Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: Key Battles to Watch in Bundesliga Clash
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich is shaping up to be quite the fixture. Ahead of the long-awaited Champions League final in London, the two German football giants meet each other in a Bundesliga clash on May 4.
Rest assured, this is far more than a dress rehearsal for the big day. Both teams and managers will have the opportunity to try out an array of tactics with the final looming on May 25. Will Jurgen Klopp or Jupp Henyckes outwit one another? What effect will this have on the month ahead? Most importantly, which players will make the difference?
Read on to find out the key battles for this enticing Bundesliga fixture.
Wingers vs. Full-Backs
One of the most exciting prospects in this game is the battle between each team's wingers and full-backs. Both Dortmund and Bayern possess ridiculous quality from wide positions and aren't afraid to gamble on the counterattack.
Although Philipp Lahm and David Alaba focused on defensive duties in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal against Barcelona, expect them to take up more advanced roles in the Bundesliga clash.
Jupp Heynckes' side unfortunately lost Toni Kroos to injury earlier in the season. However, in a lucky turn of events, his absence has allowed Arjen Robben to reestablish himself as one of the club's most potent attacking threats (via Sky Sports).
Robben has notched three goals and three assists in his last four appearances for Bayern, and of course scored the winner when Dortmund travelled to the Allianz Arena earlier this season.
Dortmund will need high energy to compete with Bayern's wide threat. Jakub Blaszczykowski will be responsible for supporting Lukasz Piszczek. Meanwhile, with the injured Mario Götze missing, Kevin Großkreutz is likely to partner Marcel Schmelzer down the left (via Bundesliga.com).
Can Dortmund halt Bayern's seemingly endless stream of goals?
Robert Lewandowski vs. His Next Employers?
The Robert Lewandowski rumours continue to circulate. Fresh on the heels of snapping up Götze, Bayern could pluck another star away from the Westfalenstadion in the shape of the Polish forward (via ESPN).
Klopp will hope his top scorer performs admirably against a defence that has shipped just 14 goals in the Bundesliga this season. Lewandowski—who has scored 23 goals during this campaign—will be confident of denting the phenomenal record after a prolific Champions League semifinal saw him net four in the first leg against Madrid.
A great showing for the 24-year-old could even benefit Dortmund in the long run. If Lewandowski does overcome the physical threat of Bayern's defence to score a goal, his transfer value may continue to rise. He is currently one strike higher than Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kießling at the top of the goalscoring chart. If he finishes there at the end of the season, you can bet Dortmund will want extra coin added to his fee (via ESPN).
A Full Look at Dortmund Without Mario Götze
As touched upon in the previous slide, Dortmund will have to face Bayern without Mario Götze. Worse still, the 20-year-old star is not guaranteed to be fit for the Champions League final after tearing a thigh muscle against Real Madrid (via Goal.com).
Perhaps worst of all is the realisation that a Götze-less Dortmund is about to become commonplace. With his transfer to Bayern confirmed, Jurgen Klopp's men will have to look toward someone else for inspiration (via The Daily Mail).
Marco Reus slotted into the No. 10 role with great effect against Real Madrid. The German played three key passes (more than any of his teammates) and looked extremely dangerous on the break. Although occasionally stumbling into offside positions, the intelligence of Reus' forward runs could have profited with a couple of goals if Großkreutz's final ball found its mark.
Klopp showed Dortmund can settle without Götze against Madrid. The match against Bayern is Klopp's first test at consciously setting his team up without the key man, though. Big questions could be answered with a win.
Jurgen Klopp vs. Jupp Heynckes
Forget the players on the pitch for one second. This domestic clash will be a psychological affair that could have a major difference on how the Champions League plays out.
Bayern have beaten Dortmund twice in the last three meetings. Before this, Dortmund came out on top five times in a row—a streak that included a 5-2 win in the 2011-12 DFB-Pokal final. Will Klopp and Heynckes have the guts to unleash their starting 11 for the Champions League final in this Bundesliga encounter?
Potential European hangover could be an issue. Both the emotional and physical impact of journeying to Spain may render a handful of players tired. Mario Götze's injury is also a reminder that it takes one stroke of bad luck for a key individual to go missing. With the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Luiz Gustavo performing well, will Heynckes risk players such as Robben, Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez?
Dortmund certainly don't possess the same strength in depth as their visitors. However, a victory at the Westfalenstadion would be massive going into the Champions League final. At this stage, it's far more important for Dortmund to win the Bundesliga clash—thus showing they have the capacity to beat this current Bayern side—than it is for the visitors to come away with victory.
The Beginning of a Legitimate Rivalry?
Dortmund and Bayern are hardly natural rivals. Separated by massive geographical boundaries and completely different histories of success, it's only recently that animosity has begun to stir between Germany's top two.
Both sides are legitimate contenders for all domestic competitions. They've shared the last four Bundesliga titles equally and have both won the DFB-Pokal in the last three years. Perhaps most importantly, the imminent transfer of Mario Götze has left a horrible taste in the mouth of Klopp and Dortmund's fans (via The Guardian).
In fact, some Dortmund followers burned their Götze shirts in protest of the move (via Metro). Despite his lack of presence on the pitch, this transfer could provide the spark that ignites this into a "real" rivalry between the two clubs. If Lewandowski makes the switch as well, this realisation is pretty much guaranteed.
German football is surrounded by a feelgood factor right now, but are we about to witness the birth of a hateful relationship between the nation's best teams?
Which key battles are you looking out for in this exciting fixture? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.