The German national soccer team, Die Mannschaft is set to take on their archrivals and bitter rivals in the form of Austria at Estadio do Dragao in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It’s been a long time since Germany won this particular matchup which has seen seven draws so far.
The “der klassiker watch” is a game in which the world’s top two football teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, battle it out for the title of Germany’s biggest game.
Over the course of a lengthy soccer season, derbies, rivalry matches, and clasicos serve as essential mile markers. They provide an opportunity for us to check in on two important teams, see how things are going, and see what has transpired since the last time they met. Let’s do some checking in with the Bundesliga’s Der Klassiker, Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund, beginning Saturday in Dortmund (watch LIVE, 12:30 pm ET, ESPN+).
What has changed since these two German heavyweights last squared off? To address this topic, I looked up data and talked with Philipp Lahm, the former Bayern Munich and German national team captain.
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In the Bundesliga standings, the clubs are separated by just one point.
Both clubs have battled injuries and sporadic periods of inconsistency since Bayern’s 3-1 triumph over BVB in Germany’s Super Cup on Aug. 17, Bayern’s sixth consecutive win in the head-to-head series. Erling Haaland, the great striker for Borussia Dortmund, has been out for six Bundesliga games and three Champions League games due to injury. However, other key players such as left back Raphael Guerreiro, winger Gio Reyna, midfielders Emre Can and Mahmoud Dahoud, attacking midfielder Thorgan Hazard, and defender Mats Hummels have all missed time, and burgeoning star midfielder Jude Bellingham suffered a minor injury last week; his status for Saturday is unknown.
Even in practice, first-year manager Marco Rose has scarcely had an opportunity to deploy his entire, first-choice lineup as the season nears its halfway point. As a result, we haven’t yet acquired a good picture of what Rose intends to do at Dortmund. “He’s had the unfortunate fate of dealing with a lot of ailments,” Lahm added. “As a result, he may have experimented a little, and it hasn’t always worked out well. I think he’s still looking for the proper system for Dortmund, but in order to do so, he’ll need healthy players.”
BVB’s problems largely surfaced in Champions League competition, when they started with two victories before losing three consecutive games by a combined score of 10-2 and were relegated to the Europa League knockout stages. Even with a depleted roster, they’ve managed to squeak out crucial victories in league action, most notably beating Wolfsburg 3-1 last Saturday.
Bayern’s problems haven’t been as serious, and they haven’t had an influence on the club’s Champions League status: the 2020 European champions have won all five of their group stage games by a combined score of 19-3. However, 2-1 defeats to Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg resulted in some unexpected missed points, and they were knocked out of the DFB-Pokal by Borussia Monchengladbach in shocking manner.
New manager Julian Nagelsmann has had to shuffle his teams, notably in the midfield, after missing a few of games owing to a positive coronavirus test.
Due to quarantine and a positive coronavirus test, Joshua Kimmich has lost time and will miss Saturday’s match as well. Summer acquisition Marcel Sabitzer has suffered a calf injury. Right-back Benjamin Pavard, who often tucks into a midfield role during buildup play, missed the first month of the season with an ankle injury, Corentin Tolisso missed the next month with a calf issue, and now summer acquisition Benjamin Pavard has also suffered a calf injury. Bayern still has Leon Goretzka and both Tolisso and Pavard, but they may not have the same midfield advantage as they have against BVB.
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Rose’s strategy is one of possession control, but the juggled midfield has made them just as susceptible to counterattacks as they have been in the past.
BVB has been a very different team with and without Haaland, as one would imagine. “Not just in terms of his football talent, but also in terms of his attitude, what he does for the team, what he does for the other players, dragging them along, infecting them with his excitement, and truly helping them all to grow better,” Lahm added.
When Haaland is in the lineup, the team is productive and free-flowing, averaging 2.6 points per game and 3.3 goals with 1.9 goals allowed in his seven league games. They’re more cautious without him, averaging 1.7 goals per game while allowing just 1.0 and yet putting up 2.0 points per game.
Robert Lewandowski, according to Don Hutchison and Jan Age Fjortoft, should have won the men’s Ballon d’Or.
The presence of the Norwegian striker is evident, but Donyell Malen’s recent performance has to be encouraging as well. The 22-year-old, who joined from PSV Eindhoven in July, has only scored twice in the league, but both of his goals have come in the past two games. His shot volume has also gradually grown.
“He’s joined a new club, and he’s in a new league, so things take time,” Lahm said. “He’s unquestionably a player with exceptional abilities, and one who you should just let play and give some time to. Things require time to develop.”
With Haaland back to full strength, Malen’s 23-yard firecracker in the 55th minute against Wolfsburg gave BVB a lead they wouldn’t surrender, and it’ll be intriguing to see how he fits into Rose’s strategy.
Bayern is still Bayern, despite the shifted midfield.
Even in defeats, they are statistically dominating. Bayern averages 3.0 xG per match (0.9 higher than RB Leipzig in second place) and 3.2 goals per game (0.7 more than BVB). They take much more shots per possession than anybody else in the league, and their xG/shot is the highest in the league. This season, standout striker Robert Lewandowski has 25 goals in 20 games in all competitions, winger Serge Gnabry has eight goals, and do-it-all winger Serge Gnabry has seven. Thomas Muller has six goals and 12 assists, while Leroy Sane has nine goals and nine assists after returning to his natural left flank after playing on the right under former manager Hansi Flick.
“I think Julian Nagelsmann just realized where Leroy Sane can play with the greatest amount of self-assurance and put him back there,” Lahm remarked of Sane’s progress. “Also, for a guy like Leroy, who switched teams a year ago, it’s critical to establish confidence by just being permitted to play multiple games in a succession. There will be excellent and terrible matches among them, but with that attitude, a player’s confidence may be restored.”
Sane has played 1,442 minutes in all competitions this season, approximately 60% more than he did last year (2,454).
Bayern Munich is nearly as strong on defense, allowing the fewest shots per possession and the lowest xG per shot. They have also scored the most set-piece goals and conceded the fewest; owing in part to the signing of Dayot Upamecano from Nagelsmann’s old side, RBL, they can battle opposition attackers with surprising success. Alphonso Davies, a left-back, has won 80 of his 123 duels this season (65%), while Upamecano and fellow centre-back Lukas Hernandez have won 80 of 120. (67 percent ). Their DFB-Pokal defeat to Gladbach, in which they let up a consistent stream of high-quality scoring opportunities, was the exception to almost every rule.
Since joining at Bayern in the summer, Nagelsmann has settled in swiftly and seems to be the guy to take them into the next phase. Images courtesy of Roland Krivec/DeFodi via Getty Images
Bayern has identified a suitable successor to both Pep Guardiola (who led the club from 2013 to 2016) and Flick in Nagelsmann (2019-21).
“I think Julian is a big admirer of Guardiola’s and has modeled himself after him,” Lahm added. “Bayern took on a more diverse strategy under Guardiola, with three [at the back], four [at the back], four in a defensive mode, and three in an attacking manner. Nagelsmann is a young, extremely contemporary coach, and now that Guardiola has made his imprint on the Bundesliga, I believe he’s become something of a role model.”
As one would assume, they’ve been less impressive without Kimmich, the ESPN 100’s No. 2 midfielder. They did lose to Augsburg on November 19, and they won with bare-minimum margins against Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League (2-1) and Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga (1-0).
“Obviously, Kimmich is a crucial player for Bayern Munich,” Lahm said. “That is still true now, and it will undoubtedly be true in the future with Goretzka. It’s not something to take lightly when crucial players like Kimmich are absent during a big match. That isn’t going to help.”
Lately, there hasn’t been much of a rivalry.
Between November 2016 until August 2019, Bayern won just six of ten games in the series, but they’ve subsequently won six in a row, outscoring their opponents 18-7. BVB is capable of putting up a fight against Bayern, having taken 2-0 (in Munich) and 1-0 (in Dortmund) leads in league matches last season, but Bayern was able to reel them in each time. Bayern has averaged 16.3 shots and 2.5 xG per match in these six games, compared to 8.2 and 1.2 for BVB. In five of their six games, they’ve had a greater xG, more touches in four, and a higher pass completion percentage in five.
With Haaland’s comeback and a Bayern midfield devoid of Kimmich, BVB has a chance, but it’s difficult to bet against a winning run. “Haaland is back after his injury, so that’s a big element,” Lahm added, “and they’ll be playing in their home stadiums in Dortmund, so I anticipate this to be a very competitive match.”
“However, my personal bets are on Bayern Munich.”
That’s almost always a safe bet.
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The “der klassiker referee” is a key figure in the biggest game in Germany. The person who referees the game, is responsible for overseeing the match and making sure that it goes smoothly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Bayern better than Dortmund?
A: No, they are the same.
Is Der Klassiker a derby?
A: No, Der Klassiker is not a derby.
How many times has Dortmund beat Bayern?
A: In the last five games, Dortmund has won three and lost two.
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