Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund are two of the most exciting teams to watch in the Bundesliga, and there's always action when they meet each other. With Patrik Schick and Erling Haaland leading the respective lines and star-studded supporting casts of young players, expect yet more thrills and spills for Saturday's Matchday 4 encounter.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at the game and what's going to make it such an edge-of-your-seat affair…
This is a fixture that keeps on giving. Last season a Haaland double helped Dortmund to a 3-1 home win on the final day, after goals from Moussa Diaby and Florian Wirtz had given Leverkusen a 2-1 success in the reverse fixture in January.
But for some time now a glut of goals has been the norm when Dortmund and Leverkusen meet. There were 11 in the two games between the teams in both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, featuring thrilling comebacks for both sides. Leverkusen twice came from behind to win 4-3 at home in February 2020, while Dortmund hit back from 2-0 down with four goals in the final 25 minutes to win in Leverkusen in September 2018.
Watch: Leverkusen and Dortmund played out a seven-goal thriller in 2020
In total there have been 43 goals in 10 matches between Borussia and Bayer over the past five seasons, with both sides scoring in seven of those games. The highest-scoring encounter during that time was Dortmund's 6-2 home success in March 2017.
This fixture has also seen the fastest goal ever scored in the Bundesliga. Karim Bellarabi netted only nine seconds into the encounter at Signal Iduna Park on 23 August 2014 - a league record that was later equalled by Kevin Volland. Leverkusen would go on to win 2-0 that day, with Stefan Kießling wrapping things up five minutes into second-half added time.
If recent experience is anything to go by, then, you should probably have the popcorn ready for Saturday afternoon - and don’t be late or leave early…
As far as goals scored go, both sides have made super starts this season. Both Dortmund and Leverkusen have nine in three league games so far - a total matched only by defending champions Bayern Munich.
Dortmund laid down an early marker with a 5-2 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt, but they have also conceded six goals and lost their only previous away game 2-1 against Freiburg. A dramatic late winner from Haaland in the 3-2 victory over Hoffenheim on Matchday 3, however, suggests that Marco Rose’s team have already put that early setback behind them.
Watch: Dortmund thrashed Frankfurt on the opening weekend
Leverkusen came from behind to salvage a point on a testing trip to face Union Berlin on Matchday 1, and since then they have been sensational. Die Werkself are still unbeaten after scoring four goals in each of their last two games. First they crushed Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0 at home, and then they left Augsburg with all three points following a 4-1 win.
Throw in the fact that both sides had 3-0 wins in the DFB Cup first round and you get the impression that there will be another spectacular encounter this weekend.
Watch: Leverkusen steamrolled Gladbach in their first home game
This game will also feature some of the most talented young players in the world. In defence Leverkusen have recent signing Odilon Kossounou as well as flying full-backs Jeremie Frimpong and Mitchel Bakker, while at the other end of the field Wirtz and Diaby have stood out early in the season and both earned maiden senior caps.
With a goal and two assists to his name so far, Wirtz left for international duty in fine fettle. The 18-year-old attacking midfielder returned with an enhanced reputation after coming on to set up a goal in the 6-0 hammering of Armenia.
"He's simply an outstanding technician, loves to play, very creative, has a good shot, runs hard and is quick," Germany head coach Hansi Flick said recently. "He's got a good total package."
Diaby, meanwhile, is also growing as a player. Having netted in the 1-1 draw with Union and got a goal and an assist in the 4-0 victory over Gladbach, he has since made his debut for France. The 22-year-old came off the bench against Bosnia-Herzegovina, before coming on again to hit the post in another draw away to Ukraine.
Dortmund, meanwhile, have some outstanding young talents themselves. Haaland - who is being supported by 16-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko this season - we can talk about shortly.
American Gio Reyna would've been a nailed-on starter and key player in this fixture if not for injury. The 18-year-old has netted in the successes against Frankfurt and Hoffenheim, while Jude Bellingham - also 18 - is enjoying another brilliant start to the season. The England international scored a goal against TSG and has an assist to his name too, and was another young gun to earn high praise during the recent international break.
"He's a fantastic player," said Liverpool captain and England midfielder Jordan Henderson. "Even at such a young age he looks ready to play in the big games. I watch him for Dortmund and the way he performs is outstanding."
Watch: Wirtz and Bellingham are two of the Bundesliga’s latest teenage sensations
The Bundesliga is home to some of Europe's hottest strikers - and we get to see two of those on show at the BayArena. Haaland is seen by many as the heir apparent to Robert Lewandowski and in fact, has a better minutes-per-goal rate (one every 87) than the machine in Munich (101).
Even though he only turned 21 over the summer, the Norwegian already boasts an astonishing 43 goals in 46 Bundesliga games, and 63 in 64 competitive appearances for BVB all told. He's big but insanely quick, with only Arminia Bielefeld's Bryan Lasme being clocked at a faster speed this season. Haaland averaged a goal every 3.5 shots last term and converted 58 per cent of his 33 clear-cut chances.
With six goals from four club appearances so far in 2021/22, he's shown he's by no means slowing up. He was simply too much for Frankfurt to handle on the opening weekend as he got a pair of goals and assists each in the 5-2 win. Whether in the box or running onto the ball from deep (Haaland scored 11 goals from through balls in the league last season), Dortmund's No.9 is quite simply a monster who, when he gets going, often scores again - as proven by his 16 braces or better in the Bundesliga.
Watch: The best of Haaland in the Bundesliga
But he looks to have some new competition in the league scoring stakes. Schick's nine goals last season may look paltry in comparison to Haaland's 27, but things have changed for him over the summer.
The Czech striker is brimming with confidence after scoring five times at UEFA Euro 2020 - including the Goal of the Tournament with his halfway line lob against Scotland. Only Cristiano Ronaldo could equal that total.
Schick has carried that form into the new campaign. He knows he's the current No.1 striker for Die Werkself with Lucas Alario out injured, after the two shared duties throughout 2020/21 as he found his feet in his first year with the club. He's scored twice for unbeaten Leverkusen over the first three matchdays of this term, playing in a side that loves to attack. He's at the heart of that, with only Haaland (18) and Lewandowski (16) having fired off more shots than Schick (15) so far this season.
Watch: We compare Schick and Haaland
The goal against Scotland was evidence of the level of sublime the 25-year-old can reach, but he is predominantly a fox in the box. Standing at 6'3", he's scored five of his 21 Bundesliga goals with his head. If there's an area where Haaland does need to improve it is in the air, given he’s only scored two headers in the Bundesliga.
If you had to pick two strikers other than Lewandowski to watch right now in Germany, these two would be up there - and you can see them both on Saturday.
While there are familiar faces in attack, the men picking them are new and already making an impact on their respective teams.
Marco Rose has swapped Borussias after two years in charge of Mönchengladbach, who he steered to a top-four finish and into the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever. He spoke prior to the season of wanting to see a high line from his side, and their league-leading nine goals show they have very much been up at the top end of the pitch.
His major tactical innovation for the side, though, is his new midfield diamond. The Dortmund of last year would mostly play in variations of 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. The most players they would therefore have in central midfield was three. The Rose Diamond - which we'd write as a 4-3-1-2 formation - now sees four black and yellow shirts patrolling the centre of the park, giving an impact at both ends.
Watch: The Rose Diamond
Marco Reus is the top tip of the diamond in a No.10 role. He's the principal playmaker, but his proximity to the two strikers also allows him to easily create a front three up against potentially outnumbered defences who believed they would only be facing two forwards.
By the same reckoning, the bottom tip - either Bellingham, Mo Dahoud or mostly likely Axel Witsel going forward - is able to drop deep and provide extra support to defence. It all ensures a minimum of three players occupy the central area of the pitch. Does that mean there's no width to this BVB side? Nein - or não, if you're Raphael Guerreiro.
If you divide the pitch into four sections longways, 47 per cent of Dortmund's moves have come down the left side that the Portugal international left-back occupies. The next best quarter is the right wing with 27 per cent of attacks. So, even though there is no out-and-out winger, there is still width coming from the full-backs.
Width has also been a key factor at Leverkusen, where Gerardo Seoane has taken over the reins. The 42-year-old arrives on the back of winning the Swiss title in all three years he spent in charge of Young Boys. He no doubt attracted the attention of Bayer when he knocked them out of the UEFA Europa League last season as well.
And he's got off to an excellent start at the BayArena with two wins and a draw so far. Leverkusen are the top scorers with nine alongside Dortmund and Bayern, but boast the league’s healthiest goal difference of +7 thanks to a solid and consistent defence.
Even with last season’s first-choice centre-back Edmond Tapsoba a long-term injury absentee, new 20-year-old Ivorian Kossounou has formed an impressive partnership with Jonathan Tah, flanked by Bakker and Frimpong who work tirelessly down the flanks.
In contrast to Dortmund, the Leverkusen full-backs have support up the wings through Diaby and Paulinho. The latter has come into the season fresh from winning Olympic gold in Tokyo with Brazil, while the former's start to the campaign with two goals and an assist have seen him earn his first senior caps for France.
South American duo Charles Aranguiz and Exequiel Palacios have shown they complement each other well in midfield, with former BVB man Kerem Demirbay pulling the attacking strings as No.10 behind Schick.
Seoane has quickly found a line-up he likes, that works at both ends and could prove exciting to watch throughout the season. They face their first major test on Saturday. It should be a classic.
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