Munich - Reigning Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund could take a small, but significant step back into the title race on Saturday (kick-off 18:30 CET) when they face runaway leaders FC Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
Stemming the tide
With only five points dropped to date, the in-form hosts have clinched the unofficial title of 'Autumn champions' earlier than any team in the league's history and as such they are guaranteed to enter 2013 at the top of the table.
Yet despite Bayern's apparently comfortable position, coach Jupp Heynckes has no intention of taking the match, which will be televised in 203 countries, lightly: "My players are very motivated and focused," the 67-year-old said. "We'll need an above average performance. We're up against opponents with a great deal of class, who play football at a very high level."
Prior to the Bavarians' victory in this year's Supercup in August, Dortmund had won the last five competitive meetings with the Reds. Accordingly, Bayern and Germany midfielder is determined to come out on top again this time. "It's time we turned the tables. We're fired up for the game and we'll run until we bust our lungs." Similarly, French star likened the fixture between the league's preeminent sides to "a Champions League match."
In spite of Bayern's considerable lead, the visitors have not given up hope of claiming a hat-trick of titles. "We're not even halfway through the campaign," centre back said. "The season's still a long way from over. We won’t be drawing every game and Bayern won't win every game." A look at last season gives cause for optimism, when Dortmund came back from an eight-point deficit to take the crown.
Furthermore, the fact that the Yellow-Blacks' previous league outing in Munich ended in triumph only adds to their belief that victory is possible. While coach Jürgen Klopp pointed out that “Bayern Munich are the most difficult opponents in the Bundesliga and without doubt one of the best teams in Europe," he also reminded the hosts: "We know how to play there."
Injuries on both sides
Bayern will be close to full strength, with Luiz Gustavo and Arjen Robben the only definite absentees. Dortmund rested Mario Götze and Mats Hummels against Dusseldorf midweek, but will be deprived of captain Sebastian Kehl due to injury.
Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Dante, Badstuber, Alaba - Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - S. Bender, Gündogan - Blaszczykowski, Götze, Reus - Lewandowski