Bayern Munich host Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in a Bundesliga match that would otherwise be a dead-rubber, but which due to the clubs' recent history will likely be a hotly contested match.
The Bavarians have already clinched the league title and have a 20-point lead over BVB in the table, but after winning just one of their last four matches, they will be keen to show their best form. Although the Bavarians hammered BVB 3-0 in the fall, their 4-2 DFL-Superpokal loss to Jurgen Klopp's side last July and with bragging rights on the line ahead of their potential head-to-head in May's DFB-Pokal, final Pep Guardiola will have plenty of incentive to aim for three points.
The Dortmund fixture comes just three days after a grueling Champions League match with Manchester United, further complicating matters as the trainer looks to select a strong but fresh squad. Here is the most likely XI he might choose:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Even if Guardiola wanted to rest Manuel Neuer against BVB, the trainer would not have an option to replace the goalkeeper. Backups Tom Starke and Lukas Raeder, as well as reserve goalkeeper Andreas Roessl are all injured, with 19-year-old backup reserve Leopold Zingerle the only alternative. Guardiola will count on the experienced and assured Neuer to command play at the back for Bayern.
Right-Back: Philipp Lahm
Captain Philipp Lahm may be given a rest on Saturday, but if he plays, it will more likely be in defense than midfield. With Marco Reus in good form, Pep Guardiola will want his best right-back playing opposite the BVB star. Javi Martinez, who missed Wednesday's match with United, is perfectly capable of playing in midfield in Lahm's stead.
Center-Back: Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng has a good record against Dortmund, his performance against the Ruhr side in last year's Champions League final perhaps permanently solidifying his status as a starter in the Bavarians' lineup. He's played 36 games at the back for Bayern this season and it's hard to see any other taking his role against BVB.
No Bayern Munich center-back has played more games than Dante this season; the Brazilian has turned out 38 times at the back for the Bavarians in all competitions. He has experience that is superlative in his position, and Guardiola will call upon that to calm the Bayern defense against BVB's pressing tactics.
Left-Back: David Alaba
Ylli Sallahi started on the left of the Bayern defense last weekend, but David Alaba will undoubtedly start at left-back against Dortmund. The Austrian's position is one in which Guardiola has rarely rotated, the trainer's high rating of Alaba and the relative lack of proven alternatives being reasons the 21-year-old has been such a constant figure.
Defensive Midfielder: Javi Martinez
Javi Martinez has rarely started in midfield for Bayern this season, but he did against Dortmund in the fall and may well again on Saturday. Guardiola has shown a respect for Klopp's counter-pressing style of play ever since the Superpokal and, given his shortness of options in central midfield, will likely call upon Martinez to provide some much-needed muscle.
Central Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger was suspended for the United match and therefore will be fresh and ready to compete on Saturday. The vice-captain is a leader on the pitch and his inclusion in will provide some much-needed steel to Guardiola's midfield.
Central Midfielder: Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze was substituted early in midweek and will be relatively fresh and ready to face his former club. It was he who scored the all-important opener against Dortmund in the fall, coming off the bench to deliver what would later be seen as a fatal blow within minutes. In his second run-in with BVB, he can expect to have more time to assert himself.
Right Winger: Thomas Muller
Although Arjen Robben has been prolific against BVB in the past year or so, Guardiola may well use the Dutchman only as a substitute against Dortmund. Robben has racked up many minutes as of late, and Thomas Muller's energy in midfield may well be preferred. Muller scored against United, so form is certainly not against him.
Left Winger: Franck Ribery
Even at 31, Franck Ribery remains Bayern's biggest star and most influential creator in attack. The mercurial winger's starting role has never been in jeopardy during Guardiola's reign and surely will not come into question in Saturday's prestige match.
Center Forward: Mario Mandzukic
Mario Mandzukic has not always been in Guardiola's good graces, but there is no denying the influence of the Croatian striker. If not for his heroics in both legs against United, Bayern may not have advanced to the Champions League semifinals. Especially if Muller starts ahead of Robben on the wing, Guardiola will have little choice other than to use Mandzukic up front.
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