Germany: Can Dortmund finish off Bayern in Munich?
This weekend sees this season’s biggest match in the Bundesliga so far. Rekordmeister FC Bayern München play host to Tabellenführer Borussia Dortmund on Saturday hoping to claw back three points in the chase to win the 2010-11 German championship.
Dortmund, coached by the charismatic Jürgen Klopp, have defied the critics this season by maintaining the impressive form that has seen them rocket up the table. Following their opening day defeat at the hands of Bayer 04 Leverkusen the Schwarzgelben have lost only one game – away at Eintracht Frankfurt in round 17 – and remain undefeated in six games since the resumption of the league after the winter break. With only Leverkusen separating Dortmund from their hosts this weekend the game takes on increased importance to the powerhouses of FC Bayern who aren’t used to having to chase teams down.
In saying that FC Bayern did make a success of hunting down Leverkusen last season. Following a slow start to the 2009-10 season Van Gaal eventually got to grips with the task facing him and overturned a deficit of six points into a lead which saw the Bavarians win a record extending 22nd title by five points over eventual runners-up Schalke 04. This time, though, FC Bayern face a much more difficult task against the league leaders who are, without doubt, the most organised and efficient team in the league. Whereas Bayern have more stars and players of greater individual quality, Dortmund have a much more effective unit who know how to kill teams off when it matters.
This weekend’s match isn’t just anticipated because of the current plight of the two teams but also due to the fact that this is one of the country’s top fixtures. In fact if Germany is to have a fixture to rival some of the other Clasicos of world football then this is it. Although Borussia Dortmund may lag some way behind their Bavarian adversaries in the honours stakes (e.g. Bayern 22 league titles to Dortmund’s 6; Bayern 4-times European champions to Dortmund’s one triumph in 1997) this is a match-up which had the seeds of a real rivalry sown in the early to mid 1990s when Dortmund was a regular challenger to FC Bayern for the Meisterschale (championship trophy). Sadly, after the club celebrated its most recent title in 2002, Dortmund’s flirtation with the stock market and subsequent financial difficulties saw the club have no choice but to get rid of good quality players and sell the stadium, thus ruining all of the good work, allowing Bayern to reclaim their virtual monopoly of German football.
Thankfully, though, Dortmund are back and are leading the way under coach Klopp who has steadily guided a young, talented team up the table in his first two seasons in charge of the Ruhrpott club and go into this game having won three and drawn three of the last six games. Louis Van Gaal can, at least, be thankful to the fact that Arjen Robben is now back in the team following a six month absence through a hamstring injury and the form of the Münchener has taking a turn for the better as a result. FC Bayern go into this match on the back of a fantastic UEFA Champions League victory away at European champions FC Internazionale, the team who defeated the German champions in the final last May, and have the advantage of playing in front of a sell-out Allianz Arena crowd in Munich on Saturday evening.
FC Bayern still have Ivica Olic out through injury whilst Dortmund will still be without the services of players such as Florian Kringe and Shinji Kagawa. Despite this both clubs will be able to field strong teams this weekend and one can only hope that a classic match awaits.