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!