Defending champions and DFB Cup holders Dortmund had come out on top five times in a row in competition before Bayern edged victory in the season curtain-raising SuperCup in August. bundesliga.com takes a look at the key battles likely to unfold on the Allianz's plush green surface.
In a similar fashion to last season, Manuel Neuer has been imperious between the sticks for FC Bayern. The club sit top of the league having only conceded an incredible five goals in 13 matches. The 26-year-old has saved 86 per cent of the 35 shots on his goal this season and kept nine clean sheets, more than any other goalkeeper.
His counterpart Roman Weidenfeller has had a rather more difficult time of things this season. Dortmund have stuttered on occasions in the league and produced some defensively weak displays, such as conceding three goals on visits to Hamburger SV and Eintracht Frankfurt. Weidenfeller has been at his shot-stopping best, though, saving 72 per cent of the efforts on his goal. The most experienced player on the team alongside skipper Sebastian Kehl, there is no doubt as to the strength of his big-game mentality.
Philipp Lahm has shown precisely the form that earned him a nomination to the FIFPro Team of the Year shortlist. Captain for club and country, he has shone both in attack and defence, winning 62 per cent of his 50-50 challenges and recording six assists in the league and cup. Unsurprisingly for a player of his influence, he has also had the second-most touches of the ball this season, averaging 90 per game.
Up against him is the sensationally talented Marco Reus. The 23-year-old has also been in fine form himself, scoring 12 times in all competitions this season and providing eight assists from his position on the left of an attacking midfield trio. Three of these goals have come from free-kicks and he takes all of Dortmund’s set-pieces, meaning Lahm would do well to stay on his feet when challenging Germany’s current Footballer of the Year.
His qualities were there for all to see last season at Mönchengladbach, but since joining Bayern in the summer, Dante has moved up to another level. Along with Neuer, he has played in every league game this season and the meagre five goals conceded is down in no small part to his defensive awareness. He has won 61 per cent of his tackles, scored his first goal for the club last week and has fond memories of his last outing against Dortmund, when he was imperious in the SuperCup triumph.
Outrageously talented though he is, Mario Götze has seldom been in better form for Dortmund. One of the stars of the show in the team’s enthralling displays in the Champions League this season, the 20-year-old has seven goals and ten assists to his name already in the campaign and scored the only goal in this fixture a year ago - a good omen indeed for the away side.
Holger Badstuber’s calming influence was plain to see when he returned to the Bayern first team for the mid-week victory at Freiburg. Partnering Dante at the back, the 23-year-old produced a professional display to limit the hosts to a mere couple of chances. He returned to his more familiar position of central defence, but even at left-back this season, he has been solid, winning 68 per cent of his tackles, the highest percentage of any full back in the division.
He will certainly not have a quiet evening up against Robert Lewandowski, though. The Polish striker is joint leader of the Bundesliga scoring charts with nine goals, five of which have come away from home. He also embarrassed Badstuber & Co. by scoring a hat-trick in the DFB Cup final in May, a feat the entire Bayern defence will not forget in a hurry.
David Alaba missed the start of the season with injury, but he has since assimilated himself seamlessly back into the team. Known for his athleticism and versatility, the 20-year-old is holding down a regular spot in the team at left-back, adding even more quality to Bayern’s miserly back four. In spite of his tender years, Alaba has proven his capability in big games, succeeding twice with penalties in the latter stages of last season’s UEFA Champions League and this year in a recent win over Eintracht Frankfurt - making him Bayern’s youngest scorer of a Bundesliga spot-kick since the legendary Franz Beckenbauer.
Alaba will have few tests tougher than Polish dynamo Jakub ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski, however. Kuba began the season well, netting against Nuremberg, Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach before an ankle injury sustained against Hannover ruled him out for four weeks. He is now back and fresher than ever, providing another two assists against Fürth recently. He is also looking to add to a personal record of nine goals in 2012.
Arriving in Munich as the Bundesliga’s record transfer purchase, Javi Martinez had a lot to live up to. The 23-year-old Spanish international is now starting to adjust to life in the Bundesliga and the style of play of the German record title-winners, though. He scored his first goal for the club in last week’s mauling of Hannover 96 and played important roles in wins over Mainz and Frankfurt. He also has a passing accuracy rate of 92 per cent, an attribute that is sure to be tested by Dortmund’s relentless pressing.
The man chiefly responsible for the defensive duties for Jürgen Klopp’s team could well be Sven Bender. Having battled a myriad of injuries this season, the Germany international is gradually reasserting his place in the Dortmund team. One of his best qualities is tackling and, encouragingly for the team, he is improving year upon year. In his debut season (2009/10) he won 48 percent of his challenges, compared to 52 percent last season and 57 percent in the current campaign. This is the type of contest that the Bavarian native will relish.
For years now, Bastian Schweinsteiger has been the beating heart of the Bayern midfield. The Bavarian native suffered from injury problems and patchy form last season, but the 28-year-old has responded by making his best-ever start to a Bundesliga campaign. He already has five goals to his name in the league, just one less than the most he has ever managed in a single campaign (in 2008/09) and with 98 passes per game, remains the player that dictates Bayern’s entire tempo.
Dortmund’s veteran midfielder Sebastian Kehl will be the one charged with limiting Schweinsteiger’s influence in the game. The Yellow-Blacks’ longstanding captain is still going strong at the age of 32 and has played in 11 games in the Bundesliga this term, winning 62 per cent of his challenges.
Thomas Müller is another player to have enjoyed a brilliant start to the season. His first-half penalty against Freiburg on Wednesday was his eighth league goal of the season, the same total he netted throughout the whole of the 2011/12 campaign. He has been directly involved in 13 of Bayern’s Bundesliga goals this term and was a key player in important wins at Hamburg and Düsseldorf.
However much Müller likes to drift, the man most likely to keep an eye on him is Borussia’s Marcel Schmelzer. As ever, he has been a mainstay of the team this season, appearing in 13 games in the Bundesliga and providing one assist. Schmelzer is yet to score in the Bundesliga this campaign and, with Müller in front of him, getting forward to support in attack may be easier said than done.
With five goals and five assists this term, Toni Kroos is yet another Bayern player to surpass his personal record in a season, and with just fourteen games played no less. The 22-year-old has established himself as the team’s best central attacking midfielder this season and his combination play with the rest of the attack is sure to keep Dortmund extremely busy. For an advanced attacking midfield player, Kroos has the lowest misplaced pass rate in the league and has also been involved in the most one-twos.
Germany national team colleague Mats Hummels could well be seeing a lot of Kroos, but this is a fixture that the leader of Dortmund’s defence tends to enjoy. He was instrumental in the 1-0 win in Munich last season and scored in a 3-1 victory in February 2011, against the club he spent fourteen years at as a youth player.
Very few players have been as consistently impressive as Franck Ribery this season. He has been involved in a quarter of Bayern’s 40 goals in the Bundesliga, and nine in only his last five appearances. Bayern have also won eight of the nine games he has featured in this season, while he missed the draw in Nuremberg and the home defeat to Leverkusen. The French international has also embarked on the most dribbles this season, with an astonishing 84.
Fortunately for Dortmund, they have someone capable of keeping Ribery in check in Lukasz Piszczek. The Poland international has made the fourth-most sprints of any player in the league this season (356), something that should stand him in excellent stead for facing Ribery. His one goal and four assists this term may will mean that he does his fair share of attacking too.
Super Mario’s first few months at Bayern could barely have gone any better. Mandzukic excelled as the lone striker in the absence of the injured Mario Gomez and his unselfish work has brought him not only nine goals - the joint-most in the division - but also two assists. His fluid interplay with Müller, Kroos and Ribery has been one of the chief reasons for Bayern’s freescoring start to the season, and he also netted the last time these two sides met, his competitive debut, with a goal after just three minutes in the SuperCup.
Neven Subotic also featured in that match and, after having expressed his disappointment at losing out on the trophy, will be doubly determined to get one over on Bayern again. The Serbian international has won the most tackles of any Dortmund player this season (68 per cent) and averages more passes in the team than any other player (86 per game) - clear evidence, if any were needed, that Mandzukic will need to be at his most tenacious to have any joy on Saturday night.
Compiled by Bernie Reeves