Captain Jude Bellingham, Jamal Musiala in the form of his life, Sadio Mane back among the goals and top spot up for grabs: the stage is set one one corking edition of Der Klassiker when Borussia Dortmund entertain Bayern Munich on Saturday. bundesliga.com runs the rule over the two German heavyweights...
The season so far
There have been no half measures for Dortmund since 2021/22 DFB Cup-winning caretaker coach Edin Terzic replaced Marco Rose in a full-time capacity. They've won five of their eight Bundesliga fixtures so far this season, losing the other three. Eleven goals scored is uncharacteristically low for BVB, though these are still early post-Erling Haaland days. Ten goals against, on the other hand, is indicative of a welcome layer of defensive steel. The Black-Yellows had shipped at least 20 at this juncture in each of the previous seven seasons.
Third-placed Bayern are level on points with Dortmund, albeit with a vastly superior goal difference (+17 compared to +1). The defending champions drew a line under a four-match winless run (D3, L1) by thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 last time out. They've plundered some 23 goals across their first eight fixtures, including four or more on three separate occasions. The Leverkusen romp also represented their third clean sheet of the league campaign - one less than Dortmund.
Goals for, goals against
Seven different players have found the back of the net for Dortmund in 2022/23. Marco Reus is one of three on two goals, alongside fellow midfielder Julian Brandt and 17-year-old forward Youssoufa Moukoko. Wide players Marius Wolf and Raphael Guerreiro, teenaged attacker Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and former Cologne striker Anthony Modeste each have one apiece.
Bayern's spread of goalscorers extends to a league-leading 10. Musiala is head of the pack with five in seven appearances, followed by Mane (four) and Leroy Sane (three). Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry and midfield heartbeat Joshua Kimmich have scored twice. Right-back Benjamin Pavard, centre-half Matthijs de Ligt, winger Kingsley Coman and 17-year-old striker Mathys Tel are on one. Like BVB, Bayern have forced an own goal.
In terms of Expected Goals (xG), Dortmund are down 3.62 on a projection of 14.62 (11 scored). They're also in the red for xG against (8.18, 10 conceded). Bayern, in contrast, are exceeding expectations on both counts. The Bavarians have an xG of 20.75 (2.25 lower than their actual total) and are a little over a goal below their xG against (7.28, six conceded).
Watch: Bayern Munich blew Bayer Leverkusen away on Matchday 8
Bayern's wealth of attacking riches explains why - at times - they have been scoring for fun. More of an impact substitute last season, the balletic Musiala has become undroppable as part of Julian Nagelsmann's interchangeable four-man front line, with six goals and seven assists in all competitions. Mane has his mojo back in the left wing role, the Senegal star following up his strike against Leverkusen with a goal and assist in the 5-0 rout of Viktoria Plzen in the UEFA Champions League. Dazzling by the week on the opposite flank, Sane's exquisite brace against the Czech champions underlined his position in the pecking order ahead of Gnabry. The latter may get the nod against Dortmund, though, with Müller a doubt.
Bayern are also sweating on the fitness of Kimmich - their answer to BVB's Bellingham - leaving Leon Goretzka and Marcel Sabitzer as the probable double pivot in central midfield. Defender Lucas Hernandez is a confirmed absentee, while Coman can expect a substitute role at best following an injury of his own. Happily, de Ligt's performances are on an upward trajectory - Bayern have kept back-to-back clean sheets - and they can always count on the additional width provided by roaming full-backs Pavard and Alphonso Davies. If the game is to be decided in the half and wide spaces, the 31-time Bundesliga champions hold all the cards.
Watch: The best of Jamal Musiala
Dortmund's ace of spades is arguably Bellingham. Long billed as a future captain, the 19-year-old assumed the armband for the first time in BVB's 3-2 loss to Cologne last weekend. If Reus and Mats Hummels remain on the sidelines in Der Klassiker, he should be the man to lead out the Black-Yellows once again. And with good reason: the England international bleeds hard work and commitment, as evinced by his league-leading 137 challenges won. He's also setting a stand-in captain's example for distance covered and intensive runs (a team-high 54.6 miles/ 87.9 kilometres and 634 respectively). Needless to say, he'd take on the entire Bayern team cuffed and blindfolded if he had to.
Bellingham is not the only game-changer at Terzic's disposal. Reus was on two goals and as many assists, before picking up an ankle injury in the Revierderby win over Schalke, decided by the prodigious Moukoko. With Modeste yet to find his groove - the French striker has one goal in seven Bundesliga games since making the switch from Cologne - there is talk of the teenager starting against Bayern. Level for goal involvements with Reus, Julian Brandt is a shoo-in for one of three attacking midfield berths. Mercurial trio Karim Adeyemi, Thorgan Hazard and Donyell Malen will vie for the remaining two. Gio Reyna is a major doubt.
Watch: Jude Bellingham - cool under pressure
Dortmund have the tools to hurt Bayern, but how they stand up to the defending champions' relentless attacking waves may well be the difference between a positive result and one to forget. Despite throwing away leads in defeats to Cologne (3-1) and Werder Bremen (3-2), Terzic has improved a defence that shipped 52 goals last season - more than any team that finished in the top eight.
Although Germany pair Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck were signed for that very purpose, veteran centre-half Hummels has been the standout. Dortmund have let in just one goal in 512 minutes with Hummels on the pitch, but one every 23 minutes without him, winning all six league games the ex-Bayern man has started - including four to nil. It's no coincidence the concession of three late Bremen goals on Matchday 3 arrived after his 62nd-minute withdrawal. First-choice goalkeeper Gregor Kobel is also due back from injury. He measures up to Bayern's Manuel Neuer for shut-outs with three, albeit across three fewer appearances.
A fully-fit Hummels gives Terzic the option of going three at the back, as he has on occasion mid-game this season. A 4-2-3-1 formation is his clear preference, however. That means he'll be matching Nagelsmann like for like, even if Davies tends to operate as more of an attacking winger when Bayern are in possession.
Bayern have a tendency to overwhelm the opposition, but there is a blueprint for success against them. Between Matchdays 4-7, they drew with Borussia Mönchengladbach, Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart before losing 1-0 to Augsburg - a result that ended their run of scoring in 87 successive Bundesliga matches. And while bad luck and inspired goalkeeping played a part, good old fashioned hustle, long balls and rapier-like counter-attacks were Bayern's undoing.
That being said, nine goals without reply across games with Leverkusen and Plzen suggests Bayern have learned the lessons from the aforementioned slip-ups. They also have a habit of turning up the dial in Der Klassiker.
Nagelsmann presided over 3-1 (Supercup), 3-2 (away) and 3-1 wins over Dortmund in 2021/22 - the latter to clinch the title and make it eight competitive Klassikers not out. BVB haven't taken down Bayern in the Bundesliga since November 2018 (3-2), while Terzic lost his only previous assignment with the red ballet 4-2 (March 2021). It's worth noting, though, that Borussia have never lost nine straight meetings against an opponent.
Robert Lewandowski's summer move to Barcelona removes the scourge-of-Dortmund factor from the equation - the Pole put 23 goals in 16 top-flight appearances past his ex-employers - but the fact remains Bayern lead the overall head to head by some distance (W53, D29, L26).
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