Dortmund will look to extend their lead over Bayern to ten points.
Dortmund’s six-game winning streak in all competitions came to an end on Thursday, following a controversial and very unlucky 1-0 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League. In that match, the Ruhr side dominated the first half before conceding a soft opener before half-time.
Early in the second half, referee Mike Dean sent off Marcel Schmelzer for what he saw as a dive, even though replays showed that the left back was felled. Still, BvB fought back, but luck was not on their side: Shinji Kagawa was denied by the post, and Lucas Barrios had a late effort cleared off the line.
“The lads are of course disappointed, but also proud - and impressed by their own performance,” coach Juergen Klopp said according to the official BvB website. “For our overall development, it’s better to play the way we did yesterday than play poorly and somehow pick up a 1-0 win.”
In the past, Dortmund have succeeded by pressing Bayern high up the pitch and stifling their opponents’ attack. Such a game plan requires tremendous effort, and given their short rest, questions have been raised as to how fit the hosts will be on Sunday.
To these questions, Klopp defiantly responded:
“We are in great shape, so it’s no problem to play again on Sunday,” he said. “We want to answer on the pitch.”
Will Bayern Repeat 2009 Triumph?
It wasn’t a cakewalk, but Bayern Munich extended their fine run of Champions League form in Tuesday’s 2-1 win away to Basel. After going a goal behind early, the visitors leveled through Bastian Schweinsteiger, who also netted a late, late winner following a set piece. The result left the Bavarian giants in first place in their group, with six points from two matches.
Domestically, Bayern have had less success. With just eight points from six matches and a -1 goal difference, the defending champions are ten points behind leaders Mainz, and perhaps most importantly, seven adrift of Dortmund.
With all this in mind, captain Mark van Bommel issued a rally call: “We have no more excuses. We have to win,” he said, according to his team’s official website.
“It’s time to get going,” sporting director Christian Nerlinger added, “although I am very confident. Last year, it was exactly in situations like this that we saw the team’s true character.”
Their opponents on Sunday will be well aware of the character that Bayern are capable of showing. A year ago, the Bavarians were in a similarly tight position, but earned an emphatic 5-1 victory in front of a capacity crowd of 81,552 at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion. Given their opponents’ improvement over the past year, as well as injuries to a number of key Bayern players, it will be an even greater task for the defending Bundesliga champions to earn three points on Sunday. Still, their quality and experience are hard to match, and could prove decisive.
Dede, Tamas Hajnal, Sebastian Kehl, Florian Kringe, and Mohamed Zidan have all been ruled out of Sunday’s match, but question marks lie over the availability of Patrick Owomoyela (ankle) and Mario Goetze (thigh tightness, cold). The former featured as a substitute against Sevilla and is expected to be available for at least some of this weekend’s match, but the latter is more doubtful after missing training on Friday. Should Goetze fail to reach match fitness ahead of Sunday, Jakub Blaszczykowski will stand in for him; for Owomoyela, Lukasz Piszczek is also an option.
Probable Starting XI: Weidenfeller - Owomoyela, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Bender, Sahin - Blaszczykowski, Kagawa, Grosskreutz - Barrios
As he prepares for this weekend’s clash, Louis van Gaal will be without Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Diego Contento, and David Alaba. Hamit Altintop is also doubtful due to a groin problem, and his availability will be decided by the results of a late fitness test. In place of the Turkish midfielder, Ivica Olic may start, causing Van Gaal to shuffle his attacking line.
Probable Starting XI: Butt - Lahm, Van Buyten, Badstuber, Pranjic - Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger - Mueller, Klose, Kroos - Olic