Munich - Borussia Dortmund against FC Bayern München: Matchday 13's late Saturday kick-off (18:30 CET) is a top-of-the-table Bundesliga showdown that has captured the imagination of football fans not just in Germany, but across the globe as well.
A potentially season-defining domestic re-run of last May's pulsating UEFA Champions League final, memorably sealed in Bayern's favour by a late strike from Arjen Robben, this is also a meeting of two clubs whose newfound rivalry is rapidly attaining an international prominence comparable even to the likes of the Clasico between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona - not least in the light of the manner in which Dortmund and Bayern dispatched those two Spanish heavyweights en route to Wembley.
One player who missed out on the showpiece event in London, however, was Mario Götze. Dortmund's attacking prodigy was sidelined by a thigh muscle injury picked up in the semi-final return in Madrid. That was a big enough story in itself, but it was completely overshadowed by the revelation shortly beforehand that Götze would be leaving Borussia at the end of the season - for FC Bayern.
BVB coach Jürgen Klopp subsequently acknowledged that when he first heard the news, he was literally rendered speechless and if that was perhaps the initial reaction of many a fan of die Schwarz-Gelben as well, they soon recovered their collective voice. The final weeks of Götze's tenure at the club where he had come up through the youth ranks to establish his credentials as one of the greatest prospects in the world game were an uneasy time for all concerned.
'One of the toughest moments of my career'
Even with Dortmund preparing for the biggest game since they last mounted the European throne in 1997, the sub-plot of their star's imminent departure for their biggest rivals kept bouncing back into the headlines.Not a few of those stories focused on the response of BVB's huge army of rank-and-file supporters.
It was, of course, far from unequivocal, with no shortage of well-wishers stressing Götze's part in Dortmund's recent success, his right to choose and the realities of the professional game. Undoubtedly, though, the partially personal criticism of the move from a section of club diehards did not wash away easily and, as he prepares to return to the Signal Iduna Park for the first time on opposition business, Götze is anticipating “one of the toughest moments of my career.”
Getting into the groove at Bayern
It is, however, as he told the German sports magazine Kicker, “something I've just got to come to terms with, because it was my decision to leave.” As far as that goes, Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke is anticipating a degree of negative reaction from some of the home fans on Saturday, but has been at pains to stress that “it wouldn't be right, Mario doesn't deserve that. His conduct here was absolutely professional all along.”
Quite aside from the emotional back story, it also remains to be seen where, or indeed if Götze actually starts for Bayern at his former stomping ground. The Bavarian club's new No19 had only just returned from the injury that kept him out of the Champions League final against his future employers when he was sidelined again for weeks following a tackle by Chelsea FC's Ramires during Bayern's over the London outfit in Prague at the end of August.
'Doesn't let his emotions get to him'
Götze has featured regularly in the record champions' recent games, however, gradually but promisingly finding his feet at either inside or outside-right in Pep Guardiola's flexible and still-evolving system. With Bastian Schweinsteiger out of the frame for the moment following ankle surgery, his chances of playing from the off are even higher.
One way or another, the German talent, originally from Memmingen, west of Munich, is geared up for whatever awaits him on his return to the club he started out with at the tender age of eight. Joachim Löw, for one, expects the now 21-year-old to rise to the occasion. “Mario doesn't let his emotions get to him in these situations, it's not something he's really susceptible to,” the national team coach noted. That assessment will very likely be put to the test this weekend.
You can catch Mario Götze's top five strikes in the Bundesliga right here, exclusively on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: