Dortmund vs Bayern. Bayern vs Dortmund. The German Clasico. Der Klassiker. Whatever you want to call it, Saturday’s matchup (Noon ET, FOX) is the biggest the Bundesliga has to offer. Here are 8 things to monitor as Dortmund look to get back into the title race.
Bayern look for their first signature win of the season
Bayern may be in their customary spot as Bundesliga favorites, but the unbridled dominance from the Pep Guardiola era has clearly passed. Carlo Ancelotti still hasn’t secured a truly big win in his first season in Munich. Bayern lost their one true test in the Champions League so far at Atletico Madrid, and of the four games they’ve played against the top seven in the Bundesliga, they’ve won just once (3-0 vs Hertha Berlin). A win here would quell concerns that Ancelotti's Bayern have trouble against top competition, not to mention keeping them in first place after RB Leipzig leapfrogged them on Friday night.
Dortmund really need these three points
Thomas Tuchel’s side have won just one of five in the Bundesliga after a hot start, yet sit just six points back of Bayern with a chance to cut it to three this weekend. Though undefeated RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim have shaken up the Bundesliga in the early going, odds are it will still come down to Dortmund to give Bayern a real title race this season. A loss at home in the Klassiker would put that in serious jeopardy.
Thomas Müller's Bundesliga goal drought
Something’s been off with Bayern’s talisman ever since the Champions League semifinal exit to Atletico Madrid. Müller has just three goals for Bayern since missing a penalty in that second leg, and his 11-game stretch without a Bundesliga goal is the longest of his career. Müller has had impossibly bad luck at times, hitting the woodwork seemingly every week, but how much of that is also in his head? For a guy who at 27 is already tied for third on Bayern’s all-time scoring list, the meager return this season has been almost inconceivable. But maybe he just needs to see the Black and Yellows, against whom Müller has 8 career goals.
Christian Pulisic's role
Dortmund spent over €100 million on new, young talent this summer, and yet Pulisic has made a bigger impact than all of them in his first full season with the first team. The USMNT phenom has played himself into Tuchel’s starting XI and been one of the best wingers in the entire Bundesliga. Still, there’s a chance the 18-year-old may start this one on the bench. Four days removed from playing two World Cup qualifiers in the span of five days for the U.S. halfway across the world, Tuchel may opt to give Pulisic a much-deserved (if unfortunately timed) break.
The future of the German national team
The next generation of Germany’s midfield is blossoming in front of our eyes. Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich and Dortmund’s Julian Weigl exploded onto the scene last season and the 21-year-olds are quickly growing into vital pillars for their respective teams. Weigl is already Dortmund’s midfield anchor and main ball distributor, while Kimmich has become a second Mr. Everything at Bayern after David Alaba. Having filled in at centerback and fullback last season for Pep Guardiola, Kimmich is showing off his offensive game this year – he’s second on the team with 7 goals. The two prodigies will see a lot of each other on Saturday – and in the national team for years to come.
Mario Goetze is still fighting his way back into relevancy after three difficult years at Bayern, and he’ll likely see the field against his former employers for the first time after missing out on the Super Cup. On the other side, Mats Hummels returns to face the team he captained for years while Robert Lewandowski’s mere presence will serve as another painful reminder to Dortmund fans that they never got a cent from Bayern for arguably the best striker in the world.
Can Dortmund score on Manuel Neuer?
BVB have just one goal in their last four games against Bayern (not counting the penalty shootout in last year’s German Cup final) and Neuer is the biggest reason why. Germany’s No. 1 was fantastic the last time out against Dortmund, who were dominating the first half of the Super Cup in August but were frustrated time and again by Neuer. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Co. need to make their chances count on Saturday if they want to get back in the title race.
How will Bayern cope without Arturo Vidal?
Bayern are hobbling out of the international break, with Arjen Robben, Kingsley Coman, Javi Martinez and Arturo Vidal all ruled out for Saturday. Vidal’s loss may especially hurt Bayern in Dortmund. The midfield enforcer was Bayern’s match-winner in the Super Cup, and his work-rate will be sorely missed against a speedy, relentless BVB side that will look to exploit Xabi Alonso’s lack of pace. Dortmund have struggled most this season when opponents press high and harass Julian Weigl for 90 minutes. Such a plan is exponentially harder to execute without Vidal. Can Renato Sanches step in and come up with his best performance for Bayern to date? They may need it.