Erling Haaland against Marcus Thuram, Marco Reus taking on Lars Stindl…when Borussia Mönchengladbach host Borussia Dortmund on Friday, some of the Bundesliga's biggest talents will go head-to-head.
bundesliga.com looks at how some of the major battles will shape up at Borussia-Park.
The Norway international, blessed with a sang froid in front of goal drained from a frozen fjord, has 12 goals in just 12 Bundesliga appearances giving him more than a third of his team's 33 top-flight strikes this season. And you thought his start to life in Dortmund last season was fast with 10 goals in his first 11 league matches….As teammate Gio Reyna has said, "Just look at the numbers."
Watch: Erling Haaland's record first 25 Bundesliga goals
Haaland's stats are not the only reason he is so important to Dortmund. When he missed four games with a muscle injury between Matchdays 10 and 14, he watched his teammates pick up just four points.
"He was missing for a couple of weeks, and you noticed that in Dortmund's play and Dortmund's mentality on the pitch," explained German football legend Lothar Matthäus after seeing Haaland fire two goals in BVB's Matchday 15 defeat of RB Leipzig, the forward's second game back after injury. "He's a machine. He's a tornado that blows you over."
Thuram's trajectory since arriving in Germany has been almost as spectacular as that of Haaland.
"Borussia allowed me to take the next steps in my career; I play in the Champions League and made it into the national team," explained the 23-year-old France international. "And in Gladbach I've grown not only as a player, but as a person. Borussia was the best choice for my career."
There were 10 goals and eight assists in his maiden season, which was cut short by an ankle injury. That layoff perhaps explains the sluggish start Thuram has made to the current campaign with just two goals and a single assist so far.
His lengthy suspension following his red card against Hoffenheim comes to an end just in time to face Dortmund - Gladbach will need him to hit the ground scoring if they are to much up to Haaland and BVB.
"He's rightly our captain," said Gladbach boss Marco Rose of Stindl, who is certainly leading by example. The 32-year-old is enjoying his best season since 2016/17 when he netted 11 goals and set up a further six. He's already got nine and four in those categories respectively in his first 16 appearances this term, that's as many goals and more assists than he tallied in 25 Bundesliga outings in 2019/20.
"He's in exceptional form. He's a leader, a goalscorer and an assister," added Matthäus, who feels Stindl's performances should be recognised at a higher level. "Jogi Löw must consider Stindl for the national team. We don't have a player like him."
Watch: Stindl was named the Bundesliga's December Player of the Month
Stindl, who helped Germany claim the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, last appeared for his country in March 2018. But if he can wield the sort of influence on the Nationalmannschaft he showed in an inspirational display on Matchday 12 to bring Gladbach back from the dead against Eintracht Frankfurt - scoring his first top-flight hat-trick in the process - the veteran surely has a place in Löw's plans.
The same can be said of Reus, though in the current campaign, he lags behind Stindl. Blissfully free of the injuries that have blighted his career, the 31-year-old has played all but one of Dortmund's 17 games to date, but has a return of three goals and as many assists - not meeting his own high standards.
He did show a glimpse of his imperious best in getting two assists in the Matchday 15 win at Leipzig, and is perhaps coming into the sort of form that has made him a yellow-and-black icon.
"He is a big legend here and we need him at his best," said Haaland. "He has a vision that no one else has, you saw that goal for [Jadon] Sancho against Leipzig and the ball to me, it's amazing. I need these balls, so he has to give me more."
Sommer's save percentage of 76 per cent was the best league-wide in 2019/20 - his current ratio of around 60 per cent is the worst across the division. The explanation? According to the 32-year-old himself, it's simple.
"At the moment, a lot of shots are going in because - quite simply - they've been hit well," he told Swiss paper Blick. "Of course it annoys you, but I know other periods will come when I can stand out again. Ideally, I'd like to concede as few goals as possible as that increases the chances of us winning games."
Only three clean sheets since the start of the season, albeit one of them against Leipzig on Matchday 6, is below-par for the Switzerland international, whose side have conceded more goals than any side in the top half of the table.
Bürki has been Sommer's long-term number two at international level, but has stepped out of his compatriot's shadow this season, helping BVB concede four fewer goals than Gladbach in the first half of the campaign.
Even if Bürki's 63 per cent save ratio is not particularly impressive, he does boast four clean sheets, giving him the edge on his Gladbach counterpart.
Ginter spent three years at Dortmund before joining Gladbach, but while he was a bit-part player in yellow-and-black, the 2014 FIFA World Cup winner has become a central figure in the Foals' stable.
"Last season, Ginter grew even more as a personality," explained Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl, who highlighted the understanding the Germany international centre-back has built with Swiss counterpart Nico Elvedi. "Together, they form a duo that oozes harmony and class."
Ginter, with over 300 competitive appearances at just 27, is the senior partner, and weighs in with 66 per cent of duels won, pushing to over 70 per cent in the air. It's impressive, but Hummels - even at 32 - outstrips his former international teammate.
The veteran has won 68 per cent of his duels this season - and nearly 74 per cent in the air - while his pass completion is Tom Brady-esque at over 91 per cent, four percentage points better than Ginter's.
It is the sort of return Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke was looking for when he found the right words to convince Hummels to leave Bayern after a three-year spell in Bavaria and return to the Signal Iduna Park in summer 2019.
Watch: Hummels - the quarterback
"He asked me if I wanted to be really important again, a real leader," said Hummels, who had spent eight years at BVB before going to Bayern. "That's when I realised how much I wanted that. How extremely appealing that is to me. We have titles in us, I know that." The trophies are yet to come, but Hummels has no doubt become a key figure once more.
"I don't want to become just a good American player. I want to consistently be one of the top 10 players in the world." Reyna has serious ambitions. Fortunately, he also has serious talent to back them up, and is already making strides towards his goals.
Last season, the teenage USMNT midfielder was promising as he made two starts in 15 Bundesliga appearances, and there were records along the way as he drew favourable comparison with former BVB man and USA teammate Christian Pulisic.
This season, he has started all but three of the 15 top-flight games he's featured in, earning himself a contract extension through to 2025.
Watch: Gio Reyna - like father and mother, like son
"Young players have a chance to develop here," noted Reyna, who has three goals and four assists this season. "I have learned a lot in Dortmund, and want to learn a lot more in the future."
The American has developed a solid and fruitful understanding with both Haaland, for whom he's assisted on three goals, and Sancho, just as Neuhaus has done with Christoph Kramer and ex-BVB man Jonas Hoffmann in the centre of the pitch for Gladbach.
The 23-year-old already has three goals after 16 games this season, as many as he got in 30 top-flight outings last term, and the fact he has started all but one of those matches indicates the esteem in which Rose holds his abilities.
"Flo is an exceptional player who totally understands the game. He sees and thinks a lot ahead, has potential to develop in terms of his challenges, but he's certainly on the right track," explained the Gladbach boss.
Löw has also been won over, handing Neuhaus his senior international debut in October. "The future belongs to him," said the Germany coach, who will no doubt be watching Friday's game closely.