On April 6, 2019, Bayern seized control of the 2018/19 Bundesliga title race with a 5-0 demolition job against rivals Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena. A watershed moment in the season, Bayern would go on to be crowned champions despite trailing BVB at the end of the Hinrunde (the first half of the Bundesliga season).
Four months later, Lucien Favre would record his first triumph against the Bavarians in the DFL Super Cup. Three months after the Super Cup, Dortmund were ripped apart once again, as Hansi Flick got off to a winning start to life in Bavaria, with a 4-0 victory in Der Klassiker.
It would be a turning point for Bayern, who had lost 5-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt a week earlier. They have been unstoppable ever since, building a four-point lead handing them the advantage as they head to the fan-starved cauldron of Signal Iduna Park.
In crunch title battles in recent years, Bayern have more often than not triumphed against Dortmund. In their last five league meetings at the Signal Iduna Park, they have split two wins with one draw, but in the two clashes that came during the Ruckrunde (the second half to the Bundesliga season), Dortmund have not won a single match.
More worryingly, BVB have not won a single Ruckrunde fixture against Bayern since 2012, when Robert Lewandowski secured a late winner at the Signal Iduna. Unsurprisingly, this was also the last time Dortmund won the Bundesliga. After today, Dortmund will face four of Germany’s bottom six sides, while Bayern will play four of the top six.
It’s sink or swim for Dortmund. Win today, and they can build momentum that may just carry them to their first league title in nine years. Lose, and they’ll more or less have blown their last chance at the Bundesliga title race. Let’s look into how Dortmund can upset Bayern with a victory today.
Lucien Favre must toe the line that Peter Bosz and Marco Rose have toed earlier in the season. Both managers notably modified their defensive structure to stifle Bayern’s space in between the lines and starve Lewandowski of service. Against Gladbach, the Polish striker failed to muster a shot on target, lost 60% of his duels, and turned over possession 14 times as he was marshaled out of the game by an astute Nico Elvedi.
Photo: FC Bayern
Key to this defensive fortitude was Denis Zakaria’s marking of Leon Goretzka. The Swiss midfielder curtailed the German’s late runs into the penalty area, with Goretzka giving away cheap fouls after Gladbach won the ball deep. Rose’s side made life a living hell for Thomas Müller, who was denied space in dangerous positions.
As a result, Bayern resorted to playing long balls into a congested box, the majority of which came in the first half which were dominated by an aerially imposing Ramy Bensebaini. If Dortmund are to pull off this victory, then Thomas Delaney will have to mimic Zakaria’s selfless performance, while the likes of Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels must be at the top of their game to nullify Lewandowski.
Shut down Bayern’s left flank
Hansi Flick took a gamble at the weekend by starting Ivan Perišić ahead of Serge Gnabry against Eintracht Frankfurt, but it paid off with the Bavarians taking home a resounding 5-2 victory. No matter who is playing, Bayern have made their left flank click this season, and Favre’s men must shut down this wing in order to get a result today.
They will take heart from the weekend’s victory against Wolfsburg, which saw Dortmund target the opposition’s left flank and causing plenty of danger for Jérôme Roussillon. Nevertheless, Alphonso Davies is several levels ahead of the Frenchman, and he’ll be a far tougher nuisance to deal with today.
The Canadian is a vital cog of the Bayern attack machine, creating overloads and allowing Müller and Serge Gnabry the space they need to wreck havoc. He nullified Jadon Sancho in the November fixture, and today, he’ll be going up against Thorgan Hazard on the right, but will certainly face Sancho in the second half.
Target Boateng over the top
In his Klassiker debut, Erling Haaland go head to head against a tiring Jérôme Boateng, who has been the target of centre forwards in recent times. At 30 years old, the World Cup winner is not the man he used to be.
Against Union Berlin, Anthony Ujah ran him ragged, bullying him and winning 80% of his duels. The Nigerian striker failed to take his chances, but it is intriguing to note that when Ujah received two passes over the top when he sprung the high line, Boateng was trailing close by.
Haaland’s superior technique and deadly ability makes him a far tougher opponent than Ujah, and the Norwegian has proved time and again all he needs is one chance to make the opposition pay.
Flick has played every card right so far since his appointment in November, and he can wrap up the league title today with a victory. Favre, on the other hand, has one last shot to turn the momentum in Dortmund’s favor as they attempt to break Bayern’s dominance.
By: Tosin Holmes