With the Bundesliga taking a break until after Christmas attention can now be switched elsewhere. Usually, a cup game brings about an opportunity to forget all the travails of the league and gives a team the chance to start afresh. Maybe rotate the quad a bit and give some of the fringe players a chance to show what they can do. Who knows, they may spark a little bit of form themselves which can be carried into league games. However, that may not be the case for BVB tonight. This game will not be a chance to play some fringe players. This is much more important than a normal cup game – because Bayern Munich are the opponents.
Far from being overawed by the occasion, new boss Peter Stoeger is excited at the prospect of coaching in one of the games which has quickly become one of the biggest in world football. “For me personally it’s a real highlight. A Cup tie with Dortmund against Bayern at the end of the year tops it all off,” said Peter Stoeger before the Klassiker in Munich. The Austrian said he will take “a team whom I think will get their chances” before proclaiming, “We have the possibility to really cause danger there.” He is right to be confident in his side’s chances here, having won his first two games in charge and overseeing a valiant comeback at home against Hoffenheim on Saturday evening.
There are no new long-term worries for Stoeger for this game although he does have a couple of doubts. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang scored on Saturday from the penalty spot but picked up a slight injury which could rule him out of this one. Stoeger didn’t seem fazed regarding the fitness of Aubameyang, instead, saying that he would see how yesterday afternoon’s training went before making a decision on the Gabonese striker. Jadon Sancho missed the weekend’s win and could feature here, but he will need to prove his fitness before doing so having also missed last week’s 2-0 win in Mainz. Andre Schurrle has also missed the past two games but will need to pass a fitness test before being able to play tonight at the Allianz Arena.
Our opponents come into this game having completed a remarkable turnaround from their early season form. Under Carlo Ancelotti, it seemed that Bayern were going backwards and, following a humbling 3-0 loss to Paris St. Germain in the Champions League, the Italian was relieved of his duties. His replacement, Jupp Heynckes, is no stranger to both sets of fans tonight having led Bayern to European glory in the Champions League final in 2013 over Dortmund. Since his appointment in October, Bayern have lost just one game and gone from third in the Bundesliga to nine points clear at the top. The clubs legendary manager is not taking anything for granted tonight though.
Heynckes himself described it as a “much-anticipated highlight in our season.” This is obviously a sentiment which he has translated to his players, with Thomas Muller stating that this game is the “fiercest battle in Germany.” When pressed on his thoughts on BVB, Heynckes seemed concerned. “They’re even more dangerous now,” stressed Heynckes. “They’re coming to the Allianz Arena with big ambitions and we need to take them more than seriously.” Muller shows an equal amount on seriousness regarding Dortmund, saying, “We know what to expect. The aim is to not let Dortmund’s strengths come into play and stamp our mark on the game.” Heynckes is “confident that we can summon all our strengths again tomorrow. I can quote Hermann Gerland: the best thing in football after the Champions League final is the cup final in Berlin. That’s a big incentive for us to get to the next round tomorrow.”
Bayern have been dealt a blow of their own for tonight’s game. Arjen Robben has not been deemed fit enough and will not be risked by Heynckes. Thiago Alcantara will also miss the game through injury, while Manuel Neuer has obviously been ruled out for the entire season. Familiar faces are likely to play though, with Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels probable to start for Bayern.
This will be the seventh meeting in this competition between these two sides in the as many seasons. The record so far is pretty split, with each side winning three each. Not only is this game now pivotal in Dortmund gaining an edge over our rivals, but it is also important that we win to give us something to aim for in the new year. With the likelihood of Bundesliga glory now small, a cup run would do Stoeger and his boys the world of good. We aren’t dead yet. A win tonight proves that.