Four key battles to look out for in Der Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmundby Nestor Watach
There’s a midweek set of fixtures in the Bundesliga this week, with all attention on Tuesday’s potential title-decider between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
This one is setting up to be a particularly memorable Klassiker, with both sides in relentless form going into the business end of the season.
Bayern are on a run of eight straight wins in all competitions, six in the league, while hosts Dortmund have also won their last six Bundesliga matches and come into this fixture four points behind the reigning champions.
Played behind closed doors, Dortmund will be without their famous Yellow Wall, but that didn’t appear to affect the players as they returned to action by thrashing Schalke 4-0 this month.
Here are the key individual battles to watch out for in Tuesday night’s match.
Robert Lewandowski v Mats Hummels
Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski have won five titles alongside one another at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but they’ve been adversaries again since the centre-half went back to the Westfalenstadion last summer.
Hummels didn’t feature as Omer Toprak and Manuel Akanji did well to keep Lewandowski quiet in the German Super Cup back in August, a 2-0 win for Dortmund, but he was in the line-up when Lewandowski wreaked havoc in a 4-0 Bayern rout in the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena.
The Poland international scored twice and Hummels suffered the indignity of notching an own goal against his former club on that occasion, but Dortmund’s defence has looked a lot sturdier since Lucien Favre switched to a back three following a disastrous 4-3 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in February.
With Hummels leading from the centre of the three, Dortmund have conceded just one goal from their last six straight league wins. He was taken off at half-time in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, but Dortmund are hoping he’ll be fit enough to return here.
Lewandowski, meanwhile, is in the form of his career. He leads Europe’s top five leagues for goals - 27 in the Bundesliga and 42 in all competitions - and has scored 14 times in his last 13 appearances.
Joshua Kimmich v Julian Brandt
Joshua Kimmich is expected to be in for a busy encounter against Dortmund - and it will no doubt be a bit harder following the news that Thiago has been ruled out with injury.
Like Thiago, Kimmich has an eye for a pass and will provide the engine in Bayern's midfield as they look to tighten their grip on the Bundesliga title.
Part of the task will be stopping the supply to Julian Brandt, occupying the number ten position for Dortmund.
He’s looked one of their most dangerous players since the Bundesliga restarted, and set up two goals in the 4-0 thrashing of rivals Schalke in their first match back.
Erling Haaland v Jerome Boateng
Out of favour under Niko Kovac and reportedly close to leaving in the summer, Jerome Boateng has become a vital player under Flick once again, missing just one Bundesliga match due to a yellow-card suspension.
Bayern had the best defensive record in the league going into the weekend’s matches and were on a run of five-straight clean sheets in all competitions, but a brief scare against Frankfurt might have exposed a chink in their armour as centre-half Martin Hinteregger rose to score twice from corners in the space of three minutes on Saturday.
It will be Boateng’s job to deal with the considerable physical presence of Erling Braut Haaland. The giant 6’3” Norwegian has 10 goals from his first 10 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund.
Raphael Guerreiro v Benjamin Pavard
It’s only natural that all eyes will be on Lewandowski and Haaland, given how prolific they’ve been for their respective clubs this season, but this match could be defined by the wing-backs and full-backs.
Canadian international Alphonso Davies is mounting a convincing argument as the best left-back in European football this season, grabbing widespread attention with a brilliant individual display in Bayern’s 3-0 win over Chelsea.
He scored in Bayern’s 5-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, while both of Dortmund’s goals in a scrappy 2-0 win at Wolfsburg were scored by their wing-backs.
It’s worth keeping an eye on how Achraf Hakimi and Davies face-off, but the other flank could be especially interesting, given the form of Dortmund left wing-back Raphael Guerrero, who has scored three goals in his last two appearances.
But he’ll face a sterner test with Bayern right-back Benjamin Pavard, a World Cup winner with France, a diligent presence in their backline.
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