Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich's Der Klassiker debutants feeling big-game anticipation
There are those within the ranks of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich who have yet to live and breathe the immensity of the Klassiker, yet as the clock ticks steadily towards one of world football's flagship fixtures, their wait for a taste of this iconic game is almost over.
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The exciting summer signings that swelled the already talented squads of two of the Bundesliga's biggest teams have enjoyed a solid bedding in period with their respective sides. With eight top-flight matchdays played as well as further tests in Europe and the domestic cup undertaken, Der Klassiker's arrival seems perfectly timed.
bundesliga.com takes a look at the players who look set to grace the biggest of games for the first time this Saturday.
He has played in several major finals for club and country and scored in derby games galore down through the years, but this weekend, Sadio Mane is all set for a whole new experience when Der Klassiker kicks off in Dortmund. Facing the famed Yellow Wall inside what will be a rocking Signal Iduna Park feels like the perfect setting for a player who was used to performing 'heavy-metal football' with former team Liverpool.
Mane scored four goals against the Reds' Merseyside opponents Everton during his English Premier League career, while he was also on target twice against North West derby rivals Manchester United for the six-time European champions.
Watch: Mane at the double in Bochum
Already displaying a cool head amid the thundering atmospheres which intense rivalries provide, Mane would seem set fair for his first experience of one of the Bundesliga's biggest match-ups. Having burst onto the scene at Bayern with debut goals in the Supercup and the Bundesliga back in July and August, there could be no better setting for Senegal's finest to find his scoring boots once more.
Having rapidly connected with Dortmund's band of passionate fans following his move from Freiburg, Nico Schlotterbeck will be keen to help pump up the volume inside the wonderful Westfalenstadion with Bayern in town. During his top-flight debut for BVB against Bayer Leverkusen, 'Schlotti' dislocated a shoulder, had it popped back in inside the players' tunnel and returned to the field of play to rouse the Yellow Wall into one final push to get Edin Terzic's team over the line in what turned out to be an opening-day win.
"It was a tight game [against Leverkusen] – emotional and heated," the Germany international explained. "I thought we needed the fans in the last four, five minutes. [Rallying the supporters at that time] just came from inside me. It got very loud in that moment. I was really pleased with that. I'm a player who needs the fans," the 22-year-old added.
The man with over 70 Bundesliga games to his name has experienced much in his impressive career to date, but he has yet to play in a Klassiker. Explaining that he prefers a perfectly-timed, team-saving sliding tackle to scoring a goal, Schlotterbeck will revel in having his work cut out for him against Bayern's brilliant attacking line. "As a team, you want to put on something of a show and put in a performance for the fans," he said. "The people here live for football. I live for football too."
Watch: Fly with us through the Signal Iduna Park
He was the youngest captain in Ajax's history, won titles in the Netherlands and in Italy with Juventus, and already has his first winner's medal at Bayern following success in the 2022 Supercup. For the man who has faced Feyenoord in De Klassieker and Inter Milan in the monumental Derby d'Italia, Der Klassiker is the latest fit Dutch defender De Ligt is keen to try.
He may be only 23 and still adapting to life at the world-renowned Säbener Straße, but don't expect the Leiderdorp native to be overawed under the bright lights of Signal Iduna Park on Matchday 9. De Ligt has always rubbed shoulders with the best, just as he continues to do so at Bayern. And having learned from world beaters with household names, the former Golden Boy award winner should quickly adapt to the Klassiker rhythm once the on-field footballing dance commences.
"I was able to learn and adapt a lot early on, at Ajax, in the Dutch national team and then at Juventus," de Ligt told fcbayern.com. "Players like [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Leonardo] Bonucci, Cristiano Ronaldo or [Gianluigi] Buffon are 10, 12, 13 years older than me, and I took my cue from those characters," he continued. "Now I'm at Bayern, one of the biggest clubs in the world with an incredible history. I'm excited to learn, absorb and live the philosophy of [this club]." De Ligt's first lesson in Klassiker culture is imminent.
"Perseverance is my engine!" So said former Cologne legend Modeste after the super striker - who has scored 84 goals in almost 200 Bundesliga appearances - signed for Die Schwarzgelben this season. After netting once in what has been a testing opening period of adaptation for the 6'2" striker, perseverance will be key as the Cannes-born forward looks to make his switch to Dortmund a big success. But what better time to signal your intent than by clicking in one of the biggest games of all, Der Klassiker. For the much-travelled Modeste, this will be a fascinating first.
Watch: All 20 of Modeste's goals last season
"Modeste's profile perfectly fits the role that our coach Edin Terzic envisages for BVB football," Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said after the French forward arrived at the club as cover for the recovering Sebastien Haller. "He's a seasoned professional who knows the Bundesliga very well," the Borussia official added. Modeste also knows Bayern well, having scored three times against them in 11 German top-flight games.
"Courage is my weapon," the 34-year-old said recently, and you can bet Modeste will be happy to prove that in his very first Klassiker.
Mazraoui, Gravenberch, Tel - Bayern
The season is yet young for Noussair Mazraoui and Ryan Gravenberch, Bayern's summer arrivals from Ajax, and playing time will only increase for the pair in what is set to be a chaotic period with games coming thick and fast for the defending Bundesliga champions. A Klassiker bow might be more likely for Mazraoui this time around after the 12-time Morocco international was praised for his recent showing in a Champions League victory against Barcelona. However, with Gravenberch keen to add some more game time of his own, don't be surprised to see the highly-rated Dutch midfielder earning some minutes against Dortmund.
The same can be said for the sensational Mathys Tel, who became Bayern's youngest-ever goalscorer when he found the net in a 2-2 draw against Stuttgart earlier this season. The 17-year-old - who moved to Bavaria from Rennes in late July - is already showing supreme promise in these early days with his new club and he could well be in line for a cameo appearance against Dortmund.
A goal on his competitive debut in Dortmund's comfortable DFB Cup win against 1860 Munich enhanced the sense of huge promise surrounding Adeyemi since his summer move from Red Bull Salzburg. Injuries have since stifled that start but the young Germany international is fit again and would relish some on-field action in what would be a first Klassiker appearance for the forward, who you shouldn't forget is a Munich native and spent a couple of years in the Bayern academy.
Adeyemi is close friends with the aforementioned Schlotterbeck, who fondly remembers the duo's first appearance for Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park at the start of 2022/23.
"You're coming out onto the pitch – Saturday, 18:30, for the big game against Leverkusen – and standing in front of the Yellow Wall, there is a cacophony of noise – the stadium was like a cauldron, and we [Adeyemi and I] looked at each other. And because we know each other so well – it's like when you're at school – we couldn't help but smile," the defender explained. Adeyemi picked up a toe problem in that game but he has since experienced the roar of the Revierderby, playing for 26 minutes as Dortmund downed Schalke on Matchday 7. Could his time to shine come against the mighty Bayern?
A multiple league and cup winner in Austria, Adeyemi is eager to claim a place in Germany's FIFA World Cup squad for the forthcoming finals in Qatar. You can bet coach Hansi Flick will be watching Saturday's Klassiker with keen interest, hopeful that the 20-year-old - who previously scored on his full Germany debut - will be able to shine when making his Klassiker bow.
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