With three points separating the top two teams in the Bundesliga, leaders and champions Borussia Dortmund host perennial powerhouses Bayern Munich in a massive game at Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday. A win for the hosts will all but seal back-to-back titles, whilst an away victory will give the biggest club in German football the impetus to go on to win their title back.
Jurgen Klopp has transformed an underperforming and mediocre Dortmund setup into a well-tuned and talented squad of promising stars since taking over at the club in 2008. The team’s Bundesliga crown last season was the first since 2002, and the 44-year-old trainer has continued where he left off last term in 2011/12. Many feared for Die Borussen after the forced sale of key midfielder Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid and a slow start to the season, whilst Champions League elimination in the group stages proved that the young pretenders have a way to go yet to replicate the historic achievements of the European champions team of 1997.
Despite this, a run of ten wins from 13 league games propelled the holders back to the top of the standings, and the crown is now Dortmund’s to lose. With home advantage and their opponents still with European distractions, Klopp’s young superstars will look to strike a decisive blow on Wednesday. The likes of Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze (although he will not play through injury) and Robert Lewandowski have shone over a fantastic 24-month period for the club.
Off the pitch, Dortmund recently claimed another victory over their traditionally superior rivals. The signing of Borussia Monchengladbach and Germany attacking midfielder Marco Reus, wanted by the Bavarians also, shows that Klopp’s men are serious in their rejuvenation and could be ready for a period of dominance in the country.
Bayern, by their own admittance, were poor last season but a summer of rebuilding, the arrival of Jupp Heynckes and a better start to the campaign has saw Die Roten back to their ominous best at times this campaign. Despite spending spells on top of the pile and thrashing sides on occasion, inconsistency has crept in at times domestically, which Dortmund have taken advantage of.
With Real Madrid lying in wait in what should be a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final, the Allianz Arena outfit have a potentially memorable end of season ahead of them. However, both Los Blancos and Dortmund will put Bayern under pressure, with the side’s defence still to really prove that it has what takes to challenge for honours. The attacking abilities of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez are not in question, however it is whether Bayern can shut out an attacking-minded Dortmund side that will be the difference in the game.
Dortmund won the reverse fixture 1-0 at the Allianz Arena through a solitary Gotze strike, and despite Bayern’s history, players and prestige will go into this game as favourites. The home side could well be on the verge of a new era of success, with 90 minutes for the young Borussen stars to prove their worth and retain their title.