Borussia Dortmund can gatecrash former coach Thomas Tuchel's unveiling party at Bayern Munich on Saturday and take another step closer to thwarting the Bavarian giant's bid for an 11th consecutive Bundesliga title. Dortmund sits one point ahead of Bayern, but faces its title rival at Munich's Allianz Arena, a place that has been a graveyard for the club's aspirations in the post-Jurgen Klopp era.
Winning nine of 10 league matches in 2023, Dortmund comes into the match in blistering form. Bayern has won five from 10 in that period, leading to last week's dismissal of coach Julian Nagelsmann for Tuchel, the former Dortmund bossl. Dortmund's last league win in Munich came in 2014 under Klopp with the title race well and truly decided in Bayern's favor. Since then, Bayern has chalked up eight Der Klassiker victories in a row, scoring 33 goals and conceding just six.
"It's a huge game for all of us. It's a matter of building confidence and anticipation," Tuchel said. "There's no bigger challenge than starting my time here with a game against Dortmund. It's the biggest game in German soccer and has an added element to it, given the current state of the league standings."
In 2018-19, the last time Dortmund headed to Munich in first place this late in the season, it was handed a soccer lesson. Thrashed 5-0 after being down 4-0 at halftime, Dortmund would ultimately lose the title to Bayern by two points. Even Tuchel, the most successful Dortmund leader in the post-Klopp era, could not achieve a league win in Munich. He was on the hot seat the last time Dortmund won at the Allianz, a 3-2 comeback victory in the semifinals of the 2016-17 German Cup.
While a draw would preserve Dortmund's one-point lead with eight games remaining, midfielder Emre Can said, "we're going there to win. It's going to be extremely difficult, but we believe in ourselves."
Leon Goretzka, who was subbed off early for Can in Germany's 3-2 friendly loss against Belgium in Cologne on Tuesday with an ankle complaint, looks set to take the field.
"I feel good. I twisted my ankle, but it should be fine for Saturday," Goretzka, who came to Bayern from Dortmund's archrival Schalke in 2018, said.
Player to watch: Leroy Sane (Bayern Munich)
Since arriving from Manchester City in the summer of 2020, Leroy Sane's inconsistency has frustrated Bayern Munich fans because of how brilliant he can occasionally be. Now 27, the former Schalke forward should be entering the prime of his career, but his form has dipped so much that Sane was left out of Germany's squad for recent friendlies against Peru and Belgium. His former coaches, Hansi Flick and Nagelsmann, were unable to get Sane to replicate his Man City form consistently, something Tuchel will hope to rectify. Tuchel addressed the expectations in his first Bayern training session, giving smiling Sane a playful kick up the behind.
Saturday: Schalke vs Bayer Leverkusen, Union Berlin vs Stuttgart, Wolfsburg vs Augsburg, Freiburg vs Hertha Berlin, RB Leipzig vs Mainz, Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund
Sunday: Cologne vs Borussia Moenchengladbach, Werder Bremen vs Hoffenheim
© Agence France-Presse
That didn't age well !