Dortmund v Bayern: Brandt ready for centre stage in Klassikerby Omnisport
- Julian Brandt dazzled on the Bundesliga's return and, with Marco Reus out of Der Klassiker, he will be Dortmund's main creative threat.
Nothing about the Bundesliga's bio-secure return will ever entirely lose its capacity to jar the senses.
From socially distanced substitutes to masked staff and elbow-knocking celebrations, incongruous distractions from the 90 minutes at hand are never far away.
But the action so far has also demonstrated fleeting moments can briefly melt away the discomfort, when football's beauty floods the senses.
The first such instance came during in the 29th minute of Borussia Dortmund's deserted Revierderby showdown with Schalke. All it took was a nonchalant flick of Julian Brandt's right boot.
Brandt's first-time lay off into the space behind him gave Thorgan Hazard time to spot Erling Haaland sprinting towards the Schalke area. Both players needed just a touch apiece for a picturebook goal.
Haaland and Jadon Sancho are the headline-hogging sensations for Dortmund who, once again, stand a better chance than all the rest when it comes to ending Bayern Munich's Bundesliga hegemony.
A Bundesliga debutant at 17, a full Germany international in the same month he turned 20 and with a century of top-flight appearances to his name at 21, Brandt knows plenty when it comes to being labelled the next big thing.
Still only 24 and as Bayern lie in wait on Tuesday with the title on the line, there are indications Brandt is taking his game to new heights.
Following that wonderful contribution to Haaland's opener, Brandt continued to torment Schalke and orchestrated a thumping 4-0 win.
He supplied two assists and his three chances created were more than any other player on the pitch, as were 29 passes attempted in the opposition half and 19 duels contested – showing Brandt's thirst for both aspects of the game.
There were also five tackles – a level best alongside marauding two-goal hero Raphael Guerreiro – and Opta's touchmap showed a player stamping his influence all over the field.
A tearaway teen winger when Leverkusen snatched him from Wolfsburg and launched his top-flight career, Brandt's wide attacking qualities were rated so highly by Germany boss Joachim Low that he infamously made the 2018 World Cup squad at Leroy Sane's expense.
But since Peter Bosz started to use him in-field last season at the BayArena, Brandt has started to display several more irresistible strings to his bow.
"In the end I am the last person to be complaining about [where I play] because it is always down to how you interpret the position," Brandt said last week, having roved nominally from the right of a front three against Schalke.
"If you have someone like Thomas Delaney, who is strong on the defensive side, next to you, then you can take certain liberties in terms of how far forward you can go. The centre is my favourite."
HERR REUS' HEIR?
"I've seen a lot of games involving Julian," Bosz told the Bundesliga's official website last season. "Back then he was playing on the wing, but I saw him as a midfielder."
The switch proved inspired as, in tandem with the similarly lavishly gifted Kai Havertz, Brandt wrought havoc during the second half of the campaign.
He finished 2018-19 with seven Bundesliga goals and 11 assists – the latter figure only behind Sancho and Bayern's Joshua Kimmich in the overall standings. Dortmund duly came calling for a player who has spent his career inhabiting football's gossip columns.
Brandt was initially deployed out wide once more, in and out of Lucien Favre's starting line-up, before the BVB boss followed Bosz's lead in making a tactical tweak that comes with some heavy symbolism.
When Favre was in charge of Borussia Monchengladbach almost a decade ago, he brought a young Marco Reus in from the flanks to cause maximum damage.
Reus is now the symbol of Dortmund's Yellow Wall of resistance, the club captain and the superstar who would not be tempted when Bayern batted their eyelashes.
Unfortunately, injuries also take up a hefty chunk of Reus' story and his absence from this latest edition of Der Klassiker feels wearyingly inevitable.
It would once have felt almost sacrilegious to suggest as much, but with Brandt in his current mood pulling the strings behind Sancho and Haaland, maybe Reus will not be missed.
"It was on a trip with the national team that he came to me the first time and told me that he absolutely wanted me to come to Dortmund," Brandt told Bundesliga.com, reflecting on how Reus did what he could to lay the groundwork for his move to Signal Iduna Park. "It triggers something in you when a player like Marco says something like that to you."
Perhaps Reus has seen the future and is ready to pass the baton. Regardless, Bayern must keep their sharpest focus on the present and the threat a buoyant Brandt represents this week.
Published 25 May 2020, 11:30 IST