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Match Preview: Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich

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The Bavarians are Coming!

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images

It’s honestly difficult for me to overstate how important this match is for Borussia Dortmund. With only 4 points separating BVB and Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table, this match could decide whether the title race ends immediately, or if BVB and Bayern will fight until the bitter end. Putting aside the title race, this match is also a chance for BVB’s players to prove that they don’t need the yellow wall behind them to be able to go toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund suffered another humiliating defeat at the hands of their Bavarian rivals in the fall, and if they have any stones among them, will be keen to take revenge. There is no Premier League or La Liga to distract the footballing world. BVB will have to face Bayern Munich, and everyone will be watching.

Ever since Hansi Flick took over for Niko Kovac, Bayern Munich have been a juggernaut. After a brief pair of defeats to Mönchengladbach and Leverkusen, the Bavarians have been unstoppable, winning 12 of their last 13 matches, with the lone exception being a draw against RB Leipzig. Bayern Munich’s spectacular turnaround has been led by the same Bayern cast of characters that you’ve known for years. Robert Lewandowski continues to rack up goals by the dozen, but in my opinion, the true story of the season is Thomas Müller. With 7 goals and 16 assists, Müller is having his best season since 2015-16, when he scored 20 goals and assisted 3 more. With Müller running the show, Bayern have been the team to beat in the Bundesliga, and BVB will need a stellar performance to have a chance.

Keys to the Game

  1. Stop Thomas Müller. I cannot stress this enough: In his role as a #10 in Flick’s system, Müller has been an incredible catalyst for Bayern’s attack. I know it’s easier said than done to contain a world-class player, but Dortmund will need to find a way. Emre Can seems like the natural candidate for this job, having played a key role in BVB’s home win against PSG. The problem is that Can is just one player, and won’t be able to protect Dortmund’s back line from Lewandowski, Müller, Gnabry, and Coman on his own. We’re gonna need Delaney and BVB’s full backs to pitch in defensively to avoid another rout at the hand of Bayern’s forwards.
  2. Keep Serge Gnabry away from Lukasz Piszczek. As a Spurs fan, I know all too well how much havoc Gnabry can wreak against a back line when he given the room to do it. After struggling to find his form for years at Hoffenheim and Arsenal, Gnabry has emerged as an elite winger. Lukasz Piszczek has been quite successful recently at right center back, but he hasn’t had to face a winger like Serge Gnabry. The lone exceptions were the two matches against PSG, when Dortmund faced Mbappé and Neymar. The key to preventing any disastrous matchups would be for Dortmund’s midfielders to provide support. Emre Can should be fit to start against Bayern, and he will have to put in a ton of work to support Piszczek.
  3. Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi need to solve Alphonso Davies. Much of Dortmund’s offensive success this season has come from chemistry between Hakimi in Sancho, who have been so prolific at utilizing space and creating chances along the right side. Unfortunately, in the fall edition of Der Klassiker, Sancho and Hakimi were completely impotent against left back Alphonso Davies, who has been another reason for Bayern’s success this season. That can’t happen again, and there’s not much more that needs to be said.

Lineups

This is what BFW writer Ineednoname (who, I assure you, does indeed have a name) thinks Bayern’s starting lineup will be:

This lineup prediction is based off of recent news that Thiago Alcantara is not travelling with Bayern to Dortmund, and so will not be around to start. This means a midfield of Kimmich, Goretzka, and Müller. Niklas Süle is still injured, so Bayern’s center backs will be David Alaba and Jerome Boateng.

Injuries will be no excuse for Borussia Dortmund this time around. Favre has apparently confirmed that Can, and Hummels will all be fit and ready to go, and Witsel looks likely to start as well, so BVB will be able to field pretty close to an ideal lineup. We should expect to see a lineup similar to what we saw against Wolfsburg, but with Sancho in for Hazard on the right and Can and Witsel in place of Dahoud and Delaney. Of those players, Witsel is the least likely: it looks like he’s going to be a game day decision. Assuming Witsel is indeed able to start, I’d expect a lineup like this:

BVB have unquestionably improved since their humiliating defeat against Bayern earlier in the season, but Bayern have also been lights out, so it’s difficult to predict exactly what will happen tomorrow. I’m not gonna bother with a score prediction, because I don’t want to jinx anything. BVB are going to need a lot to go their way in order to beat Bayern Munich, but if they do, it’ll send a message to the entire league that the Bundesliga title is still up for grabs.