Europe's most in-form team, crucial points in the title race, two of the world's most exciting players in Jude Bellingham and Christopher Nkunku - and more. bundesliga.com goes under the bonnet of Borussia Dortmund's Matchday 23 meeting with RB Leipzig...
With 22 fixtures played and 12 to go, Dortmund are neck and neck - level on 46 points - with defending champions Bayern Munich. Only goal difference has them in second place, while DFB Cup holders Leipzig are just four points back in the six-way battle royale for top honours.
Dortmund have made a perfect start to the calendar year, rattling off nine straight wins in all competitions, including seven in the Bundesliga. They've hit 20 league goals across that period - another European gold standard to go with their flawless points haul in 2023 - and have conceded a division-low six in fixtures with Augsburg (4-3), Mainz (2-1), Bayer Leverkusen (2-0), Freiburg (5-1), Werder Bremen (2-0), Hertha Berlin (4-1) and Hoffenheim (1-0).
Leipzig started into the new year with a 1-1 draw against Bayern and were unbeaten in 18 competitive matches until defeat to title rivals Union Berlin a fortnight ago. However, after bouncing back to beat Wolfsburg (3-0) and Eintracht Frankfurt (2-1), they remain top dog for most points since Marco Rose took charge on 8 September 2022 (37 compared to Bayern's 35 and BVB's 34) - a tenure that began with a 3-0 win over former employers Dortmund.
Dortmund's upswing has conincided with Sebastien Haller's return to competitive action following a six-month fight against testicular cancer. The Ivorian No.9 has contributed two goals in seven Bundesliga games for Die Schwarz-Gelben, but it's his movement, hold-up play and penalty-box smarts that make him such an invaluable addition at the head of Edin Terzic's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
The Dortmund boss has also been able to get the best out of Emre Can in a central midfield role - a task made a whole lot easier by virtue of pairing the Germany international with cerebral box-to-box maestro Bellingham. The future England captain has started all but one league game this term, whilst winning more challenges than any player and contributing eight goals.
What's more, club skipper Marco Reus is back among the goals following injury, supplementing the eye-catching efforts of Julian Brandt and Karim Adeyemi - respective January Player and Rookie of the Month winners and two of the standout players in the division this year. Brandt, for one, is currently out on his own as Dortmund's biggest Bundesliga goal threat (eight of his own and four assists).
Watch: Julian Brandt & Karim Adeyemi on fire (pre-Matchday 22)
At Leipzig, it's Nkunku who takes the undisputed honour of club talisman. The France international scored 12 times across the first 15 matches of the season, before a knee injury forced him to miss the World Cup and first five Bundesliga matches after the restart. He marked his return against Wolfsburg with an assist, though, and is in line to face Dortmund.
Holding the fort in Nkunku's absence, it's been a bed of Rose(s) for Dominik Szoboszlai. All 12 of the Hungary playmaker's combined Bundesliga goals and assists this season have fallen on his former Salzburg mentor's watch, including one of each in the reverse fixture.
A fairly even spread of direct goal involvements from Timo Werner (nine), Andre Silva (eight) and Emil Forsberg (seven), meanwhile, has helped put Leipzig level with Dortmund on 45 team strikes for the campaign. Only Bayern have scored more at this juncture (64).
Watch: All Christopher Nkunku's Bundesliga goals so far, including a couple vs. BVB
The record champions also boast the meanest defence (21 against), marginally ahead of Union, Dortmund and Leipzig (all 27 conceded).
After experimenting with a number of variations, Terzic has settled on a back four, with Germany's Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck at its heart. Similarly, Rose builds his watertight defence around stand-in captain Willi Orban and 2022 World Cup bronze medal-winner Josko Gvardiol.
That said, it was the pairing of ex-Dortmund defender Abdou Diallo and Orban that helped shut out BVB at the Red Bull Arena on Rose's debut. It's an achievement not to be scoffed at - Wolfsburg, Union and Manchester City are the only other teams to have stopped Dortmund from scoring in all competitions this season.
Leipzig now have a three-game winning hoodoo over BVB, ahead of their Matchday 23 clash at Signal Iduna Park. The sides will also meet again in Leipzig in the DFB Cup quarter-finals on 5 April. The overall head-to-head record narrowly favours Dortmund (six wins to five, plus two draws), who are bidding to emulate Jürgen Klopp's class of 2011/12 in more ways than one.
To date, Klopp's vintage are the only Dortmund team to have reeled off eight successive Bundesliga victory in a single campaign. They are also the last BVB outfit to win the Bundesliga, as part of a famous domestic double over old rivals Bayern, back when Leipzig were still in Germany's fourth tier.
Stay with bundesliga.com for the next big test of five-time champions Dortmund's - and perennial contenders Leipzig's - title credentials...
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