bundesliga

Erling Haaland vs. Robert Lewandowski: Who has the edge when Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker?

Robert Lewandowski is in pole position to finish 2020/21 with a record fourth successive Bundesliga top scorer’s cannon, but has a genuine contender to his crown in Erling Haaland.

Ahead of Bayern Munich's trip to Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker, bundesliga.com weighs up the numbers behind the two finest No.9s in the land…

Goalscoring

With 10 goals to show for his first five appearances of the new Bundesliga campaign - he was rested on Matchday 6 - Lewandowski is once again the man to beat at the top of the scoring charts.

The Bayern striker was on target in the Matchday 1 rout of Schalke, and has since swelled his tally considerably with respective four- two- and three-goal salvos against Hertha Berlin, Arminia Bielefeld and Eintracht Frankfurt.

His only blank fell in the 4-1 defeat to Hoffenheim on Matchday 2 - a punch-drunk Bayern’s third competitive encounter of a bumper week and one he only joined with 33 minutes remaining.

Watch: Robert Lewandowski's 'perfect' hat-trick against Frankfurt

That rare off day aside, LewanGOALski is currently averaging a league goal every 37 minutes at a rate of two per game. He has reached double figures for the 10th successive season, and is the first player in history to have done so after five rounds of fixtures.

Breaking the 30-goal barrier - as he has done in three of his six full campaigns at Bayern - is expected. Gerd Müller’s 40-strike gold standard is within reach.

Haaland could conceivably achieve both feats, despite being 20 and playing in his first full season of Bundesliga football.

The Norwegian has scored five goals in as many Bundesliga appearances in 2020/21, having set the tone with 13 in 15 top-flight outings during the previous Rückrunde following his December move from Red Bull Salzburg.

Watch: Erling Haaland's first 15 Bundesliga goals

He ranks as the first player in Bundesliga history to stick away a debut hat-trick from the bench; reach five goals after two matches; seven after three and nine after five.

Lewandowski was three years older than Haaland when he scored his first Bundesliga multiples, and it wasn’t until his 10th Bundesliga campaign, aged 31, that he broke Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s record for most single-season goals by a non-German national with 34 last term.

Twelve years Lewandowski’s junior, it’s another best-mark Haaland may well eclipse sooner rather than later.

Efficiency

Haaland is ahead of the curve, after all, producing 18 goals in 20 Bundesliga outings to date.

Lewandowski had five goals to show for his first 20 German top-flight assignments, and needed another 28 to reach 18, while his 246 total league strikes are the product of 1258 efforts on goal.

Although Haaland boasts the superior hit rate since arriving at BVB - 18 goals from 50 shots - Lewandowski has been the more clinical of the two at the early stage of the new season.

Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland (l-r.) are set to face off for the third time when Bayern Munich take on Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 7. - imago

The Poland striker is scoring a goal every 2.8 shots and converting 71.4 percent of his clear-cut chances. Haaland requires roughly three attempts per goal and sinks 66.7 percent of his major opportunities.

It’s by a nose, but the bionic Lewandowski has the edge.

Range/ styles

If end product is similarly emphatic, method of dispatch could not be further apart.

For starters, Lewandowski is naturally right-footed; Haaland is a rocket-propelled lefty. The former has scored seven times this season with his preferred foot; the latter four.

Lewandowski has put away 39 headers - including one this term - to Haaland’s one, despite being four inches shorter.

What the Bayern man lacks in height, he makes up for in positioning and execution. With eight of his nine league goals from open play in 2020/21 coming from the central third of the opponent’s 18-yard area, he is the definition of 'fox in the box'.

Haaland, by contrast, is more raging bull.

Aggressive runs from deep at speed - 21.87 mph at its peak - are a Haaland hallmark. Against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 1 alone, he sprinted 86 metres to finish Jadon Sancho’s lay-off from his preferred shooting zone - the left-hand third of the opposition penalty area.

Haaland has scored three times from such a position, and twice on the counter.

But if the Dortmund frontman plays to his strengths, it wouldn’t be wide of the mark to say Lewandowski has no weaknesses.

Creativity/ team work

As well as scoring more goals, Lewandowski is hitting the money with more attempted passes, averaging more touches, winning more aerial challenges and has produced more assists than his Dortmund counterpart.

He has a one-track mind fixed on scoring goals, whether taking or making the chances himself.

Haaland operates on the same wavelength, floating seamlessly between the predatory and selfless - just as the modern man can hammer up drywall one minute and paint his partner’s nails the next.

Embellishing the Norway international's two assists - presentable one-on-one situations in which he opted for a simple square pass - his 17.7 average for attempted challenges and 6.4 miles for distance covered per 90 minutes are both marginally superior numbers compared to Lewandowski.

The verdict

Small-scale sample size or not, Lewandowski has a serious rival on all counts.

The Bayern goal-getter has long been the yardstick against which untold forwards are measured and consistently found wanting. Let’s not forget he's the only man ever to win a league, cup and Champions League treble whilst top scoring in each competition - to the tune of 55 goals in 47 games at that.

Yet Haaland is bucking the trend.

His performances in a black-and-yellow shirt have led former Italy international Christian Vieri - a former Inter Milan teammate of Brazil legend Ronaldo - to herald the Dortmund hit machine as "the best striker in the world".

Premature perhaps when measured against the goal-scoring prowess of Lewandowski - but a glimpse into the future all the same.

For the time being at least, Haaland can rightly be considered the most complete player of his type under the age of 25.

For a true striker’s masterclass, look no further than Der Klassiker.

Chris Mayer-Lodge