DFB-Pokal Match Preview: Reigning champions Borussia Dortmund visit mighty Bayern Munich
The Bundesliga Hinrunde may be over but as we brace ourselves for an excruciating hiatus from German football, there is one last pre-Christmas bonanza before we slam the footballing year of 2017 in Germany.
And what better way to cap off the year with Der Klassiker? The midweek DFB Cup action will bring us lots of intriguing matches but Borussia Dortmund's visit to Bayern will definitely be the pick of them.
The two perennial giants of German football will collide once again this midweek, in just the third round of the DFB Pokal. However early it may seem, the winner of this clash is hugely favoured to win it all.
Borussia Dortmund are the defending champions but will be underdogs this midweek, nonetheless.
Peter Stoger has been a revelation
Since the appointment of Peter Stoger, the black and yellows have registered two back to back wins, ending an eight-game winless streak. The former Cologne boss has managed to stabilize the backline and restored some much-needed belief and self-confidence in the team.
The experienced Austria boss did really well to identify Peter Bosz's undoings and did his best to rectify those mistakes. The suicidal high line of defence, previously instilled by Peter Bosz, in particular, was one of his biggest mistakes which lead to a series of defensive problems for die schwarzgelben.
Stoger's newly crafted defensive line is planted rather deep thus allowing Dortmund to be more solid at the back. Furthermore, it also helped players like Sokratis and Omer Toprak, both of whom are familiar with playing in a deep backline, to emerge as their former self, in defence.
Borussia Dortmund's problem
Peter Stoger has been quite impressive in his man-management and overall performance so far but will it be enough to see off the mighty Bavarians?
The answer would be a resounding NO.
The Ruhr giants still have a series of problems that they need to address before heading into this epic battle in midweek.
As Stefan Buszko of ESPN, noted in their game against Hoffenheim, Borussia Dortmund still lack defensive commitment, which might prove to be one of their undoings against Bayern.
Furthermore, the team also lacks incision and drive on the attacking front. As we noticed in their win against Hoffenheim, the home side wasted a lot of opportunities to catch an exposed Hoffenheim defence, on the break, largely due to their counter-attack flaws.
Borussia Dortmund, revered as one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe, not longer than just a few years ago, have now lost their true counter self it seems, which, unfortunately, is/could be one of the reasons why they might/will suffer against the mighty Bavarians this week.
Mia San Champions
For someone who regularly watches the Bavarians in action, week in week out, it would seem pretty obvious as to why Bayern are so dominant in German football.
They are simply the complete package and are basically role models for any team that aspires to be champions in the future.
Bayern have been greatly rejuvenated by the appointment of former coach Jupp Heynckes. 13 wins in 15 matches are, by no means, a bad record. That being said, Bayern haven't been as dominant, nor as consistent as the record would suggest.
However, their tremendous work-rate and commitment are the qualities which separate them from other Bundesliga teams. They had to work really hard to edge past Koln and Stuttgart in their last couple of matches and work hard they did.
Call it luck or earned fortune, Bayern have the right mindset and temperament to easily prevail in tonight's highly anticipated encounter against Dortmund.
Jupp Heynckes will definitely be the happier of the two coaches when it comes to team selection. Although he will miss the valuable services of Thiago Alcantara and Arjen 'Dortmund-slayer' Robben, the veteran coach will have the privilege to select from an otherwise fully-fit Bayern squad.
Franck Ribery sat out Bayern's match against Stuttgart last weekend, he thus seems virtually guaranteed to start against Dortmund. David Alaba is also expected to get back into the starting lineup, replacing Rafinha on the left back position.
James Rodriguez might have to settle for the bench, as Thomas Muller, who scored that impressive winner against Stuttgart is highly expected to start this one. Muller can play centrally, just behind Robert Lewandowski and will be partnered by Kingsley Coman and Franck Ribery on the flanks.
In defence, Niklas Sule, who conceded that awful penalty in the last minute against Stuttgart is likely to be benched out tonight. Therefore, expect Jerome Boateng to once again partner Mats Hummels in central defence.
As for Dortmund, coach Peter Stoger will have to deal with a series of pressing injury issues. Superstars such as Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle are not expected to return before the end of the year while Gonzalo Castro, Sebastian Rode and Maximilian Philipp have also been ruled for weeks, if not months.
However, the most shocking news arrived on Monday, when star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was deemed doubtful to start against Bayern. He picked up a muscular problem during training on Monday.
If he does miss the encounter in the midweek, coach Peter Stoger will have a huge task of reconfiguring the Dortmund attacking lineup and as it seems, all bets are off.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1 formation): Sven Ulreich; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, David Alaba; Javi Martinez, Arturo Vidal; Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman; Robert Lewandowski.
Borussia Dortmund (4-1-2-3 formation): Roman Burki; Jeremy Toljan, Sokratis, Omer Toprak, Marcel Schmelzer; Julian Weigl; Shinji Kagawa, Raphael Guerreiro; Andriy Yarmolenko, Alexander Isak, Christian Pulisic.
Bayern Munich 3:1 Borussia Dortmund