Marco Reus’s Borussia Dortmund and Xavi Simons’ RB Leipzig head into Matchday 14 separated by a point and a place in the Bundesliga table as fifth hosts fourth in Saturday's tantalising late kick-off.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at how the heavyweight pairing match up ahead of their meeting at the Signal Iduna Park...
Not one of their 16 competitive meetings has ended goalless, so you can certainly expect the front lines to be firing.
Leipzig's certainly has this season with only the three teams currently ahead of them in the table having found the net more times than Marco Rose's side (31), who have scored six goals more than at this stage last season.
Sharpshooter-in-chief is Belgium international Loïs Openda, who has hit the ground scoring since his summer arrival from Lens, finding the net 10 times already - Bayern Munich legend Gerd Müller only scored one goal more in the first 13 matches of his Bundesliga career.
Openda scored 21 times in 38 Ligue 1 matches in France last season having struck 18 times in 33 Eredivisie matches for Vitesse Arnhem the previous campaign, and clearly the switch to Leipzig has taken his game to another level. He is well on course to take his personal single-season record apart, and if you add in his four goals in five UEFA Champions League matches too, his goal-per-minute ratio is a very healthy one strike every 100 minutes.
Watch: Xavi & Openda - Leipzig's latest deadly duo
What will worry Rose is the fact Leipzig created 24 goalscoring chances against Heidenheim last weekend, and yet still only emerged with a nervy 2-1 win. "We should have scored a third goal, 24 chances is quite simply enough to put the ball in the back of the net more often," he said. "That's tough for us right now."
Dortmund have actually scored three more goals than they did in the first 13 games of last season, but this term, even mid-table Borussia Mönchengladbach have been more prolific in front of goal than Edin Terzić's side (27 to 26). Julian Brandt has prompted impressively with five assists, but Niclas Füllkrug has not adapted as quickly to life at his new club as Openda has. That said, the Bundesliga's 2022/23 joint-leading scorer's four goals make him - along with Brandt and Donyell Malen - BVB's top goalgetter so far this term.
Dortmund also have the Reus factor. The veteran loves playing against Leipzig: he has 11 goal involvements in his 12 competitive appearances against them (five goals, six assists). But Leipzig fans would argue they have the X-factor in Xavi, currently the Bundesliga's leading goal-maker with seven assists.
Watch: Brandt is one of the Bundesliga's unpredictable playmakers
Leipzig may only be in seventh place for duels won so far this season, but Rose clearly has his team well drilled when it comes to their work without the ball. Only the current top two, Bayern (9) and Bayer Leverkusen (11), have conceded fewer goals (13), and this is despite the summer departure of Joško Gvardiol to Manchester City.
They kept three successive clean sheets between Matchdays 3 and 5, and have five already this season, but they have not been able to keep opponents at bay in their last four top-flight games, which suggests Dortmund forwards will get chances.
The same, though, is almost certain for Leipzig's front men. Dortmund have by some distance the worst defensive record in the top five with 20 goals conceded - Stuttgart come next with 15 - and they have failed to add to their tally of three clean sheets in any their last five games. They conceded three times in their draw in Frankfurt on Matchday 9, and then lost 4-0 at home to Bayern on Matchday 10.
It could have been much worse too. Switzerland international goalkeeper Gregor Kobel ranks seventh for shots saved with 47, the highest total of any 'keeper at a current top-five club. That's ten more than the next-most, Leverkusen's Lukáš Hrádecký, and over 20 more than Leipzig's Janis Blaswich (26).
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Home vs. away form
Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park is usually an imposing place for any visiting team, but not this season. Though the Yellow Wall has seen Terzić's men beaten just once - the 4-0 Klassiker lesson dished out by Bayern - they have not been convincing in racking up five wins from their seven home matches so far this season.
They have recorded two 4-2 wins - over Union Berlin, and then Mönchengladbach on Matchday 12, their most recent home Bundesliga outing - but there have been a trio of 1-0 victories and just 13 goals scored on their own turf with 10 conceded. By way of comparison, Leipzig have scored 21 goals and conceded five at the Red Bull Arena, and are one of three teams still unbeaten at home along with Leverkusen and Bayern.
Watch: Borussia Dortmund stadium experience
It is a different story on the road though for Rose's side. They bounced back from their narrow 3-2 opening-day defeat at Leverkusen with three successive wins, but they have since found it tough to overcome their travel sickness with back-to-back defeats in Mainz and Wolfsburg, conceding four times and scoring just once.
They have, however, won four of their last five competitive meetings with Dortmund, most recently a 2-0 home victory in last season's DFB Cup quarter-final in April. They also scored a handsome victory over Dortmund with a 3-0 home triumph in Rose's first game in charge on Matchday 6 last season, but were beaten 2-1 when they travelled to BVB on Matchday 23 with Reus - who else? - opening the scoring from the penalty spot.
Between them, these two sides have finished Bundesliga runners-up six times since Leipzig entered the top flight in 2016: RBL twice, Dortmund four times. Rose led Dortmund to one of those second-placed finishes in the 2021/22 season, his sole campaign as BVB coach. It was an impressive campaign though, and earned him the highest win ratio of any Dortmund coach with 65 per cent, a mark that still stands.
Since replacing Domenico Tedesco at Leipzig early last season, the former Mönchengladbach mastermind has flourished at his hometown club, imposing his entertaining brand of football. "We want to represent a certain type of football, which is above all intense," he explained earlier this season. "We want to be good in every phase of the game. We want to win challenges and transition well. On the other hand, if we lose the ball, we want to win it back quickly. The aim is to control the game with the ball."
Like Rose, Terzić has close ties to the club he coaches. A former scout and youth academy coach during Jürgen Klopp's tenure at BVB, Terzić celebrated his biggest win as a coach with the 4-1 defeat of Leipzig in the 2020/21 DFB Cup final. The triumph heralded the end of his interim spell in charge, however, as he was replaced by - yes, you've guessed it - Rose, only to return to take permanent charge when his successor left the club in summer 2022.
He was, of course, so close last season to becoming the first man since Klopp to bring the Bundesliga title to Dortmund, and may not be too concerned his team has started relatively slowly: after 13 matches last season, BVB were fourth on 25 points, the same tally as they have now. There is a significant difference, however. In 2022/23, they were just three points off top spot; they come into Matchday 14 this term 10 points behind leaders Leverkusen.
"We all wish for ultimate success and to breeze through the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup, and the Champions League with nothing but victories and achievements. But that's not reality, that's not how things really work," said Terzic in an interview with bundesliga.com early this season.
"We've realised that over the course of a season, despite the rocky start – if you look at the entire trajectory of the season, it started quite bumpy, almost hitting rock bottom in November before the break – we've shown that even when things get tough, we can develop strength from them, stay positive, and steer things in the right direction."
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