Bayern Munich are hunting their first win over Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund for two years today in an eagerly anticipated clash that could decide the Bundesliga title race.
With five league games left this season, second-placed Bayern are three points behind leaders Dortmund and the winner at Borussia’s sold-out Signal Iduna Park will be in pole position to claim the title.
“We can’t afford to lose,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “It will probably be decisive in the title race. It would still be all to play for should we draw, and if we win, we’d take pole position from Dortmund.”
“Clash of the Titans,” “Game of Games” and “Festival of Football” are just some of the catchphrases used to describe the showdown in the media in Germany.
Victory for Dortmund would leave them six points clear of the Bavarians, but a win for Bayern would put them top of the league for the first time since the start of February, when Dortmund replaced them.
Bayern’s Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger, who played in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Augsburg, is again set to start having proved his fitness after damaging ankle ligaments in February.
“I just want to win the game — no matter how dirty or how richly deserved,” he said.
Dortmund’s teenage star Mario Goetze could well play a role, but it remains to be seen how much coach Juergen Klopp is prepared to use the young star, who has struggled with a groin problem for the past 10 weeks.
When the teams last met in November last year in Munich, Goetze’s second-half winner gave his side a 1-0 victory, while Dortmund won both league matches against Bayern home and away last season.
The last time Bayern beat Dortmund was back in February 2010, when the hosts claimed a 3-1 win at Munich’s Allianz Arena, but their midfielder Toni Kroos said the present is all that matters.
“All that counts is that we’re in superb shape and we’ve won a lot of matches in a row,” the 22-year-old said. “We travel to Dortmund in good form. Obviously, we’re wary and we know how good they are, but we’re still just a little bit better in terms of footballing quality. It’ll be very tense and we know we absolutely can’t afford to lose. You sense that everyone in the team knows the importance of this match.”
Dortmund are in fine form with 10 wins and two draws since Christmas, and the title is theirs to lose.
“On Wednesday, it’s going to be a clash of footballing cultures,” Klopp said. “Bayern’s ‘Mia san Mia’ meets our ‘We are football,’ it’s going to be exciting.We are going to put on a show for the 80,000 [fans].”
With a Champions League semi-final first-leg at home to Real Madrid to come on Tuesday next week and nine straight victories behind them, the men from Munich are brimming with confidence.
Dortmund president Reinhard Rauball has described today’s clash as the “Game of Games,” while his Bayern counterpart, Uli Hoeness, has dubbed it the “Moment of Truth.”
“We have a great deal of optimism, but also the necessary respect,” Bayern director of sport Christian Nerlinger said.
Neither coach is prepared to admit the title race will be decided by today’s result.
“We’ll only know who to call champions after the final day [of the season]. Even after Wednesday, a whole lot can still happen,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said.
Dortmund are chasing a second consecutive Bundesliga title, while the teams are set to meet again in the German Cup final at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 12.