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


Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich will bring their star-studded sides together in a massively awaited Klassiker encounter on Saturday 4 November (6.30pm CET). bundesliga.com outlines the key battles of fine footballing might that look set the sway the outcome...

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Niclas Füllkrug vs. Harry Kane

This clash pits the reigning Bundesliga top scorer against one of the main contenders to take his crown. At this point, it will take something special for Füllkrug, who has two goals in nine matches (six for BVB) so far this campaign, to keep up with Kane's haul of 12, never mind 14-goal Serhou Guirassy. Still, after a slow start to life at Signal Iduna Park, the former Werder Bremen talisman appears to be finding his feet. He provided a crucial assist for Donyell Malen in the 4-2 win away at Freiburg during Matchday 4, and two weeks later, found the back of the net for the first time in the 3-1 triumph over Hoffenheim.

Watch: Every Füllkrug Bundesliga goal in 2022/23

Kane, meanwhile, has wasted no time in hitting the ground running following his summer transfer, impeccably dealing with the weight of expectation placed on his experienced shoulders. Only Guirassy has managed more than the England captain’s top-flight tally thus far, while the further five he has created put him joint-second in the Bundesliga’s assists charts.

The 30-year-old was signed to provide star quality and a plethora of goals up front following Robert Lewandowski’s departure in the summer of 2022 – so far, he has lived up to the billing. 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. Either way, though, the attacking rivals will be crucial to their respective team’s chances of victory.

Watch: Harry Kane - Dream Goal & Next Milestone

Julian Brandt vs. Jamal Musiala

After struggling to find consistency during the first part of the 2022/23 term, Brandt has grown in form all the way through 2023. The Germany international netted five times after the winter break, including four in four February matches, while his overall contribution was a key factor as Dortmund pushed Bayern all the way in the title race. This term, he has taken his game up a notch, striking four times and creating four more in the league as BVB have enjoyed an unbeaten start, contributing at least a goal in each of the last eight Bundesliga fixtures. Jude Bellingham’s exit appears to have allowed Brandt extra freedom, which he is undoubtedly putting to good use.

Watch: Brandt on fire

Twelve goals and 10 assists last term was Musiala’s record return amongst the elite, while his last-gasp winner versus Cologne on Matchday 34 clinched the Meisterschale in dramatic fashion for the record champions. As such, this campaign promised so much, but the 20-year-old has not had it all his own way. A muscle injury kept him out of victories over Augsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach, but he opened his league account for the campaign in the 8-0 demolition of Darmstadt last weekend. The attacking midfielder, though, is a player full of talent and ability, as his assists versus RB Leipzig and Mainz, as well as two UEFA Champions League strikes, show.

Watch: Every Musiala goal and assist last season, including his title-winning strike

Marco Reus vs. Thomas Müller

There is nothing like an experienced and enthusiastic veteran to guide a successful ship. By that score, Dortmund and Bayern are blessed to have two living legends of the German game in their ranks, still capable of making telling contributions. Although no longer club captain, 34-year-old Reus has made a massive contribution to steering a rocky start to the season into a much more promising place. Having been left on the bench for draws against Bochum and Heidenheim, Reus came on as a late substitute to score the decisive final goal in a dramatic 4-2 win in Freiburg on Matchday 4, and then scored in the next two encounters (including the only goal in a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg). Reus will be confident of stepping up to make another telling contribution in Der Klassiker.

Watch: Marco Reus: Dortmund's deadlock breaker

Müller is the same age as Reus and as clever and dependable as ever. Although he has been used in controlled doses by Thomas Tuchel so far this season, the 125-time Germany international still knows exactly how to find space that others can't and play a perfect ball or two. Assists against Werder Bremen and Freiburg added to his staggering career total of over 150. 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, there is a very good reason for that. He has just become the player to have taken the most wins in Bundesliga history (now 324), and it would be no surprise to see him at it again when the final whistle sounds on the Klassiker in Dortmund.

Salih Özcan vs. Konrad Laimer

Circumstances at both clubs have combined to bring forth the prospect of a fascinating midfield battle. While Dortmund captain Emre Can would have ordinarily been a nailed-on starter in this season's first Klassiker, a knock to the knee sustained in BVB's Champions League win against Newcastle means the experienced midfielder is a doubt for Saturday's hosts. Step forth Özcan, who deputised admirably for Can not only in that European victory, but also in his team's subsequent 3-3 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 9.

"Salih came on, took over and did a great job, which is just what we needed," Terzić said after his side's victory in England. The midfielder is on a high having recently achieved UEFA Euro 2024 qualification with Turkey and - now in his second season with Borussia following a switch from Cologne - is well clued up on the inner workings of Dortmund's engine room following 43 appearances in Black and Yellow. Should he be called upon again this weekend, expect a focused and well-drilled showing from the determined 25-year-old.    

Salih Özcan (r.) has been earning praise while filling in for the injured Emre Can. - IMAGO/Jan Huebner

Laimer's importance to Bayern's cause this Saturday suddenly skyrocketed after Joshua Kimmich was sent off during last weekend's victory against Darmstadt. With the Bavarians' No.6 suspended and Leon Goretzka hopeful of returning to action following an operation on a broken hand, the only certainty for coach Tuchel appears to be Laimer's presence in what will be a very busy central area.  "We're a little thin in that position right now, [but] I know how to play the six [and] feel comfortable doing so," the Austrian said after his side's Matchday 9 triumph.

Kimmich himself offered further assurances when asked about Laimer's ability to fill the hugely important role. "Of course he has it in him; he's a good player and can do it," the Germany international insisted. Laimer has made five Bundesliga starts for Bayern this term, while in 14 games in all competitions for the record champions, the former Leipzig midfielder has weighed in with a goal and two assists. A very first Klassiker has taken on even more significance for the Salzburg native, who will be extra keen to impress.  

Watch: Bayern Munich - champions in the end

Mats Hummels vs. Minjae Kim

A Klassiker veteran who has experienced the big rivalry from both sides, 34-year-old centre-back extraordinaire Hummels has been rolling back the years in the current campaign. He has started every one of Dortmund's past eight matches in all competitions and helped to mastermind a true defensive resurgence for the Bundesliga runners-up. No fewer than four clean sheets have been claimed in that spell - against Wolfsburg and Bremen in the Bundesliga, along with AC Milan and Newcastle in the Champions League.

Arriving at the club with a nickname like 'The Monster' meant Kim had little chance to waste if he was to meet expectations, but it is safe to say he has managed just that - and then some. The Korean has started every single tie for Bayern so far - which is no small feat given the wealth of talent in their squad, and is in the league's top 10 for aerial duels won after a number of commanding performances. Given the dominance Bayern tend to have in their league encounters, the true extent of his contribution perhaps hasn't always been visible yet - but a domineering defensive display in a Klassiker would make an ideal show of his masterful talent.

Watch: Mats Hummels scores in 16 consecutive seasons

Gregor Kobel vs. Manuel Neuer

Should the Klassiker turn out to be as tight an encounter as expected, the stage might be set for a masterful goalkeeping performance to swing it. The backstory behind this particular duel has to be the most exciting of all. On the one hand, Dortmund shot-stopper Kobel has a chance at gaining redemption. It was Kobel's unfortunate mistake that gave Bayern the lead with an own goal in the most recent Klassiker in April. That moment was an unfair representation of a goalkeeper who has been a bedrock of his side's superb form right throughout 2023 - and a stunning series of saves as Dortmund held on to take a vital 1-0 Champions League win in Newcastle means he is in the perfect form to deliver in his next meeting with Bayern's feared attack.

Watch: The best of Gregor Kobel and Manuel Neuer

The encounter also marks a chance for Neuer to make up for lost time after his long injury break. He finally made his first Bundesliga appearance of 2023 against Darmstadt in Matchday 9, with the club captain Neuer making four saves and keeping a clean sheet. The world will get to see if Bayern are back at their devastating best with their legendary sweeper-keeper back between the sticks as they take on their rivals in the first Klassiker of the season. Whoever ends up winning the individual key duels, get set for heroics!

Poll: Who will win Der Klassiker?

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