Some of the finest players in the world will battle it out in Der Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. - © DFL
Some of the finest players in the world will battle it out in Der Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. - © DFL

Klassiker key duels: six star battles that could decide Germany's biggest match


Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will bring their star-studded sides together in a hotly anticipated Klassiker encounter on Saturday 30 March (6.30pm CET). outlines the key battles that look set to sway the outcome...

Click here for more Klassiker content and build-up!

Harry Kane vs. Niclas Füllkrug

This clash pits the Bundesliga's current leading marksman against last season's defending champion, even if Kane, with 31 goals, is well ahead of his Dortmund counterpart (11).

Kane wasted no time in hitting the ground running following his summer transfer, impeccably dealing with the weight of expectation placed on his experienced shoulders. He has only failed to score in seven Bundesliga games this season, while his longest run without hitting the net is two matches. 

The two centre-forwards have contrasting profiles and playing styles: while Füllkrug is more of a traditional number nine, spending most of his time looking to find a yard of space in the penalty area, Kane can often be found further back, linking up with those around him. His chemistry with Leroy Sané this term, in particular, has allowed both to flourish. 

Watch: All of Kane's Bundesliga goals so far

Füllkrug, by way of contrast, had a slow start to life at Signal Iduna Park, scoring just twice in his first nine league outings. However, he has since adapted well to his team-mates and Edin Terzić's playing style, registering a further nine strikes in his next 16 Bundesliga games, in addition to a very respectable eight assists. 

One area where the Germany international holds an edge over Kane is in the air: Füllkrug has won 86 aerial duels this term (13th overall in the league), compared to Kane's 25. Crosses into the box and set-pieces could therefore help Dortmund cause havoc at the Allianz Arena. What is certain, though, is that the attacking rivals will be crucial to their respective team’s chances of victory.

Watch: Füllkrug the penalty king

Jamal Musiala vs. Jadon Sancho

"If you're not facing him as an opponent, it's an utter delight to watch the lad. As a country, we can count ourselves lucky to have a player like him." Those are the words of Darmstadt head coach Torsten Lieberknecht after Musiala ripped his side apart with two goals and an assist in Bayern's 5-2 win on Matchday 26.

Lieberknecht's comments are echoed by, well, pretty much everyone. Musiala registered 12 goals and 10 assists last season, and after initially struggling to reach those same heights again in 2023/24, he has returned to his unplayable best in recent weeks and now has 10 goals and six assists. Five of those strikes and four of those assists have come in his last five Bundesliga assignments. On current form, there is simply no stopping him. 

Watch: Musiala sprinkling his magic dust in the Bundesliga

Whisper it quietly, but is Jadon Sancho back? Not just back in the Bundesliga, but back to the kind of performances that provoked nightmares among opposition defenders? Like Musiala, witnessing Sancho in full flow is a joy to watch: the close control, fearless dribbling, and eye for a killer pass.

The 23-year-old appears to be regaining his form and confidence under Terzić's watch at Dortmund. After scoring a fine solo goal in the Matchday 25 victory over Werder Bremen, the Englishman was at it again against PSV in the Champions League last 16 second leg, firing in an early strike and generally proving an all-round menace for the Dutch defence. If Joshua Kimmich lines up at right-back as expected, he could be in for a very long day at the office. 

Watch: The best of Sancho in 2023/24

Thomas Müller vs. Julian Brandt 

There is nothing like an experienced and enthusiastic veteran to guide a successful ship. By that score, Bayern are blessed to have a living legend of the German game in their ranks, still capable of making telling contributions. Müller may be 34 now but he is as wily and dependable as ever.

Quiz: Are you a Thomas Müller-level Klassiker expert?

Although largely used as a substitute by Thomas Tuchel in the first half of the season, injuries to fellow attackers Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry opened the door for Müller to gain more playing time, to the extent that he has started each of their last five in the Bundesliga and both the Champions League last-16 ties against Lazio. Two goals and seven assists are a respectable contribution, underscoring that he still knows exactly how to find space that others can't and play a perfect ball or two.

If the image of Müller grinning at the final whistle in the sweet satisfaction of taking another win is one of your abiding memories of watching the Bundesliga over the years, it would be no surprise to see him at it again when the final whistle sounds on the Klassiker in Munich.

Watch: Every Thomas Müller goal against Dortmund

Dortmund may have struggled for form in the early part of the season - finishing the first half of the campaign 15 points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen and 14 adrift of Bayern - but Brandt has been one of their most consistent performers.

The 27-year-old has six goals and 10 assists to his name already, usually lining up in the pocket behing Füllkrug, with Sancho and Donyell Malen offering width on the flanks. "Jule is someone who does us a lot of good," praised Terzić earlier this season. "Both in and out of possession, because he's got a really good feel for when to move out of a pocket of space, when to make a run, when to press and when to win the ball back. He's also improved hugely in terms of his goal threat."

So while the softly spoken playmaker may not grab as many headlines as the other attackers on this page, his impact is usually equally devastating.

Watch: Brandt on fire

Aleksandar Pavlović vs. Emre Can

Hands up if you predicted Pavlović would break through to become a first-team regular at Bayern this season? Thought not. The 19-year-old's rise has been as spectacular as it has been rapid - so much so that he was called up to the senior Germany squad for the first time ever earlier this month, only to have to withdraw due to tonsillitis.

He is expected to recover - and start - in time for this Klassiker though. Injuries to Noussair Mazraoui, Sacha Boey and Konrad Laimer forced Tuchel to move Joshua Kimmich from his preferred position in central midfield to fill the void at right-back, opening the door for Pavlović to play.

He has grabbed the opportunity with both hands, impressing with his composure on the ball, accurate distrubution and will to win - not to mention two goals and as many assists. It was his surging run, too, that brought Bayern level against Darmstadt on Matchday 26. Don't let his age fool you - Pavlović is already the real deal.

Watch: Aleksandar Pavlović - from ball boy to Bayern player

It will likely be up to the Dortmund captain to try to limit Pavlović's influence. Although he has operated in defence a number of times this season, Can feels most at home in central midfield, where he can break up opposition attacks and instigate ones of his own.

While he missed five games earlier this season with injury, the 30-year-old is still in the top 35 players league-wide for tackles won (218), shining a light not only on his ball-winning ability but also his positioning and sense of anticipation. 

A Bayern academy graduate himself, Can tends to rise to the big occasion and will not be overawed by the intimidating atmosphere at the Allianz Arena. 

Can's experience and composure will be crucial for Dortmund in Munich. - Leon Kuegeler

Eric Dier vs. Nico Schlotterbeck

It's no mean feat to muscle your way into a rearguard already housing Dayot Upamecano and Minjae Kim, but that's exactly what Dier has done at Bayern since arriving in January, starting six of the team's last eight Bundesliga games at centre-back. “He’s a specialist in the position and can play in a back three or a back four," said Tuchel upon the 30-year-old's arrival on loan from Tottenham Hotspur.

Indeed, Dier has impressed to such an extent that he swiftly earned himself a one-year contract extension in Munich, having formed a solid partnership with Matthijs de Ligt. "They win games, work well together and also with the full-backs and defensive midfielders. There’s no reason to change,“ said Tuchel more recently. Enough said. 

How well Dier performs in his first Klassiker remains to be seen, but Schlotterbeck is a relative old hand in this fixture, ahead of his fourth appearance against Bayern as a Dortmund player.

And despite competition for places at centre-back from Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle, it is Schlotterbeck who always gets the nod from Terzić, starting 25 of the side's 26 Bundesliga games this term.

"He's very mature, despite his young age," the BVB boss said of the 24-year-old. "We want hiim to shoulder responsibility." And what greater task could he be given than trying to keep Kane quiet? Having endured a game to forget in the last Klassiker on Matchday 10, in which the Bayern forward hit a hat-trick, Schlotterbeck will be more determined than ever to make amends this time around.

Poll: Who will win Der Klassiker?

Click here for more Klassiker content!