For years now, it has been the non plus ultra of Bundesliga battles and on Matchday 11, it is top of the programme again: Borussia Dortmund against FC Bayern München. When the action kicks off at a jam-packed SIGNAL IDUNA PARK on 19 November, a global broadcast audience in the millions will be following it with equal fervour – not least given the new-look crush at the top end of the table this season.
Goal difference alone separates leaders Bayern from promoted RB Leipzig, with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin four points off the pace and a trio of clubs two further back, Dortmund among them. Thomas Tuchel's men, seeking to extend a club-record run of 26 home games unbeaten in the league, thus have the opportunity to halve the current deficit on their Munich rivals this weekend.
“It's good to see more teams closer together at the top. That makes the league more exciting, with Bayern also no longer automatically winning every game they play,” BVB and League Association president Reinhard Rauball reflected. Indeed, the record champions have emerged victorious from just two of their last five Bundesliga outings – and already dropped more points than in the whole of the first half of last season. That said, they are still six to the good on their upcoming hosts.
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On the personnel front, Dortmund returnee Mario Götze and fellow summer signing Sebastian Rode are both hoping to put one over on their former employers – while Mats Hummels is fresh from making the journey in the opposite direction, back to the club of his youth. Bayern goal-getter supreme Robert Lewandowski is, of course, another player who rose to superstardom in black-and-yellow.
For 2014 World Cup final hero Götze, this game has a special significance. Settling back in with ever greater confidence, after three mixed years in Munich, at the club where he learned his trade, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder acknowledges, “It's one of the biggest games in German football, it would be a bit odd if we weren't looking to win it at home.” Not least as a victory would bring BVB back within striking range of the record champions: “Obviously titles are what you're aiming and training for. That's something you want to experience time and again,” says Götze. He should know, with five Bundesliga championship medals to his name already.
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For their part, Bayern have not lost at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK in the league since 2012 – and won two of the three most recent meetings there. Another success would take Carlo Ancelotti's men nine points clear of their old rivals and Franck Ribery, fresh back from a muscular injury, hopes to be playing his part. “It'll be a great game. Against Dortmund, it's always important and there's always big pressure. We just have to go there and deal with it,” said the French wing wizard.
The home side meanwhile have a top star of their own on the comeback trail. Local hero Marco Reus is in the frame for a possible role this weekend after six months on the sidelines with an adductor muscle tear. The Germany international's last competitive outing was in the DFB Cup final, back in May – against Bayern.