Robert Lewandowski and Alassane Plea may both be suspended for Bayern Munich's clash with Borussia Mönchengladbach this Saturday, but there are two other compelling reasons why your eyes should be trained on the penalty areas at the Allianz Arena this weekend.
At one end of the field, Manuel Neuer continues to prove why he is considered as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, while the man at the other end, Yann Sommer, has arguably been the best No.1 in the Bundesliga this term. Maybe Saturday will be an occasion to be impressed more by those preventing goals than those scoring them.
Starting with Neuer, Gladbach will need no reminder as to how huge the final hurdle before scoring against Bayern is, but here's a brief one anyway.
With over 400 Bundesliga appearances to his name, and approaching a century of caps for Germany, Neuer has not only won seven Bundesliga titles, but he has also been one of the main reason why Bayern have been unrivalled domestically since 2012. In fact, with the exception of his first full year in Munich after joining from Schalke in 2011, he has been a league winner in all of his seasons in Bavaria.
Just a coincidence? Not likely! Neuer is the only goalkeeper in Bundesliga history who has played more than 100 games and conceded fewer goals (314) than games played (402). That equates to 0.78 goals against him per game, compared to the 1.04 of his most illustrious predecessor in the Bayern goal, Oliver Kahn. He is also not far from keeping a clean sheet in every other game, with 193 (48%) to date. Only Kahn (204) kept more, but you get the feeling Neuer will break that record.
An even closer look at Neuer's statistics can explain exactly how he is peerless.
Neuer has had to face 1298 shots in his Bundesliga career and he has saved 984 of them (75.8 percent). Of those 1298 shots, 389 of them were big chances – those where you would expect the opponent to score. That expectation does not necessarily mean much against Neuer, though, since he has stopped almost a third (29.6 percent) of them. What Neuer has done which no goalkeeper before him managed was to become more integral in his team's game, and this can be seen in the number of long passes (2636) and touches (15077 / 37.6 per 90 minutes) he has had. 44.7 percent of those passes reached their man too.
Sommer compares quite well with Neuer's all-time statistics, making only marginally fewer saves (73.4 percent) and successful long passes (39.9 percent), although the percentage of big chances he has denied is much lower at 19.3%. That is, nevertheless, quite a solid figure for a goalkeeper and nothing for the Swiss custodian to be ashamed of, especially when he can be relied upon consistently: only six times has he made a serious mistake which has led to a goal, with Neuer caught out 24 times.
Sommer, like probably all of his generation, will openly admit to having taken a leaf out of Neuer's book in terms of his involvement in the game, having an average of 47.4 touches per 90 minutes – ten more than Neuer – and making 2077 long passes – just 559 fewer than Neuer, despite having made just 194 appearances, less than half of Neuer's tally. And the observations Sommer has made during his first five years in the Bundesliga have no doubt contributed to this, his sixth season in Germany's top flight, being his best yet.
Watch: Sommer and the Bundesliga's best goalkeepers under the tactical microscope
No other goalkeeper in the Bundesliga has made as many saves as Sommer, who has thwarted 76.8 percent of the 155 shots that have come his way this term. That includes denying eight of the 31 big chances he has had to face. By comparison, although Neuer has been beaten fewer times (30 to 36), he has only had to face 107 shots and fewer big chances (27), although his record of 33.3 percent of saves in such situations is an industry-leading amount, and one of the reasons why he has kept a league-high 13 clean sheets this campaign.
Sommer also eclipses Neuer this season in the number of long passes played (317 to 249), and the number of touches per game (48.8 to 47.2), the apprentice topping the master for game involvement in a superlative season for the Swiss.
It is a pity that Lewandowski and Plea won't be providing them with a test this weekend, but rest assured there is enough ammunition still left in both squads to give Neuer and Sommer a showcase for their undeniable talents.