Bayern Munich host Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in this Bundesliga season's second edition of the country's biggest rivalry. Bayern are comfortably on top of the league, while Dortmund sit in fourth, in the midst of a battle to qualify for Champions League. It's a match that means much more for Dortmund in terms of importance in the league, but any meeting between the two sides will be a battle.
What are the major keys for this matchup?
Bayern Munich's goalkeeper situation
It looks as if Manuel Neuer will miss the clash with Dortmund, and he just might miss Bayern's vitally important first leg match against Real Madrid as well. All eyes are on Dortmund on Saturday though, and Bayern lost for the first time since November with replacement Sven Ulreich in goal. Ulreich will probably be the man in between the sticks against Dortmund, and he will be tested by the visitors' high octane attack.
Julian Weigl vs. Bayern's midfield
While players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic have rightfully been garnering plaudits for their fantastic play this season, Julian Weigl's been maybe their most consistent player. The 21-year-old German midfielder's calm on the ball, positioning, and overall on-field intelligence has made him invaluable to Dortmund, and he'll need to be at his best against Bayern Munich's stellar midfield for Dortmund to have a chance. He'll probably be partnered by Gonzalo Castro, and they'll have their hands full against the probably combo of Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara.
Bayern's Arturo Vidal-Thiago tandem
One of the biggest keys for Bayern Munich this year has been their stellar midfield play. Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara in particular have been outstanding. The combination of Vidal's energy and ability on both sides of the ball, with Thiago's technical ability and creativity has been just too much for just about every team in Europe to handle. To say Weigl and whomever he's partnered with in Dortmund's midfield will have their hands full is an understatement, and this game will probably be decided in the middle of the park.
Boris StreubelGetty Images
Dortmund's kids have to step up
For Dortmund, it's all about the youth. Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic have been leading the way for Thomas Tuchel's men, but they'll need another big game from whichever of their starlets get the nod. Both of Dortmund's kids have shown incredible maturity this year, but the match against Bayern is one of the biggest tests either youngster's faced in their short careers. It's important that they don't get overawed, and step up in the moments that matter.
Dortmund must deny service to Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski isn't near the top of the Bundesliga and European scoring charts by accident. He's one of the world's most lethal strikers, and he's a legitimate threat every singel time he touches the ball. Dortmund know this, and so does every team that Bayern face, but knowing about the danger and dealing with it are two different things. If Dortmund are going to limit Lewandowski's impact, they've got to constrict the supply to him, and prevent him from getting on the end of dangerous balls into the box. It's easier said than done, but if Dortmund can't do it? They're gonna have a bad time.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
Get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang involved early
As much as Dortmund have depended on performances from their stellar young talent this year, it's been Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang driving Die Schwarzgelben forward. He leads the Bundesliga scoring charts (just one ahead of Robert Lewandowski), and he's probably their most important player. It was Aubameyang's early goal that made the difference the last time these two met, and for them to be successful once again, they need to get him service, and early. Just as Dortmund's key is keeping the ball off Lewandowski's foot, it's the same for Bayern. Dortmund struggle if Aubameyang doesn't get on the ball early and often, and if that's the case against Bayern, they're going to have serious issues.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.