Dortmund must first travel to Bavaria to take on the Bundesliga leaders, Bayern Munich.
A match-up between Germany’s two biggest clubs is always intriguing, but this episode of ‘Der Klassiker’ has less meaning than usual. Both teams are more or less content with their league position and have more important matches on the horizon, as Bayern face Real Madrid in the upcoming week.
While Dortmund sit in fourth, lower than manager Thomas Tuchel and co. might like, the black and yellows have opened up a sizeable 10-point gap between themselves and fifth-place teams, Hertha Berlin and FC Cologne. Hoffenheim remain one point above Dortmund, but even if they extend their lead to four after the weekend, the Sinsheim club are still within reach for Dortmund, considering Julian Nagelsmann’s team will make a trip to Dortmund in early May.
Last week, Tuchel expressed frustration at the fact that nearly every game in April for Dortmund has importance, making it harder for players returning to fitness to get acclimated in the line-up again. This game could prove to be no different considering the opponent, so it’s unlikely for Marco Reus or Sven Bender to see much action despite nearing fitness. On top of this, Andre Schürrle remains injured as well, forcing Tuchel to rely the youngsters Ousmane Dembélé, Emre Mor, and Christian Pulisic.
It’s tough to say if Tuchel will take this game completely seriously, but one wouldn’t bet against him to field a strong team despite Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa also being ruled out due to injury alongside Erik Durm. Nuri Sahin returned to the pitch against Hamburg, coming on for Weigl in the 78th minute, and Tuchel confirmed in his press conference Friday morning that Sahin is fit. There’s a possibility that Tuchel hands Sahin the start in Weigl’s absence. Sebastian Rode, who has been out for a few months due to a leg injury, is available as well.
Dembélé has also started the previous two games for Dortmund, on top of his call-up to the French national team. His replacement would likely be Pulisic, who has surprisingly been on the bench the past two games. The 18-year-old American was in fine form before the international break, but his drop to the bench is likely more of a testament to the form of Shinji Kagawa than any wrongdoing on Pulisic’s behalf.
The Japanese international has been on fire ever since returning to the starting line-up in Dortmund’s loss to Hertha in March. He’s enjoying his best spell of football for over the past year, maybe even longer. Unfortunately for BVB, he’s stayed back in Dortmund, as it might not make the most sense to risk him ahead of the first leg of the Champions League Quarterfinal against Monaco.
Dortmund will be boosted by the return of centre-back Sokratis and left-back Marcel Schmelzer. The former missed out on Tuesday against Hamburg serving his one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, while Schmelzer sat out after sustaining an injury during the Revierderby. However, Tuchel reported Marc Bartra and Lukasz Piszczek to both be doubtful for ‘Der Klassiker’, making his preferred back three formation very unlikely. Felix Passlack could come in for Piszczek on the right, with Durm still out. Passlack struggled against Schalke in his return to the starting eleven, but came off the bench against Hamburg, a sign Tuchel still has faith in the 18-year-old.
If Dortmund were to field a back three, Bender would likely have to make just his second appearance of the season after extensive injury problems.
On the Bavarian side of things, the leaders are coming off just their second loss of the Bundesliga campaign, losing on the road to Hoffenheim 1-0. Without midfield star Thiago Alcantara, Bayern looked stagnant for the greater part of the game. However, the Spaniard will almost certainly return to the line-up against Dortmund, as he’s too influential of a player to leave on the bench.
There are a few positives for Dortmund, though. Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller both are out injured. Neuer was ruled out for a couple of weeks with a foot injury, and had to be replaced by Sven Ulreich, who did not look particularly good when attempting to save Andrej Kramarić’s game-winning goal on Tuesday. Müller, on the other hand, has been out of form for almost the entire season, only scoring his first league goal last weekend in a 6-0 rout of FC Augsburg.
For our German audience!
Carlo Ancelotti has the squad to send out a strong line-up against Dortmund, even if rotated, and he’ll be out to avenge their loss earlier in the season. Bayern do have the league all but locked up, but the last thing the Bavarians will want to do is head in to clash with Real Madrid on the back of two defeats.
Without a doubt, Dortmund’s biggest challenge against Bayern will be controlling Thiago. While it will be impossible to control the Spanish maestro throughout the whole contest, they were effective in limiting his impact in their last meeting back in November. Dortmund’s best defensive performances this season have come while playing a back three, but given the injuries to the back line, Tuchel might have to rely on a back four. Against Bayern, their organisation will prove crucial in getting any kind of result.
Dortmund’s away form this season is less than inspiring, as they’ve only won four of their 14 Bundesliga road games. A draw at the Allianz Arena would be a fantastic result for Dortmund, as they look to keep pace with Hoffenheim and avoid having to play in a Champions League play-off in late August next year. ‘Der Klassiker’ may not have the significance this time, but a battle between the Bundesliga’s best should prove entertaining to all.