Erling Haaland will be hoping to point Borussia Dortmund to success when they take on Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 21. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Erling Haaland will be hoping to point Borussia Dortmund to success when they take on Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 21. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
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Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen: how do they stack up?

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Bayer Leverkusen have picked up the pace – almost literally – under Gerardo Seoane and they can cut the gap to Borussia Dortmund to just five points when they meet Marco Rose's men this weekend.

With both teams pushing to secure a top-four finish and UEFA Champions League football next season, bundesliga.com runs the rule over the North Rhine-Westphalia rivals and sees where Sunday's clash could be won or lost.

Bench-marks

Both Seoane and Rose have cut their coaching teeth in Germany's neighbouring countries of Switzerland and Austria respectively, winning league titles there to earn a shot at sitting on a bench in the Bundesliga.

Seoane followed in the footsteps of current Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Adi Hütter and led Young Boys – who had just broken FC Basel's eight-year hold on the Swiss title – to three consecutive league titles before moving to Leverkusen at the start of the current season.

After guiding Red Bull Salzburg's U19s to UEFA Youth League glory in 2017, Rose was promoted to the helm of the first team and he led them to back-to-back Austrian Bundesliga titles before joining Gladbach in 2019. After two years grooming the Foals, he moved to Dortmund last summer and is pushing them to challenge Bayern Munich for the title.

Watch: Marco Rose's Borussia Dortmund diamond

Both know what it takes to win trophies and they have mastered the step up to the Bundesliga, bringing with them a refreshing, attack-minded brand of football which focuses on quick verticalization of the ball and exploiting the potential of the players at their disposal.

Both clubs have caught the eye with some spectacular football this season and are unlikely to amend their approaches this weekend, making Sunday's clash one not to be missed.

Goals, goals, goals

Indeed, that proved to be the case when they met on Matchday 4, with the game swinging from end to end and goals going in regularly. Dortmund edged that by the odd goal in seven, and have continued to find the back of the net with regularity since, thanks in no small part to Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian has scored 80 goals in 79 competitive appearances for BVB, including 16 in 14 Bundesliga games this term. That gives him the best minutes-per-goal ratio in the division, with one goal plundered for every 72 minutes on the field.

Incidentally, two of those efforts came in Dortmund's 4-3 win in Leverkusen and Die Werkself may be secretly hoping that the forward does not recover in time from the muscular injury he picked up in the second half of Dortmund's 3-2 win at Hoffenheim before the international break.

Watch: Haaland's 2021/22 goal collection so far

Dortmund have averaged 2.21 points per game with Haaland on the field and 2.16 without him, so Leverkusen could stand to gain from a potential absence of their opponents' top scorer.

Their focus will be more on ensuring the sharpest tool in their own box is fit and ready to go, though. Patrik Schick's haul of 18 goals this season is second only to Bayern's Robert Lewandowski (23), with his average of one every 74 minutes only marginally behind Haaland's – and actually better than Lewandowski by a minute.

Fast foot forward

Schick has benefitted from some of the swiftest, sleekest attacking play in the division.

The Czech forward's supply this season has been exceptional, with Florian Wirtz providing nine goals, ranking him second only to Bayern's Thomas Müller for assists. The pair have struck up a prolific, if unorthodox partnership in the Leverkusen attack, with the former effectively leading the line alone as a No.9 and the latter free to roam in a half circle around and behind him.

Both have been aided by the excellent supply of Moussa Diaby on the left and Karim Bellarabi on the right, with a particular focus on speed. Full-backs Mitchel Bakker and Jeremie Frimpong both rank – together with Diaby – among the top 15 quickest players in the Bundesliga this season, with the exploitation of width another of the keys to an all-round exciting, attacking style of play.

Watch: Leverkusen's fast and furious football

Haaland is fifth on that list with a top speed of 22.33 mph (35.94 km/h), but while Leverkusen rely on quick players to combine in getting the ball forward, Dortmund's is a more direct approach; getting the ball to or into the path of Haaland as quickly as possible in transition.

With talented individuals such as Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham sitting behind the mighty Norwegian, Rose has an array of players willing and able to run at their opponents and confident to take them on, plotting a plethora of paths round the back of the opposition defence and then feeding one of the world's most instinctive finishers.

The message here is try not to blink on Sunday, because you might miss plenty of attacks.

Safe hands

Both goalkeepers should prepare themselves for a busy afternoon, but Leverkusen can rest that little bit easier knowing that Lukas Hradecky has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Bundesliga this season.

The flying Finn has kept out 87 shots on his goal – nine more than the next on the list, Gladbach's Yann Sommer, and kept four clean sheets. While his teammates are focusing on getting the ball forward, they can do so safe in the knowledge that Hradecky offers the safest hands in the league in case their defence does get breached.

At the other end of the field, Gregor Kobel has faced fewer shots on goal in this, his first season as BVB No.1, but that has largely been thanks to the experience of Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji ahead of him. With 57 saves so far, the former VfB Stuttgart custodian has kept three clean sheets and been beaten 27 times – five fewer than Hradecky, having played one game less.

Kobel has also saved three penalties in the Bundesliga and has a presence about him which goes beyond guarding his goal. "He's a player who does the team the power of good, not just with his goalkeeping but his personality, too. He’s an extremely driven athlete, and a monster of a goalkeeper!" said Pellegrino Matarazzo, who was his coach at Stuttgart last season.

For such a game like Sunday, that is just what is needed.

Form

Both teams are unbeaten in the Bundesliga in 2022, but while Leverkusen sat out the third round of the DFB Cup, having been eliminated by Karlsruhe in round two, Dortmund's 2-1 defeat at St. Pauli and consequent end to the defence of their title has provided a blot on their new year's copybook.

They do, however, have nine points from their three league outings, while Leverkusen drew their first fixture of the new year against Union Berlin.

Still, a 5-1 win over Augsburg on Matchday 20 suggests Leverkusen really have hit top gear, with Diaby scoring his first Bundesliga hat-trick and taking Die Werkself to a new club record of 49 goals after the first 20 games of the season.

Watch: Diaby on fire in Leverkusen romp

Dortmund warmed up for their trip to the BayArena with that 3-2 win at Hoffenheim, having previously put five past high-flying Freiburg in a muscle-flexing performance that means they are not out of the title race just yet.

They trail Bayern by six points – a gap which could increase to nine by the time they take to the field on Sunday, since Bayern host Leipzig on Saturday – and know that a win is needed to keep the pressure on Bayern.

Being a further eight points adrift, Leverkusen would need a minor miracle to close the gap to the top, but that is not to say they do not need the points just as much as their guests do. With Union and Freiburg within striking distance and Leipzig improving, the battle for a top-four finish could go down to the wire, which is why a win this Sunday is equally essential for Seoane's Werkself.