Saturday evening sees one of the most eagerly-anticipated fixtures on the domestic German football calendar, and given the current league situation, this Klassiker between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München is not one to be missed.
Only one point separates the two teams after 13 rounds of matches with Dortmund knowing that a win at Signal Iduna Park would take them to the top of the standings with just three games to go to the midway stage of the campaign.
A win for Bayern, on the other hand, would see them take a significant step towards a record tenth straight Bundesliga title, and that is before considering the rivalry this particular fixture has developed down the years.
Since the turn of the century, Bayern and Dortmund have collected 19 of 22 Bundesliga titles between them. While Bayern lead that particular count 16 to three, it cannot be denied that BVB have become their fiercest perennial challengers, and that looks set to be the case once again this term.
Last weekend, Norwegian hot-shot Erling Haaland burst back onto the scene after a seven-game injury absence with his 50th goal in 50 Bundesliga games, becoming the youngest and quickest player to reach the half-century milestone.
Parallels are already being drawn between the 21-year-old and a man who is breaking record after record in the Bundesliga: Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. The prolific Pole was this week named Striker of the Year at the Ballon d’Or ceremony, where he was pipped by Lionel Messi to the ultimate accolade, and he is just four goals shy of snatching yet another record off Gerd Müller, that of the most goals (42) in a single calendar year.
Bayern broke that record at club level in their 1-0 win over a stubborn DSC Arminia Bielefeld on Matchday 13, taking their total to 102 in 2021 – one more than 1. FC Köln’s previous record which had stood for 44 years.
With such firepower on the same field, you will not want to blink on Saturday evening, although the undercard is as worthy a build-up to the main event as you could imagine.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen gave credence to their own title aspirations with an impressive 3-1 win at RB Leipzig which saw them climb to third last weekend. Together with the top two, Die Werkself are the only other club to have a double-digit positive goal difference, and the likes of Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick will be relishing the prospect of facing bottom club Greuther Fürth, whose defence has been the leakiest so far with 39 goals conceded.
Leipzig, meanwhile, will be out to bounce back immediately from that defeat when they get the weekend’s action underway at high-flying 1. FC Union Berlin on Friday night, but do not expect their hosts to be in a charitable mood after taking a stumble of their own at Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend.
That 2-1 win was the Eagles’ first at the Deutsche Bank Park this season, and their third win on the spin, making Oliver Glasner’s men the only team to boast a 100 per cent record in November.
Their first challenge of December takes them to TSG Hoffenheim’s PreZero Arena, where Sebastian Hoeneß has got his team firing on all cylinders. Last weekend’s 6-3 win in Fürth represented the first time the Sinsheimer’s had ever hit six in an away game, and it lifted them to fifth, on the cusp of the UEFA Champions League qualifying zone.
They are now two points adrift of SC Freiburg, who will be out to reverse a recent slide. Christian Streich’s men lost the only remaining unbeaten record in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 defeat at Bayern on Matchday 11, and back-to-back defeats to Frankfurt and VfL Bochum have left them clinging on to their place in the top four.
They will aim to snap that run of three straight defeats when they travel to Borussia
Mönchengladbach on Sunday evening, with their hosts also reeling from a 4-1 loss at Rhine rivals Köln.
Elsewhere this weekend, 1. FSV Mainz 05 – one of five clubs locked on 18 points, and eight packed within just two points from fifth all the way down to 12th – host VfL Wolfsburg, while new Hertha Berlin coach Tayfun Korkut’s first challenge takes him to VfB Stuttgart on Sunday.
The Swabians may have slipped into the bottom three by the time that fixture comes around, with FC Augsburg hosting Bochum on Saturday afternoon, while Bielefeld have the chance to narrow the gap on the safety zone when they host Köln, with nine points separating the two teams and – crucially – four distancing the East Westphalians from the relegation play-off berth.
There will therefore be plenty at stake at both ends of the table on Matchday 14 with Der Klassiker topping the Bundesliga billing once more.