Bundesliga: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund chasing different goals | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW | 05.03.2021

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Bundesliga: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund chasing different goals

In Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund boast the Bundesliga's two top strikers. But the rivals have very different objectives ahead of Saturday's game in Munich.

Generally billed as title-race defining clashes between Germany's two preeminent sides, games between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have fallen short of expectations in recent years.

The recent record between the two is as one-sided as the clubs' respective trophy hauls, Bayern Munich winning 11 of the last 17 league meetings between the two since Dortmund last won the Bundesliga in 2012.

Games in Munich have been particularly one-sided with the home side winning the last six by score lines of 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, 4-1, 5-1 and 2-1 en route to racking up eight consecutive Bundesliga titles. The cynic might say that the "Der Klassiker" moniker is being shown up for baseless marketing slogan it is.

On Saturday evening however, there's no danger of Bayern knocking Dortmund out of the title race; they're already out of it, 13 points adrift and chasing a very different aim: top four and Champions League qualification.

Bayern Munich and the title race

And yet it's still a must-win for Bayern, who could be second by kick-off should this season's challengers RB Leipzig win away at Freiburg earlier in the afternoon.

In fact, if it weren't for the almost existential financial importance of Champions League qualification for their own club, many Borussia Dortmund supporters might begrudgingly take a defeat if it means that Bayern prevent RB from winning the league.

That, at least, is what a survey by the "Bundesliga Barometer" commissioned for magazine Sportbild found this week, when it revealed that 52.3% of fans of the league's other 16 clubs would prefer to see a ninth consecutive title for Bayern than a maiden championship for the unpopular Red Bull franchise.

Robert Lewandowski in action against RB Leipizg

Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich's closest challengers are not Borussia Dortmund, but RB Leipzig

Not that Dortmund will necessarily have any say in the matter. Thomas Müller is set to return to the Bayern starting XI following his coronavirus infection, while Leroy Sane is also hitting the sort of form that saw Bayern splash out €45 million for him in the summer, finding the net against Arminia Bielefeld, Eintracht Frankfurt and Lazio recently.

And former top scorer turned arch-nemesis Robert Lewandowski is as ominous as ever. The Pole has already scored 28 goals in 22 Bundesliga this season, and 34 in 32 in all competitions. In each of Bayern's last five home games against Dortmund, he's scored at least twice.

Lewandowski vs. Haaland

Dortmund, of course, have their own not-so-secret weapon in the goal-scoring department and, with no direct title race to speak of, there will be extra attention on the personal battle between Lewandowski and Erling Haaland.

Like Lewandowski, Haaland is an instinctive predator in the box who knows exactly where the goal is and prefers to shoot first time. Unlike the Pole, however, the Norwegian's activities are largely restricted to central areas of the opposition half and penalty area, whereas Lewandowski is more likely to drop deeper or wider to hold the ball up and launch attacks himself.

Haaland's insatiable appetite for goals (43 in 45 games since announcing himself to Dortmund away at Augsburg in January 2020) is one thing that hasn't been affected by his team's general malaise this season – although there has been a marked improvement in recent weeks.

Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland celebrating a goal for Borussia Dortmund

Mentality: Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland have been key to Dortmund's recent revival, but they're out of the title race

Borussia Dortmund's "battling artists" from the "petting zoo"

Dortmund go into the game in Munich on the back of four straight wins (against Sevilla, Schalke, Bielefeld and Borussia Mönchengladbach) and three consecutive clean sheets, both of which have been attributed by Kicker magazine this week to BVB's "battling artists."

"Dortmund's highly talented team has regularly had to face questions about mentality in recent months and years," they wrote, comparing training sessions under former head coach Lucien Favre to a petting zoo.

"But thanks to increased intensity in training sessions [under interim coach Edin Terzic], Dortmund have more grip and are more virulent … against Gladbach, the black and yellows resembled a unit of battling artists."

Sebastian Kehl, former Dortmund captain, current head of professional football and, as of this week, future sporting director, believes Haaland embodies that description.

Borussia Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl

Sebastian Kehl is a fan of Erling Haaland

"Erling is a winner who tries to transfer his own ambition and will to win to the rest of the team," he said. "And then there are his incredible goals and spectacular sprints – Erling Haaland is a complete package."

News late on Friday though, may have dampened Dortmund's mood somewhat.

Jadon Sancho, back to his best with three goals and two assists in the last five league games and the vital winning goal in the cup against Gladbach on Tuesday night, did not travel to Munich. Neither did Raphael Guerreiro or Gio Reyna.

And, at the other end, Dortmund have discovered a new defensive stability courtesy of the make-shift central defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Emre Can. Against Gladbach, Can won 91 percent of his personal battles, while Hummels won 100 percent. Behind them, second-choice goalkeeper Marwin Hitz pulled off a stunning save with the score still 0-0.

Dortmund will need that combination of technical ability and psychological fortitude, which has so often betrayed them in Munich in recent seasons, if they are to get a result and reach their objective this season.

That objective is not the title any more though. That will be decided by Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig.