While many were bemoaning the death of the Bundesliga at the hands of the mighty Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund was quietly chugging along. They were hopeful they might still catch the record German champions if they remained consistent.
After the two teams met in the Hindrunde (first-half in German), a match-up that resulted in a comprehensive victory for the Bavarians, writers began eulogizing the Bundesliga season. But it all might have been premature. After Bayern lost to Mainz on Wednesday, and Dortmund beat Darmstadt the gap between first and second is now only five points.
Bayern now has to go to Dortmund, in what surely is the match of the season, and could very well be the moment Bayern put away their fourth consecutive title or the day Dortmund swung the momentum back in their favor.
It will be Pep Guardiola’s last match against Dortmund, in the league at least. The two teams could very well meet again in the DFB Pokal Final in Berlin. It’s also a meeting between the two top scores in Germany, Robert Lewandowski, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Lewandowski has 23 goals and Aubameyang has 22. Thomas Müller sits just behind those two with 17. This match could see goals.
Speaking of goals, Dortmund will be looking to attack Bayern’s limited defensive capabilities. On Wednesday, Mainz showed how effective a counter attack could be against Bayern if done correctly. Bayern is still without Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez, and Holger Badstuber. Youngster Joshua Kimmich could start in central defense again, with Medhi Benatia. It’s unlikely that recent signing, Serdar Tasci, will have any part to play in stopping Dortmund’s potent attack.
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) March 2, 2016
Bayern will hope that the best defense is a good offense. In their last meeting, Munich put five past Dortmund, as they heavily relied on long balls to their world-class forwards. Even without Boateng, who excels in playing long passes from the back, Bayern has enough quality with players like Kimmich, Xabi Alonso, and David Alaba that they could still be effective.
Dortmund will need to get to Bayern’s back line early. Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Aubameyang can’t afford to let them get comfortable. Bayern is used to teams falling back when not in possession, but Dortmund’s front 3 are good enough to trouble the visitors and should try to force errant passes and giveaways.
So what does this game mean for both teams? Obviously, it means the difference between an 8 point lead for Bayern and a 2 point lead for Bayern. But it might mean more to Dortmund. A loss and Dortmund would probably be out of the title race. The last time these two sides played, Bayern opened a 7 point lead over BVB. It’s taken months to get that deficit down to 5 points. 8 points and the Bundesliga will essentially be over.
— Bundesliga (@Bundesliga_EN) March 3, 2016
This isn’t a must-win for Bayern, not like it is for Dortmund anyway. But it’s a statement game. Beating Dortmund would be like Bayern putting their foot down to say, “yes, we’re still the best team in this country.” Bayern has been seen as vulnerable ever since losing Boateng to injury back in January. A win on Saturday would send a message that even a vulnerable Bayern is not something to take lightly, that’s a mindset that could do them well in two weeks against Juventus.
This is the biggest match of the year in Germany. It’s the two best teams, arguably the two best managers, and the two best offenses. It might not be the match that officially determines who lifts the Meisterschale in May, but in terms of spectacle, there are worse things to watch than two of the best best attacks slugging it out on Saturday. It will be enthralling, if only FOX was giving it the attention it deserves, but that’s another story.
EDIT: After the article was posted, FOX announced that the Dortmund/Bayern game will be shown live on FX instead of FOX Soccer Plus.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 4, 2016