Dortmund desperate to keep Bundesliga title race alive as Bayern arrive for Der Klassiker

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GFX Dortmund vs Bayern 2019-20
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The biggest club game in Germany promises to live up to the hype as the hosts need a win to close in on their rivals and stop the inevitable

Billed as Germany's answer to El Clasico and given a Germanised title to match, Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich has been the most important match in the Bundesliga for the best part of two decades.

Since 1995, there have been only four seasons when another team's name was inscribed on the Meisterschale, the Champions' Bowl given to the winners of the Bundesliga. And since 2009-10, only Dortmund or Bayern have lifted the trophy.

With Bayern heading for an eighth league title in a row, Tuesday's 'Der Klassiker' is even more significant than usual. Dortmund have finished as runners-up four times during Bayern's seven-season run, and will find themselves falling short once more should they fail to stop their rivals in what is essentially a title decider at Signal Iduna Park.

This will be the third Klassiker of the season, with Dortmund having kicked off the season with a 2-0 win in the DFL-Supercup before normal service resumed in November as Bayern smashed BVB 4-0 at the Allianz Arena in Hansi Flick's first game as head coach.

Bayern had stuttered under Niko Kovac to begin the season, but Flick steadied the ship and now has them four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table. A win on Tuesday would extend that to seven points over Borussia Dortmund and 10 over RB Leipzig, who would have a game in hand.

While Bayern are a new side under Flick, Dortmund have also greatly improved since the November hammering. Head coach Lucien Favre weathered the storm to stay in charge, while January signings Emre Can and Erling Haaland have helped give them greater consistency at both ends of the pitch .

"We do not think back to that [4-0] game. We have forgotten it. We did not play well," Favre told reporters at the pre-match press conference. "We now play a system that better fits our squad and we have also brought in Emre Can and Erling Haaland as reinforcements in the winter, who have further increased our quality."

Emre Can - Borussia Dortmund PSG

Just a couple of games after the 4-0 drubbing, Favre changed Borussia Dortmund's approach, switching to a 3-4-3 formation from the 4-2-3-1 approach he had previously used. They have won all but three of their Bundesliga games since, with Can improving the midfield to allow a quicker transition from defence to attack, while Haaland has been sensational as the lone striker with 13 goals in 13 games in all competitions.

Incredibly, in the 23 league games since, Bayern Munich have the exact same record, losing just one and drawing two matches. Haaland has been brilliant, but Robert Lewandowski has been even better. He leads the top scorers chart with 27 goals and has even targeted Gerd Muller's single-season record of 40 goals.

Flick says that comparisons between Lewandowski and Haaland might be a bit premature as the Pole has shown year in, year out that he is a world-class striker, but is still aware of the damage the young Norwegian can cause.

"It is his first season, so comparing him now is too early," Flick told reporters. "Robert has always been at a world-class level in recent years. But Haaland is a huge talent.

"He is a young player, but he has a huge pull towards the goal. He just wants to finish. He has a brilliant dynamic. He is greedy, is an enormous size but is still agile. But we don't just have to watch out for him."

Can is expected to be fit to start on Tuesday after coming off the bench in the 2-0 win at Wolfsburg, while Bayern will attempt to do everything in their power to silence Haaland. Sporting director Michael Zorc believes these two players can be the difference with Borussia Dortmund focusing their attention solely on the Bundesliga after getting knocked out of the German Cup and the Champions League before Covid-19 caused the season to be temporarily halted.

"It's a crucial factor that we added two winners in Erling Haaland and Emre Can," Zorc told reporters. "Furthermore, there is a big difference in our performances between home and away matches. We beat them at home last year, we beat them in the Super Cup.

"Obviously, you don't have to be a prophet when you say: If we want to keep competing for the title, we have to win the match. It's as simple as that.

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"There are only six more matches to play after that. It's easy to say, difficult to achieve, since Bayern are an exceptional side. We are all looking forward to this match, as does the whole of German football."

With no other live football on due to Covid-19, it is not just Germany that will be watching what is arguably the biggest live sporting encounter the world has seen in over two months. 

Hopefully it can live up to the 'Klassiker' moniker, and maybe keep the Bundesliga title race alive for another few weeks.

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