Points, pride and the 2022/23 Bundesliga title are at stake when Bayern Munich host Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker on Matchday 26.
bundesliga.com outlines five reasons why table-topping Dortmund can come away with a potentially season-defining win at the Allianz Arena on 1 April.
1) THE in-form team
Dortmund lost six of their first 15 Bundesliga games this season and was sixth in the standings during the hiatus for the World Cup, nine points adrift of Bayern.
That is the backdrop that makes their turnaround in 2023 all the more remarkable, as they now lead Julian Nagelsmann’s side by two points. Edin Terzic’s charges are the only team still unbeaten in the Bundesliga since the turn of the year, while they have won more points (28) and scored more goals (30) that any other side in that period.
Furthermore, only Union Berlin (eight) and RB Leipzig (nine) have conceded fewer than BVB’s 10. By way of comparison over that 10-game stretch, Bayern has won 18 of a possible 30 points, scoring 23 and conceding 14.
The form book often counts for nothing in Klassiker meetings, but it does show that Dortmund is well-drilled, in a flow and full of confidence.
Before this season, Bayern had won each of the seven most recent Bundesliga Klassiker encounters by a combined scoreline of 23-7. As rivalries go, it was beginning to look a tad one-sided, but the Dortmund of 2022/23 appears to have shed the soft underbelly and replaced it with abs of steel.
Terzic’s men have won more aerial battles (55.2 per cent) than any other team, Jude Bellingham has won more individual challenges than any other player (380) and Nico Schlotterbeck has won a higher percentage of all duels than anyone else (68.2). They have also racked up the seventh-highest number of yellow cards (49) in the league this term. In short, this Dortmund side love getting stuck in.
Evidence of that grit was on display when they fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Bayern in the reverse fixture in October, one of seven points Dortmund have earned this season after conceding the first goal in a game, in addition to wins over Freiburg (Matchday 2) and Mainz (Matchday 17).
Moreover, the renaissance of Emre Can in central midfield means Dortmund are now the bully, rather than the bullied, in most games. Germany coach Hansi Flick even singled Can out for praise after recalling him to the national team in the March international break, saying “he has the mentality we need”.
“We’re on a really good run right now and that gives us confidence,” said Terzic of the upcoming clash in Munich. “If we go into the game not only with the necessary respect but also with courage then we have a big chance.” On recent evidence, not many would doubt him.
3) Big players back
Dortmund has suffered injuries to key players throughout this season, with Marco Reus, Sebastien Haller and Gregor Kobel all missing prolonged periods at different stages.
More recently Julian Brandt has been absent, the Bundesliga’s Player of the Month for both January and February sustaining a hamstring tear, while Karim Adeyemi, who set a new all-time Bundesliga speed record a few weeks ago, has also been on the sidelines with a thigh complaint.
Both players are expected back for the trip to Munich, however, adding further good news to the fact that Reus is back to his best – the 33-year-old has four goals in his last four Bundesliga outings – and that Haller is increasingly finding his feet.
The striker, who has battled back from testicular cancer to nail down a place in the starting line-up, scored twice against Cologne on Matchday 25. “It feels great of course [to score twice],” the 28-year-old told bundesliga.com afterwards.
“As a striker, I want to score goals, I want to be important for the team. For me it’s nice before the international break to see my body improve also the performances are improving a bit, so I’m on my way.”
All of this means that aside from injured teenagers Youssoufa Moukoko and Jamie Bynoe-Bittens, Terzic should have the vast majority of his squad available.
4) Guerreiro the new-look playmaker
Raphael Guerreiro may be softly spoken away from the pitch, but he has been screaming from the rooftops on it of late. The Portugal international has been in sizzling form, hitting two goals and seven assists in his last five Bundesliga appearances alone.
Such league-leading numbers are the result of a positional change over the last few weeks: after touting Guerreiro as “our playmaker” in February, Terzic has shifted him forward into the midfield of late.
“Rapha has often been used as a left-back in recent years,” the coach explained. “But we know he can also make good decisions in midfield. He always gets into positions in the half-spaces, where he always finds solutions […] we want to keep that open for the future as well.”
Cologne, Schalke, Werder Bremen and Freiburg have all felt the full force of the BVB No.13 of late – can Bayern figure out a way to contain him?
5) Plan B as Plan A?
However Terzic chooses to approach this game against Bayern, he can do so safe in the knowledge that he has an ace – or aces, to be precise – up his sleeve.
Dortmund’s substitutes have scored 10 times so far in 2022/23, more than any other side, and accounting for almost 20 per cent of the team’s Bundesliga goals. Anthony Modeste was the team’s saviour against Bayern last time, with a goal and an assist off the bench, while Gio Reyna (three), Bynoe-Gittens (three), Moukoko and Marius Wolf have all hit the target as super subs.
No wonder Terzic spoke of “the best substitute’s bench Dortmund has ever had” earlier this year, pointing out that “almost all of them are senior internationals”. Bayern, you have been warned.