I feel like this almost doesn’t need an introduction. When we look at the fixtures list at the beginning of the year, this is the match that we circle on our calendars. It’s the match that every soccer fan in the world, regardless of whether or not they follow the Bundesliga, will have their eyes on.
It’s Der Klassiker.
FC Bayern Münich vs Borussia Dortmund.
As Klopp would put it, “The Bazooka vs the Sniper Rifle.”
Make no mistake about it: Bayern Münich are very much a bazooka. Even though they haven’t been as dominant under Carlo Ancelotti in the Bundesliga as they were under Pep Guardiola, they are still one of the top 5 clubs in Europe. It could easily be argued that they are the favorites to win the Champions League. Their humiliation of Arsenal in the Round of 16 was a clear demonstration that they have the ability to demolish very good teams. If BVB are at anything less than their very best, things could go very wrong this Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund are still a sniper rifle, though, and if Tuchel’s men stay compact defensively and draw Bayern out, they may be able to score a headshot on the counter. There are a two reasons why I’m hopeful for the upcoming match.
- Injuries: While many BVB players are injured, Bayern have no shortage of injuries themselves. Thomas Müller and Douglas Costa are both injured. Manuel Neuer is also hurt, and his backup, Sven Ulreich, has nowhere near the same talent as Manu. Thiago is also coming off an injury: he will probably start, but he may not be fit to play the full 90 minutes.
- Champions League: Bayern Münich will play Real Madrid only four days after facing Borussia Dortmund. With the Bundesliga trophy all but guaranteed, The UCL is Ancelotti’s biggest priority. I would not be surprised if he at least slightly rotated his squad. On the other hand, Borussia Dortmund are in the middle of a race for an automatic UCL qualification spot with Hoffenheim, and only have to face Monaco in the Champions League. I have no doubt that Tuchel will throw all of his best players forward to fight for as many points as possible.
The club hasn’t released its predicted lineup yet, but if I had to guess, I would predict a 5-2-3, the same type that Tuchel played in the Hinrunde Klassiker. Bayern’s midfield of Vidal, Alonso, and Thiago is probably the best in all of Europe, maybe outside of Real Madrid. If we try to play through the center of the pitch, I think a typical midfield of Weigl, Castro, and Kagawa would get slaughtered. If I were Tuchel, I would try to keep the play out wide as much as possible, preferably getting the full backs involved with counter attacks.
Despite everything I said above, unless Roman Bürki puts on a clinic, I don’t see a BVB victory here. Bayern are simply too good. I’ll be much more optimistic next season with the addition of Dahoud and Toprak, and hopefully with a healthy Marco Reus. I predict a 1-1 draw: Aubameyang and Lewandowski each score.