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Match Preview: Borussia Dortmund Face FC Bayern Munich

A pivotal matchup set at the Allianz Arena.

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Muenchen - DFL Supercup 2019 Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

This is it. This is the match that you’ve been waiting for. Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund —Der Klassiker— is here. Borussia Dortmund will face their Bavarian rivals at the Allianz Arena tomorrow, in a matchup that has haunted BVB over the past give years or so. It will be a much different Bayern Munich than we’ve seen in recent years. Niko Kovac is gone and the squad is riddled with injuries, but at the end of the day, it’s Bayern Munich. Make no mistakes: this is the toughest match of the year for BVB.

As comfortable as Bayern’s recent struggles might make you feel, the undeniable truth is that Borussia Dortmund have been absolutely dreadful away to the Allianz Arena in recent history. BVB have been run out of the building in each of its last four visits to the Allianz in the Bundesliga, with the last respectable league result, a 3-0 win, coming in the 2013-14 season. The lone exception to BVB’s poor form at the Allianz was a 3-2 victory in the 2016-17 DFB Pokal under Thomas Tuchel.

That being said, if BVB are ever going to get a result from the Allianz, now would be the time to do it. It would put some distance between the two clubs on the Bundesliga table, and would deny Bayern their first win in the Bundesliga under interim manager Hansi Fleck. BVB have unquestionably suffered from mentality issues at the Allianz Arena in years past. There is simply no reason for such problems this year. This BVB squad is every bit as talented as Bayern Munich’s injury-riddled roster. If BVB get played off the pitch again, they will only have themselves to blame.

FC Bayern Munich

To say that Bayern’s past few weeks have been tumultuous would be a massive understatement. Bayern started the season poorly, with a draw against Hertha. A pair of convincing victories against Schalke and Mainz, and a 7-2 demolition of Tottenham Hotspur gave the impression that Bayern had recovered a bit, but after a string of recent poor performances, culminating with a 5-1 paddling at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend, Niko Kovac handed in his resignation, a mere week before Borussia Dortmund’s visit to the Allianz Arena. His departure has left Hans-Dieter “Hansi” Flick, Niko Kovac’s Assistant Coach and protégé of Joachim Löw with the German National Team.

Even though Bayern has struggled more than usual this season, their standing in the league would be much worse were it not for one man: Robert Lewandowski. To put in perspective just how much Lewandowski has carried Bayern Munich’s offense, I’ve created this highly-complicated and detailed chart:

Lewandowski has 14 league goals this season. Four other Bayern players are tied for second place on the squad, with *checks notes* two goals each. The implications herein are twofold. The first is that if you can shut down Robert Lewandowski, you can eliminate a significant portion of Bayern’s offensive output. The second implication is that if you give Lewandowski any space at all, then he will burn you and make you pay. Of course, “shutting down” Robert Lewandowski is much easier said than done. He has a very prolific track record against Dortmund, especially at the Allianz. One of Mats Hummels or Manuel Akanji, preferably the former, should stick to him like glue, and make sure he doesn’t have an inch of space on the ball in the box.

As for the rest of these losers (kidding), there’s still a plethora of talented players surrounding Lewandowski, even if they haven’t found the score sheet too often. Serge Gnabry showed against Tottenham (RIP) how lethal he can be when he’s on his game. Kingsley Coman is a world-class winger when he’s on his game, and Thomas Müller is still Thomas Müller, no matter how much he may or may not have declined.

On defense, Bayern Munich are having an injury crisis. Niklas Süle tore his ACL in October, and is projected to miss the rest of the season (as well as EURO 2020). A few days later, Lucas Hernandez suffered a partial ligament tear, putting him out for several months too. As if the situation couldn’t be worse, Jerôme Boateng is serving a suspension for a straight red card he picked up against Frankfurt last weekend. This means that Bayern will have to form a makeshift back line using their various full backs and depth players.

So, how will they line up? Thankfully, the much-more-knowledgeable-than-I folks at Bavarian Football Works made this predicted lineup:

For a more in-depth preview of the match from a Bayern fan’s perspective, check out Bavarian Football Works’ match preview here.

Borussia Dortmund

Unlike Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund are riding a bit higher than earlier in the season. Tuesday’s captivating comeback victory against Inter Milan was BVB’s most impressive performance of the season, and gave Dortmund their third win in a row in all competitions. Dortmund have had several stretches of brilliant play over the last few weeks, even though they haven’t yet been able to put together a full 90-minute effort. Luckily for the club, there are few key injuries. Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus were questionable heading into the weekend, but according to BILD, it looks like both players will be available for the match tomorrow. They may start, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they come on as substitutes later in the match.

Paco Alcacer could potentially make his first start for Borussia Dortmund since returning from his achilles injury. He played about 30 minutes on Tuesday against Inter Milan, and because he’s still recovering from his injury, he probably won’t see the full 90 minutes. In fact, Lucien Favre may choose to have Paco come off the bench as a supersub rather than have him start. This strategy worked well over the week, when Paco notched an assist with his first touch off the bench against Milan.

On the back line, it seems like Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels are likely to start again. Even though Akanji had a huge gaffe against Inter in the fifth minute, he responded well, and throwing Zagadou to the wolves when he hasn’t played in a while doesn’t seem like a good idea. Achraf Hakimi has been on fire recently, so any lineup without him in it is a non-starter.

Here’s how I predict BVB will line up:

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Bayern Munich

I don’t believe in jinxing, so here goes nothing: I think that Dortmund have a real opportunity to exorcise the demons that have plagued them ever since 2014. If they can replicate in any way the intensity and tenacity they showed in the second half against Inter Milan over the week, they can beat Bayern on their own pitch, without a doubt. If they play like they did against Schalke, or like they did in Milan, it could be a much different story, and we could once again see this team retreat from Munich with a hiding.