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Thursday, 28 March 2024 11:01

Bayern München gears up to host improved Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Defending champions Bayern Munich host Borussia Dortmund in a clash between two German giants, as both compete in the top four of the Bundesliga table.

Last time out, Bayern picked up a 5-2 win away from home against SV Darmstadt 988. They were led by Jamal Musiala, who netted two of his side's goals against SV Darmstadt 98.

In its last game, Dortmund defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 at home. Mats Hummels, Karim Adeyemi and Emre Can led Dortmund with a goal apiece.

Thomas Tuchel's men go into the weekend 10 points adrift of the table's summit with just eight games remaining. While they will need Die Werkself to slip up to have any chance of claiming a 12th consecutive Meisterschale, a 10th victory in 11 league meetings with Dortmund would at least ensure they do not lose any more ground.

Die Schwarzgelben, meanwhile, remain locked in a battle for UEFA Champions League qualification – they sit just one point above fifth-placed RB Leipzig. Although Niclas Füllkrug and Donyell Malen, who both have 11 league goals apiece this term, will provide plenty of firepower for Edin Terzić’s men, Dortmund's biggest challenge will be keeping Harry Kane quiet as the England captain chases Robert Lewandowski's 41-goal singleseason Bundesliga record. He currently has 31 to his name from only 26 games this term.

Leverkusen will no doubt be watching the matchday's stand-out fixture with particular interest considering they will have already played earlier on Saturday. They will be aiming to extend their unbeaten record in all competitions in 2023-24 to 39 matches against TSG Hoffenheim at the BayArena.

Xabi Alonso and Co. were 3-2 victors over SC Freiburg last time out and are well placed to pick up a 23rd triumph of the league campaign, especially considering Hoffenheim have lost both of their previous two fixtures and have picked up all three points just twice in their last 12 outings.

VfB Stuttgart will be looking to take advantage of any Bayern slip-up when they face 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 on Sunday afternoon. Sebastian Hoeneß’s men remain on course for a Champions League spot and will be boosted by the involvement of their freshly minted Germany internationals Deniz Undav, Maximilian Mittelstädt and Waldemar Anton.

Heidenheim, though, will be no pushovers. They have adapted fantastically to top-flight football, and with a 10-point buffer over the relegation play-off spot, they are likely to be amongst the elite once more next term.

Also in the battle for the top four are Leipzig, who host 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday. Eleven Leipzig goals in their previous three outings, including five against 1. FC Köln on Matchday 26, suggest it will be a difficult afternoon for Mainz, especially given they were recently hammered 8-1 by Bayern. 

FC Union Berlin have lost just once in seven at home under Nenad Bjelica to move clear of any relegation trouble, but they have also won only one of seven on the road as they head to Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles occupy the final guaranteed European qualification berth in sixth.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Freiburg are also in with an outside chance of qualifying for continental football and make the trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach. A four-match unbeaten streak has given the Foals breathing space towards the bottom, and a win here could even see them move into the top half.

SV Werder Bremen's match versus VfL Wolfsburg at the Weserstadion completes the preKlassiker action, with no Friday fixture this weekend. With the Wolves languishing in 14th, Niko Kovač was relieved of his duties as head coach during the break, and Ralph Hasenhüttl will start his reign against a Bremen outfit who have won just one of their last six matches.

Kicking off a Sunday triple header, Köln need to snap a six-game winless run if they are to move back out of the bottom two. They will have their work cut out against in-form FC Augsburg, whose four-match winning streak has brought them to within five points of the top six, but they are without talisman and captain Ermedin Demirović due to suspension.

Closing out the weekend after Heidenheim’s trip to Stuttgart is a crucial clash at the bottom as SV Darmstadt 98 travel to VfL Bochum 1848. A win for the latter would see them put extra distance between themselves and the drop, but a victory is even more vital for the Lilies, who are rock-bottom with just 13 points but are still only six from the relative safety of the play-off spot as time runs out in their attempts to stay up.