German football may pay a heavy price for its triumph at Wembley this week: the reduction of the Bundesliga’s title race to a procession.
That is the fear in the Ruhr as Jürgen Klopp counts the bodies in Borussia Dortmund’s treatment room and tries to rustle up a side that can inflict on Bayern Munich their first league defeat in over a year.
Having already lost one centre-half, Neven Subotic, for the season, Dortmund are also without the other, Mats Hummels, after he suffered an ankle injury at Wembley which will keep him out until January. Also absent is left-back Marcel Schmelzer, who damaged a calf against England. The remaining member of the back four that took Dortmund to last season’s Champions League final – before losing to Bayern – is Lukasz Piszczek. He may play, but will not be match sharp, having just returned from injury. Also sidelined is midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.
So desperate is Dortmund’s position that Klopp this week signed veteran Manuel Friedrich, 34, who was released by Bayer Leverkusen in May.
Bayern will themselves be without Franck Ribéry, injured in helping France reach the World Cup, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but they have rather greater resources. Facing Dortmund’s makeshift defence, and a wall of abuse from the Westfalenstadion’s “yellow wall of sound”, is the terrace’s former hero Mario Götze. Having been with Dortmund since he was nine, the 21-year-old attacking midfielder swapped clubs for £31.5m during the summer and, after taking time to adjust, is now nearing his best.
“I have no fear, that’s for sure,” said Götze this week but Jens Lehmann, who knows from experience how bitter German inter-club rivalry can be, has suggested he should try to remain in central midfield and steer clear of the touchlines. The former Arsenal goalkeeper found himself the target of vitriol from both Schalke and Dortmund fans after leaving the former for their neighbours, having previously said he would rather play in the second division than for Dortmund.
Bayern are four points clear and Ribéry has suggested victory would effectively seal the title already. Arjen Robben was more respectful, while Thomas Müller warned: “Dortmund aren’t dependent on individual players. They’ll make their system work.”
Dortmund have not lost in Der Klassiker, as the game has become known in recent years, since February 2010, drawing twice and winning four of the six encounters. But their results have been mixed recently while Bayern, having taken a while to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s methods, are in rich form. They have not lost in 37 matches, a Bundesliga record, and are unbeaten away since losing in Dortmund in April 2012, 24 matches ago.
The other club still in the title mix are Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen, who travel to Hertha Berlin today ahead of the Champions League visit of Manchester United on Wednesday.
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