Borussia Dortmund will be pushed to the very limits of their powers by improving Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 22.
Klassikeron the horizon
Second-placed BVB have built up a 13-point advantage over Sunday’s hosts, but Die Werkself come into the game emboldened by a six-match unbeaten run.
For Dortmund, Sunday’s blockbuster fixture represents the first of six testing fixtures in the space of just three weeks, culminating in Der Klassiker against defending champions FC Bayern München on 5 March. Thomas Tuchel’s troupe also have the second leg of their UEFA Europa League last-32 tie with FC Porto to negotiate following their upcoming Leverkusen hurdle.
“We feel ready for the challenges ahead,” affirmed Dortmund’s head coach in the wake of a narrow, albeit somewhat one-sided, 1-0 victory at home to Hannover 96 on Matchday 20. “We have to improve, but it was important to top up on self-confidence so that we can go into the coming matches in the right frame of mind.”
Tired Leverkusen legs
The fixture computer has been no kinder to Leverkusen. A fortnight after holding league leaders Bayern to a goalless draw in an exemplarily defensive display, Bayer have just as many games to contend with as BVB in the coming weeks – including their own Round of 32 Europa League tussle with Sporting Clube de Portugal.