Always a fascinating fixture, the first Klassiker of the season is just days away. Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, Philippe Coutinho and Co. will go up against Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Saturday in a fixture that so often has a big say on who lifts the Bundesliga trophy come Matchday 34.
bundesliga.com looks at five reasons why Bayern can defeat their rivals from the Ruhr.
1) The Lewandowski effect
With a mind-boggling 14 goals in 10 league appearances so far this season and having scored in a record 10 consecutive games, it's safe to say Robert Lewandowski has had one of his best-ever starts to a campaign. He has relentlessly plundered goals in defence of his Torjägerkanone crown, and former employers Borussia Dortmund know better than most how potent the Poland captain still is.
Watch: Lewandowski hits Klassiker hat-trick in 6-0 Bayern win
His 21 Klassiker goals in all competitions (16 as a Bayern player, five for Dortmund) and 15 in the Bundesliga (14 for FCB, one for BVB) are, respectively, more than any other player in this fixture. The 31-year-old's 14 Bundesliga strikes against Dortmund have come across only 10 matches, and he has failed to find the back of the net on just two occasions.
The six-foot Pole has been on the losing side of Der Klassiker just twice as a Bayern man in the Bundesliga, with both of those defeats coming at the Signal Iduna Park. His record in Munich, meanwhile, is perfect, having struck in every one of his five games against Dortmund on home soil and notching 10 goals in the process to help Bayern collect five wins from five. Lewandowski has hit a brace three times over the course of that spell and also bagged a hat-trick in Bayern's 6-0 demolition of their rivals back in 2018. It is an ominous return for Dortmund to contend with.
2) Fortress Allianz
Lewandowski is actually unbeaten at the Allianz for either side in this fixture, a record dating back to Dortmund's 3-1 victory over Bayern in his first season in Germany back in 2010/11. His four Klassiker matches as a visitor ended in three wins and a draw before Lewandowski switched to the home dressing rooms in 2014. Since then, Bayern have swept BVB aside on home territory.
It is not only that those five home wins have seen Bayern take Klassiker spoils that helped ensure a record seven successive league titles, but the manner of victory has also made the glory all the sweeter. Those games have ended 5-0, 6-0, 4-1, 5-1 and 2-1 as Bayern have racked up a remarkable 22 goals to Dortmund's three. Considering the enormous quality on each side – as well as the ferocity at which these fixtures are played out – that sequence is staggeringly impressive.
It makes the trip a daunting one for Dortmund, and the 5-0 Matchday 28 humbling at Bayern last season went a long way to denying Lucien Favre's men the title. His side were two points clear at the top of the table going into that one, but they left playing catching up and with momentum well and truly back in favour of the record Bundesliga champions. It will be a game that Bayern players will look to recall memories from as they meet for the first time in the league since on Saturday.
3) Big game Phil
When Coutinho arrived at Bayern on a season-long loan from Barcelona this summer, the excitement around his signing was palpable. The enigmatic Brazilian, able to create moments of magic from nothing, landed on German shores to great fanfare. Talisman Lewandowski immediately saw in the 27-year-old a player able to settle the outcome of Bayern’s biggest matches: "He can be the key in important games...that special something."
It is matches like these that Lewandowski was referencing, and Coutinho has previous against Dortmund too. It was his star turn in Liverpool's UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg victory in 2016 that almost single-handedly sent the English Premier League side into the last four.
After a 1-1 draw in Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel's men raced into a 2-0 lead at Anfield in just nine minutes. Marco Reus made it 3-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate with just half an hour remaining and looked to have secured Dortmund's safe passage into the semis. But Coutinho had other ideas. He first pulled one back with a fine finish from the edge of Dortmund's box before his corner found the head of Mamadou Sakho and then the back of the net as Dortmund ended up shell-shocked by former coach Jürgen Klopp's Liverpudlians.
Watch: Bayern's 10 best Klassiker goals
4) Wise man Müller
There are very few things Thomas Müller has not experienced on a football pitch. A FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner, an eight-time Bundesliga champion and five-time DFB-Cup victor, there is also precious little Müller has not won in the sport. And with 500 Bayern appearances under his belt, this one-club legend has vast experience to call upon in matches that require cool heads and know-how as much as supreme talent.
In all competitions, Müller has featured 32 times against Dortmund, helping secure 16 wins and three draws while tasting defeat in 13 matches. In the Bundesliga, he has provided six goals and five assists in 18 Klassikers, securing all three points eight times in the process.
"He's intangible," said recently departed Bayern coach Niko Kovac of the 30-year-old after last season's mauling of Dortmund at the Allianz. "He helps everywhere, which makes him so valuable."
Even such high praise is putting Müller's importance to Bayern lightly and clearly the challenge of taking on their perennial closest challengers brings the best out of the attacker. He has found form ahead of this meeting too. As well as scoring the winner against Bochum in the DFB Cup, the 100-cap Germany international is the joint third-highest goal-maker in the league with four assists so far this season.
5) Red-hot Gnabry
The importance of this game is lost on no-one, as Serge Gnabry explains: "It's a rivalry. Dortmund are the other team in Germany who have been hot for a couple of years. It's the biggest game of the season... You look forward to such a big game with all the hype surrounding it."
And the 24-year-old Germany international goes into the 101st Bundesliga meeting of the sides in the form of his life. Gnabry has two goals and three assists to his name in the league already, firmly establishing himself as one of the first names on the Bayern teamsheet each and every week. Further to that fine return, the former Arsenal attacker got four goals in the 7-2 UEFA Chammpions League hammering of Tottenham Hotspur, and he also has six goals in as many matches for the national team.
Watch: Bayern's 5-0 win over Dortmund last season!
Gnabry's overall record against Dortmund is one he would like to improve upon. He has lost four out of five thus far, including three defeats across his loan spells at Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim. But Gnabry's two appearances in Der Klassiker have seen him lay on two assists and one goal, with his role in last season's 5-0 win significant.
The winger's header sent Bayern into the half-time break 4-0 up, before his assist for Lewandowski's fifth sealed a memorable victory. He provided a constant menace for Dortmund's defence, and if he can replicate that performance from seven months ago it will go a long way to helping secure all three points.