Football Index

Der Klassiker

Der Klassiker has been billed as Germany’s answer to El Clasico in Spain, but is only a relatively recent phenomenon in league rivalries compared to some of the other derbies taking place this weekend.

The Manchester derby on Sunday will be watched by a global audience, with AC Milan hosting Juventus later that day in another Italian classic.

Despite lacking the historical background of these games, in recent years, it has been one of the biggest and most important games in German football, peaking in 2013 when Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final.

Having lost the last five Klassikers, Dortmund will be looking for revenge over their recent rivals, and look primed to do so, having had a brilliant start to life under new head coach Lucien Favre.

Thanks to their incredible record of just one defeat in their opening 15 games of the season and Bayern’s stuttering start to the Niko Kovac era, Dortmund go into the game as favourites, holding a four point lead in the league table.

Bayern chief Uli Hoeness admitted as much earlier this week, but his ‘favourites’ tag did not go over well with his opposite number Michael Zorc, who responded: “It’s totally irrelevant. It is all be decided on the pitch. And it’s not important who is favourite. You don’t get an extra goal for that.”

Goals will surely be the order of the day as Favre’s aim is to outscore opponents, while Bayern’s backline has looked shaky all season and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is suffering a major dip in form, having kept just two Bundesliga clean sheets so far and none in his last six league games.

Favre’s big question is whether to play Jadon Sancho from the start. The young English winger has been in excellent form, earning a nomination for Bundesliga Player of the Month for October, along with BVB team-mate Achraf Hakimi.

Sancho has been mostly used from the bench and could be utilised to similar effect agaunst Bayern, coming on around the hour mark to exploit their tired defence. If deployed on the left, he could come up against Joshua Kimmich, one of Bayern’s rare consistent players this season, but also their greatest threat to create chances thanks to his excellent crossing ability.

That’s if Kimmich is restored to right-back, of course. Kovac tested out the versatile German as a defensive midfielder last time out, but the idea backfired against Freiburg, who scored late to snatch a 1-1 draw.

Injury to Thiago could pave the way for either Leon Goretzka or Renato Sanches to start in midfield, while Serge Gnabry has shown promise and could be chosen ahead of Franck Ribery, who returned to start in the 2-0 Champions League win over AEK Athens.

Robert Lewandowski has returned to form at the right time, hitting two goals in midweek before he faces his former club. Mats Hummels also will start against his former employers, while Mario Gotze is pushing for a start for Dortmund having had a terrible time during his stay in Munich.

However, Gotze has fallen down the pecking order under Favre, with Sancho, Jacob Bruun Larsen, and Christian Pulisic all competing for places in the attack, where Marco Reus has discovered his best form.

With Dortmund so impressive in front of goal and Bayern finding their finishing touch, Saturday’s Klassiker promises to be the most competitive – and most entertaining – in years!

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Football Index

DFB-Pokal Cup

Unlike the FA Cup, the DFB-Pokal in Germany sees the country’s biggest teams enter the tournament at the first round. As a result, lower league sides can welcome Champions League contenders to grounds capable of holding 100s of supporters rather than tens of thousands.

Regionalliga West side SVRödinghausen’s reward for defeating Dynamo Dresden in the first round is a game with Bayern Munich, a huge draw for a side that was playing in the ninth tier less than a decade ago. The DFB-Pokal always sees the lower ranked team host the game, so Bayern’s bus will be travelling to the 2,489 capacity Hacker-Wiehenstadion on Tuesday night.

Bayern head coach Niko Kovac has decided to use the game to have a closer look at four youth players, with Meritan Shabani, Paul Will and Wooyeong Jeong joining the senior panel, while goalkeeper Christian Fruchtl could be in line to start due to Sven Ulreich’s absence. Manuel Neuer’s deputy will play no part as his wife is due to give birth.

Of these players, Fruchtl is available on Football Index at a price of £0.56 (here) and could be worth looking at if Kovac decides to go with youth rather than experience in goal.

However, despite the young players joining up with the senior squad, Kovac will probably field a starting XI of familiar names, especially after Bayern Munich had to battle to beat fourth-tier side SV Drochtersen/Assel in the first round.

The same is true of many teams, who will continue to play their strongest sides or have limited rotation. The DFB-Pokal is a great way to qualify for Europe, as shown by Eintracht Frankfurt’s run to the trophy last season.

Wolfsburg could see Congolese defender Marcel Tisserand get a rare start this season, but coach Bruno Labbadia is likely to keep faith with Wout Weghorst in attack as they look to overcome Hannover. Hertha Berlin travel to Darmstadt, having been given a tricky draw in the second round. They will have some rotation as they look to compete for a European spot via the Bundesliga and are likely to see former Manchester City youth Javairo Dilrosun back in the first team.

Borussia Dortmund face Union Berlin on Wednesday, with defender Lukasz Piszczek ruled out. That could see a shift in the back four, with the possibility of Raphael Guerreiro starting at left-back or else Omer Toprak be given a rare start. Marius Wolf is also in contention to start in midfield, while Mario Gotze could be retained after finally breaking into Lucien Favre’s lineup.

Favre was reluctant to give much away in his pre-match press conference, hinting at the possibility of rotation but making no firm commitments: “There will probably be a few changes, but that’s not certain yet.”

He did confirm that star striker Paco Alcacer was back in training, but is unlikely to risk him in the cup with Borussia Dortmund challenging for the Bundesliga title thanks to Bayern Munich’s inconsistent form.

The big news emerging from the Werder Bremen camp ahead of their tie with SC Weiche-08 is the imminent debut of American teenager Josh Sargent. The forward was not eligible to play last season as he was under 18, but is finally on the verge of breaking into the Werder squad after impressing with their under-23 panel. He is currently trading at £1.39 here.

“Josh has been playing regularly for the Under-23s and now he’s fighting for a place in the first-team squad,” coach Florian Kohfeldt told reporters at the pre-game press conference. “We’ll see when he can achieve that.”

Wednesday also sees the two biggest games of the round take place as RB Leipzig host Hoffenheim and Borussia Monchengladbach take on Bayer Leverkusen. With places in the last 16 on the line, expect all four teams to stick with their big names to try to advance

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