As one of the most anticipated fixtures on the modern European calendar, Germany's Der Klassiker between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich arrives this Saturday, as the country returns to domestic obligations with a showdown between its two biggest sides.
Yet as Dortmund welcome the current European and German champions to the Westfalenstadion, Jurgen Klopp has called upon his famous yellow wall of fans to have a "huge influence" on the coming game, in light of Dortmund's poor luck with injuries of late.
According to Sky Sports, central defenders Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer were both ruled out of the coming fixture following complications in both of Germany's international friendlies, just one week after Dortmund's other mainstay centre-back, Neven Subotic, was injured for at least six months.
As such, Bayern go into this game as the unexpected favourites for the first time in quite a while. Although the game is in the heart of the dangerous black-and-yellow lair, in which Dortmund have beaten Bayern quite comprehensively in the past, Klopp's back line will likely feature a makeshift four, which simply cannot be overlooked.
Of course, Pep Guardiola does have his own injury problems to contend with. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a recurring ankle injury, while Franck Ribery joins him with what seems like a broken rib, which he picked up earlier in the week while on duty with France, per The Daily Mail. The coach will have to shuffle his own squad around if he hopes to take full advantage of Dortmund's own misfortune.
In defence, we're likely to see a simple back four with Rafinha returning once again to his increasingly familiar role of right-back, while David Alaba continues his fine run of form on the left-hand side. In the middle, Guardiola is expected to stick with Dante and Jerome Boateng, despite the latter's game time on Tuesday night.
Although Dortmund look weak, their front line is still very strong, and if Pep wants to pick up all three points in the Northwest, he'll have to be sure that his own back line is up to the task of keeping Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and co. quiet for the duration of the game.
With a rather blatant Schweinsteiger-shaped hole in the middle of the side at the moment, the coach will undoubtedly be tempted to keep captain Philipp Lahm at his defensive-midfield position, while pulling Toni Kroos and Javi Martinez in alongside him to make up the midfield trio.
It's important to also bear in mind that Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze are both available too, meaning that we could just as easily see one of those two step in for either Martinez or Lahm if Guardiola's goal is to dominate from the start. Although the towering Spaniard and the German captain are both outstanding players, neither offer an attacking threat quite like the aforementioned forwards.
Will Bayern beat Dortmund?
Yet where we're most likely to see the brilliance of Gotze used is in Franck Ribery's absence, on the left-hand side of the attacking three, where he often played for Dortmund and has done so on occasion for Bayern and Germany in the past. Aside from the Frenchman, Gotze is probably the go-to playmaker—if we consider Kroos a central midfielder for this fixture—and as such, Guardiola will probably feel more comfortable making this simple like-for-like change.
Elsewhere in attack, expect to see Thomas Mueller galloping up the opposing wing with all his irregular brilliance, while Mario Mandzukic will likely make his return to the role of solitary striker.
Each played in both games during the international break for their respective nations, yet neither truly impressed, with Mandzukic actually getting sent off in the second-leg tie against Iceland. Yet Guardiola won't be too bothered. He knows these players pretty well by now and will fully expect them to give their all this coming Saturday in Germany's Der Klassiker.