1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

The battles that will define Der Klassiker

April 4, 2019

While tactics and selection will play their part, Saturday's title clash between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will truly be decided on the pitch. DW takes a look at how the key players match up in Der Klassiker.

Paco Alcacer and Niklas Süle clash
Image: Imago Images/T. Bielefeld

Paco Alcacer vs. Niklas Süle

A goal every 60 minutes, third top scorer in the league, and fresh off the back of a late match-winning brace; it's fair to say Paco Alcacer has enjoyed his first season in the Bundesliga. But it's also been a curious campaign for the Spaniard, who has been much more effective from the bench, notching 11 of his 16 strikes after starting as a substitute. A series of minor injuries have also meant BVB have been unable to rely on the former Barcelona man as their constant focal point and a persistent arm complaint threatens his participation on Sunday. If he's only fit enough for the bench, Lucien Favre may actually be saved a selection headache.

Süle's stature has grown as Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels have regressed. The young center-back's sending off in the frantic German Cup win on Wednesday exposed his two teammates on Wednesday and, in doing so, emphasized his importance. Alcacer is a poacher who relies on movement and Süle will need to use his mobility to deny him space but should be more comfortable in any aerial duels. The Bayern man will need to be wary of being pulled out in to midfield, particularly if Mario Götze deputizes for Alcacer, with Dortmund boasting several players capable of exploiting the space that would create.

Joshua Kimmich vs. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho is comfortable on both wings
Jadon Sancho is comfortable on both wingsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Fassbender

While Bayern's right back is technically exceptional and probably the best crosser of a ball in the league, there are times when he looks like the converted central midfielder he is. Kimmich's defensive work has improved over the years but he's still often caught upfield, leaving Bayern's right hand side susceptible to counterattacks.

Sancho's pace, direct running and decsision making on the break make him the ideal man to exploit such spaces. Though the 19-year-old English winger has spent most of the season on the right wing, he's registered three assists while playing on the left in BVB's last two games. While the danger he poses is clear, he'll also have to be aware of Kimmich's attacking threat. Kimmich (10) is joint second on the list of Bundesliga assists this term, behind only Sancho.

Kingsley Coman vs. Marius Wolf

Kingsley Coman (center) scores against Augsburg in February
Kingsley Coman (center) scores against Augsburg in FebruaryImage: Reuters/A. Gebert

The rapid left winger versus converted right back duel is also likely to be played out at the other end of the pitch. The injury-enforced absences of Lukasz Piszczek and Achraf Hakimi have forced Wolf in to service as an emergency right back. The former Eintracht Frankfurt winger is a willing worker but naturally lacks defensive instincts, with his tackling and ability to sense danger a particular concern.

Coman, like Wolf, spent much of the early part of the season on the treatment table and has still completed 90 minutes just twice in the Bundesliga this term. At his best, the Frenchman is a devastating dribbler but, after seeming to pick up another knock in midweek, his fragility is worrying for the champions. Franck Ribery is another option for Niko Kovac if Coman doesn't make it. Either would fancy their chances one-on-one against Wolf.

Marco Reus vs. Javi Martinez

Two veterans of this fixture are likely to line up in direct opposition on Saturday. Though Martinez has been benched for Bayern's last two games against Freiburg and Heidenheim, Kovac tends to use his only true defensive midfielder against stronger opponents.

Reus and Dortmund certainly fit that category, with the 29-year-old enjoying arguably the best season of his career. His 15 goals and eight assists in 22 league games have propelled Dortmund to the top while his leadership of a young group, and blossoming relationship with Sancho, have been key factors in BVB's rise. A clinical finisher, Reus thrives on finding pockets of space and combination play while Martinez is an excellent reader of the game who is never less than fully commited. He'll have his work cut out.

James Rodriguez vs. Axel Witsel

James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring a hat-trick against Mainz last month
James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring a hat-trick against Mainz last monthImage: Reuters/M. Dalder

The make-up of Bayern's midfield is open to question but, after a difficult start under Kovac, James has become a key man since the turn of the year - starting Bayern's last eight league games and providing four goals and three assists in that time. The Colombian is dangerous from long range and has excellent awareness on the ball, so leaving him any space around the box could prove fatal.

Witsel is not a just a defensive midfielder but his power, presence of mind and composure are key defensive attributes. If the Belgian can cut off the supply line to James, perhaps in tandem with Thomas Delaney, Robert Lewandowski may find himself slightly isolated against his old club.