Coming up on this week's Bundesliga Preview Show…
These are unexpectedly troubled times for Borussia Dortmund on the domestic front but that notwithstanding, head coach Jürgen Klopp willingly took time out recently to give a high-ranking colleague a glimpse behind the scenes. Carlos Dunga skippered Brazil to victory at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and, during his first four-year tenure as coach, guided them to the 2007 Copa America title. Now back for a second stint in charge of the Selecao, Dunga is more than willing to glean what inspiration he can from German football 2014-style. Indeed, the former defensive midfield specialist has long appreciated the merits of the Bundesliga – he was, after all, on the books at VfB Stuttgart when he celebrated his finest moment in a Brazil shirt.
It may not be the Bundesliga's oldest rivalry but, over the past couple of decades, it has been one of the most keenly contested at or around the top end of the standings: FC Bayern München against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. On Saturday at the Allianz Arena they go head-to-head for the 71st time in the league and, true to form, on this particular occasion it is a battle of first against third. By way of an appetiser, we cast an eye back over some classic encounters from years past. Great games, high drama and outstanding players on both sides – with former Germany skipper Michael Ballack by no means the only Werkself star to subsequently make himself equally indispensable to the record champions.
They may have gone somewhat off the boil in recent weeks, with the end of a club record 18-game unbeaten run in all competitions heralding the start of a mini-slump now stretched to three straight league defeats, but Borussia Mönchengladbach can justifiably look to the immediate and longer-term future with undiminished confidence. With the steady hand of Lucien Favre at the helm, Gladbach have developed into one of Germany's most dangerous and tactically versatile teams. When it comes to bringing though fresh talent from their own youth ranks, the Foals have a similar spring in their step and certainly belongs to the cream of the crop from recent years. At 23, the slightly-built creative talent is already a Bundesliga old hand, and one who has worked his way to the fringes of the national team in the process. Just over a year younger, had to wait a little longer for the breakthrough but the Germany U-21 international has now found his niche under Favre, as a raiding right-back.
Back in the VfB Stuttgart hot seat after Armin Veh's abruptly self-terminated interregnum, Huub Stevens got down to Bundesliga brass tacks in his inimitable fashion, registering a formbook-upsetting 4-1 win at SC Freiburg for starters. Next up is an assignment that, even for the hard-boiled Dutch coach, invariably comes complete with a side-order of sentimentality, as the Swabians play host to FC Schalke 04. Six years in charge of the Royal Blues between 1996 and 2002 – his first posting in Germany – delivered up one UEFA Cup victory and two in the DFB Cup and Stevens, who had a second spell in charge at Schalke in 2011/12, makes no secret of the fact that the club and its fans retain a very special place in his heart. Needless to say, though, Memory Lane will be out of bounds until the final whistle at the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Saturday.