Battle of the Giants
Few Bundesliga games have been hyped so much in the media as this clash between the league leaders Borussia Dortmund and the record German champions Bayern Munich, who trail by just three points in second place. It seems slightly ironic that, due to a quirk of the fixture computer, this key clash has been scheduled inconveniently on a chilly post-Easter midweek evening.
Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp is trying his best to play down the importance of the game but he knows maximum points would give his charges - unbeaten in 23 games - a comfortable lead to defend over the last four games of the season. A victory for the reigning champions would open up a six-point cushion at the top of the table. No team in Bundesliga history has ever lost such a lead after 30 games. But defeat would allow Bayern to move to the summit again thanks to their vastly superior goal difference.
"The anticipation is intense," Klopp said. "We want to offer the 80,000 fans a spectacle. "People have been trying to suggest that this is a kind of final, but that is a load of rubbish. "Even if we beat Bayern, I would not say that that would be decisive."
FCB coach Jupp Heynckes shares Klopp's view that tonight's game will not be a championship decider. "We will only know after the final day of the season who has won the title," he stated.
That view is not shared by BVB star Mats Hummels, who was bold enough to suggest that victory over their closest rivals would all but sew up their second successive title. "If we win, I don't think we can be caught anymore," claimed the ex-Bayern defender. "If we lose, then we will be level on points so the game can only be decisive in our favour."
Bayern Munich's director of football Christian Nerlinger is confident his side will win Wednesday's showdown and go on to lift the Bundesliga title this season. "We have won nine games in a row in all competitions," he said. "We have won every game since losing to Leverkusen, and the way the team is coping with a game every three days makes us confident and optimistic. "We travel to Dortmund with our heads held high."
Mario Gomez, who took his tally to 39 goals in 43 matches this season in Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win against plucky FC Augsburg, is equally bullish. "Our destiny is in our own hands," he believes. "Our last five games are going to be very hard, and we have got to win all five of them. "If we achieve that, then we will win the league."
Mario Götze, jostling with Bayern star Franck Ribery, was the difference between the two sides when they clashed in November : Photo courtesy FC Bayern Munich
19-year-old Mario Götze is on the verge of a comeback after over two months out with a groin injury. However, this crunch clash might come too soon for the BVB star, who scored the winner when the two sides met earlier in the season at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern's midfield maestro Bastian Schweinsteiger should take his spot in the starting line up after making his comeback from a troublesome ankle knock on Saturday.
BVB have won the last three clashes between the two sides, while the visitors haven't won in Westphalia since a resounding 5-1 thrashing in September 2009. However, FCB have never lost in Dortmund with Heynckes at the helm.