Mario Gotze, Alex Witsel, Marco Reus, Manuel Akanji and Jadon Sancho (l.-r.): The key players for Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker. - © DFL
Mario Gotze, Alex Witsel, Marco Reus, Manuel Akanji and Jadon Sancho (l.-r.): The key players for Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker. - © DFL

Sancho, Reus, Götze, Witsel and Akanji: Five key Borussia Dortmund players for Der Klassiker


The second Der Klassiker of the season between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund is fast approaching and whoever emerges victorious come the end of the Matchday 28 meeting at the Allianz Arena may well do so with one hand on the Bundesliga title.

So, who will decide this decisive meeting? introduces the away side’s key players hoping to see off Bayern and go one step closer to bringing the Meisterschale back to the Signal Iduna Park.

Marco Reus

The Dortmund captain is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career and with 15 Bundesliga goals to his name already, Reus is on course to eclipse his greatest league return of 18 in 2011/12; his final season at Borussia Mönchengladbach. That campaign ended with Dortmund lifting the Bundesliga title and Reus will be hoping to inspire a victory at the Allianz Arena that would put Dortmund en route to a first league trophy since.

Under Lucien Favre, Reus has been deployed almost exclusively as a number 10, providing the link between the more defensive midfield base of Alex Witsel and Thomas Delaney and the potent Dortmund forward line. Leader, talisman and Dortmund’s driving force, Reus will be desperate to put on a performance that could lead to the 29-year-old finally getting his hands on the Meisterschale for the first time come the end of May.

Watch: All of Reus' goals in 2018/19 so far, including a Klassiker brace

Jadon Sancho

The undoubted breakout star of the season, Sancho has been a revelation in the Black and Yellow of Dortmund. The English winger has a league high 12 assists and has added a further eight goals of his own to the Borussia cause, leaving in his wake a trail of baffled defenders largely chasing shadows. For context, only Lionel Messi has as many assists as Sancho across Europe’s top five leagues.

Still just 19, Sancho is the youngest player in Bundesliga history to nine senior goals (18 years and 336 days), beating Lukas Podolski’s record. At this rate, the records will continue to be broken at an alarming lick and having gone on to be handed his first senior international cap in October last year, Sancho is now one of the first names on the team sheet for both club and country. He will be a menace to the Bayern back four and if he can keep Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba busy in their own half, he will substantially reduce the Bayern full-backs' attacking threat.

Watch: The story of Jadon Sancho

Mario Götze

Back to full fitness after years stilted by injury and illness, many observers are delighted purely by the sight of Götze in regular action for Dortmund. And boy is Götze holding up to the demands of an intense title race, running an average of 12.4 kilometres every game as BVB's industrious tour de force. Throw in the 26-year-old also firing under Favre and you have a happy Dortmund faithful who are starting to see the 2014 FIFA World Cup winning goalscorer return to his best form.

Götze has at times this season been deployed in a supporting role to Paco Alcacer, but has largely featured as the very tip of Dortmund’s attack as a false nine. His movement, vision and versatility have allowed Dortmund to be menacingly fluid and a return of four goals and six assists show the importance of Götze in a front line that enjoys a shared philosophy for success when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net. With five Bundesliga titles to his name - three as a Bayern player and two with Dortmund - Götze’s know-how could be crucial in getting his side over the line and eventually being crowned champions this season.

Fit and firing again, Mario Götze is targeting Bundesliga glory once more with Borussia Dortmund. - imago/Team 2

Axel Witsel

The chief strategist in the BVB midfield, Witsel has taken to life in the Bundesliga like the proverbial Belgian duck to German waters. On average, Witsel is in possession of the ball 88 times per game and has played the most passes of any Dortmund player this season; completing 94 per cent of them in the process. It shows just how much of their play goes through Witsel, who has settled alongside Delaney into Favre’s engine room with remarkable ease.

Not only does Witsel orchestrate traffic in possession, the 30-year-old also loves to win it back for the likes of Sancho, Reus, Götze & Co. to wreak havoc ahead of him. To date, Witsel has won 60 per cent of all his midfield battles and if he can win the majority of his duels against Bayern then Dortmund will have a great chance of victory. It won’t be easy stopping Bayern’s Latin Triangle of James Rodriguez, Thiago and Javi Martinez, but you can bet Witsel will relish the opportunity to do so.

Watch: How Witsel makes Dortmund tick

Manuel Akanji

The 23-year-old Swiss centre-back has come into his own this term, developing into one of Favre’s most reliable defensive charges. Akanji has grown with every game, evolving as the chief marshal of the third-best defence in the league. He will be up against it taking on Robert Lewandowski but Akanji will be more than up for the battle. His strength, athleticism, pace and ability in the air, will mean any Bayern success will be hard earned.

Comfortable on the ball, Akanji has a remarkable return of 94 per cent pass completion, a stat that would be the envy of some of the best Bundesliga ballers. This is an integral foundation to the Favre formula, Dortmund playing the ball out of defence and releasing their potent attack at the earliest opportunity. If Akanji, like Witsel in front of him, can not only deny Bayern at one end but also help provide the springboard for his side’s lightning quick attacking transitions, Dortmund will certainly put the fear up their hosts.