A star-studded ensemble featuring the likes of Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer, James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski will do battle when Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
A star-studded ensemble featuring the likes of Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer, James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski will do battle when Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: the duels that could decide the Klassiker

Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus pitting his wits against James Rodriguez, Bayern Munich's predator-royale Robert Lewandowski taking on BVB's young back four, the irrepressible Paco Alcacer trying to slip past the Bundesliga record champions' rearguard…the first Der Klassiker of 2018/19 has more sub-plots than a sets-your-pulse-racing thriller.

bundesliga.com charges headlong into the thick of the fray with no thought for its own safety to stand between the top-flight heavyweights and size up the men who could tip the balance their team's way.

Marco Reusvs.James Rodriguez

To call these two puppet masters would be an insult to their highly gifted teammates, but there is little doubt the hearts of Dortmund and Bayern beat to a different rhythm with this pair on the pitch.

Fit and flourishing under Lucien Favre — the man who made him at Borussia Mönchengladbach — Reus has been a joy in boots to behold. "He makes each one of us better," Marcel Schmelzer said of the man who has replaced him as captain this season, and whose influence — both in terms of goals and statistics, and on bolstering his teammates' confidence — has been marked.

James' second Bayern season appears to be picking up steam after what was inevitably a slight dip in performance following a late return to pre-season training, a consequence of his FIFA World Cup adventure with Colombia. His virtuoso Matchday 8 display at Wolfsburg echoed his sizzling form of last season, and Dortmund will still be wincing when they think back to how the on-loan Real Madrid man picked them apart surgically in Bayern's 6-0 win last April.

Watch: Bayern Munich teach Borussia Dortmund a painful Klassiker lesson

Jadon Sanchovs.Joshua Kimmich

One is a fledgling England international and arguably the most exciting talent to emerge in the Bundesliga this season; the other is already an established top-flight performer and Germany international: Mr. Showtime meets Mr. Showdown.

You have to wonder just how good Sancho will end up being. At 18, he already has a player of the calibre of Reus wrapped round his little finger. The Dortmund captain called his teammate "a weapon", and Sancho — top of the assists chart and having chipped in a very handy four goals — has given no-one reason to question Reus' sanity for his praise.

Watch: The Jadon Sancho analysis

Kimmich has three Bundesliga titles, a FIFA Confederations Cup win and EURO and World Cup appearances on his lengthy, impressive CV, but your eyebrows may rise at the news he is still only 23. The Bayern man still has some work to do before he does become 'the new Philipp Lahm', but his talent and experience will make him a forboding prospect for Sancho, who will also find himself on the back foot when Kimmich powers forward. The former Manchester City youngster will need to be on his toes at both ends of the pitch if Dortmund are to prevent the Bayern full-back from leaving a significant mark on the game.

Thomas Delaneyvs.Leon Goretzka

The Signal Iduna Park could shudder when these two titans collide in the centre of the pitch. Neither is the 'takes no prisoners' sort, but nor will they shirk a challenge with the ball at stake. While their ball-winning talents will make them vital in the all-important battle for possession, it is the duo's mastery of the modern midfielder's armoury that makes them pivotal in the still more crucial hunt for all three points.

Delaney, who — since his summer arrival — has remained on the upward ascent he started when he joined Werder Bremen from Copenhagen in January 2017, has the Viking-like traits one would associate with a Dane: happily raiding into foreign territory to take a pot-shot or three at enemy targets. But given Goretzka is probably the happier of the two in the opponent's final third, it is the Dortmund man's tireless industry and iron-willed discipline the hosts will require if they are to keep the shackles firmly fixed on the Bayern man.

- © gettyimages / Alex Grimm

Abdou Diallovs.Robert Lewandowski

Just a little warning for the Dortmund defender: you might want to stop reading now! He might have forged his formidable reputation in BVB colours, but Lewandowski shows not a shred of mercy when it comes to his former club.

In eight Bundesliga games against them, Lewandowski has scored in all but two, tallying a frightening 10 goals in total, the last three of which came in the 6-0 demonstration Bayern put on in the most recent Klassiker.

Six is also the number of goals Diallo has seen the record Bundesliga champions score with him on the pitch — that was last season in the colours of Mainz. The France U21 international undoubtedly upgraded over the summer, and has proven himself worthy of the faith Favre has in him.

When asked whether Diallo and his fellow defenders could handle the likes of World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann and the handful of a forward that is Diego Costa in the recent UEFA Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, Dortmund's boss responded, "Kein Problem!" (No problem!) The emphatic 4-0 win is evidence he was right — perhaps it should have been for Lewandowski to stop reading…

Paco Alcacervs.Mats Hummels/Niklas Süle

Speaking of contests…Dortmund's Spanish forward has — in the short time he has been in Germany — already shown the class and quality that made him part of the Spain and Barcelona squads. The sort of movement that allows him to slip away from defenders allied with the finishing prowess to ensure he rabidly gobbles up chances that come his way means Alcacer has already singled himself out as a man to be marked watertight close.

Watch: Analysing Paco Alcacer

Training with Lewandowski every day will help prepare the Bayern centre-backs, but the prolific Pole is a different proposition to Alcacer, who is less physical but just as ruthless. The pair have experience and talent in abundance, but with Reus to also (significantly) worry about, they will have to be wary of giving Alcacer that yard of space he can use to put the game beyond Bayern.

Achraf Hakimivs.Thomas Müller

The Dortmund full-back's earth-shattering start to life in the Bundesliga has owed much to his Olympic gold medal-winning pace. His jet-heeled forays down either flank have given Favre's formidable attacking unit an additional facet that opponents have found so hard to deal with. Most though have attempted to fight fire with fire, and gotten burned. Müller will provide a very different challenge.