At the peak of Barcelona’s powers under Pep Guardiola, the Clasico against Real Madrid dominated the football landscape. For a good two or three seasons, the football community was treated to several great matchups between Europe’s two greatest sides, never short on drama, action or the spotlight inevitably placed on its two greatest stars; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Following last year’s success and eventual meeting in the Champions League final, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s rivalry has taken on a similar sense of importance and sporting symbolism as the marquee matchup between Europe’s best clubs and also as one of the most intense rivalries on the continent.
It’s never too early for a Bayern vs Dortmund match and this Saturday the two meet again in this year’s installment of the German SuperCup at the Signal-Iduna Park. 195 countries around the world will broadcast the matchup between Germany’s two best sides as they compete for the first official trophy of the season. And as was the case last year, there is no shortage of talking points when it comes to this massive encounter. Although it is a glorified friendly, the match does hold some significant for both teams.
For Guardiola, this is an opportunity to test his philosophy at an even greater level than he has so far this summer. Bayern ran out 2-1 winners against Dortmund last year in the competition and they will once again be favorites this time around. Despite their apparent superiority, games against Dortmund have never been easy, not even for this dominant Bayern team. Last year’s treble winners have won all eight of their pre-season matches though, including their most recent 2-0 win against Barcelona in the Uli Hoeness Cup this past Wednesday.
And despite winning everything there was to win last year under Jupp Heynckes, Bayern appear even more determined to replicate that success again this year. The Dortmund game provides a platform for the players and the team to challenge themselves further ahead of the new season. President Uli Hoeness recently warned of complacency and it being Bayern’s biggest enemy this year. Meanwhile, Guardiola has emphasized the importance of players pushing themselves and few opponents push Bayern as far as Dortmund do, regardless of the circumstance.
Pre-season has already been a significant measure of how this Bayern side can push itself and improve. Guardiola’s experimentation with tactics and player positions appears to only have strengthened the team and made the more unpredictable. They cruised to the Telekom Cup last week, beating Hamburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach decidedly before dominating Barcelona this week, albeit a weakened and young Barcelona. And they did it in their usual comprehensive fashion, but added to that is an impressive new fluidity and unpredictability that makes them even more formidable.
For Dortmund the match, albeit it being just a dress rehearsal of their league encounter later this year, does provide them with their first glimpse of the competition they’ll be up again in the coming season. Although the players have admittedly moved past the disappointments of the Champions League final Dortmund defender Mats Hummels did note that the game could prove a useful indicator as to how successful their season could be. Dortmund’s pre-season hasn’t been nearly as impressive as Bayerns’ and there is lots of room for improvement ahead of the new season. What better way to work out your kinks than against arguably the best team in Europe?
And Jürgen Klopp will have his work cut out for him in this game. Not only did he lose one of his key players in Mario Götze, who only reinforced an already powerful Bayern side further, but he must integrate several new signings. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been brought in to fill the vacancy left by Götze while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should ideally provide some much needed depth in the attacking department. How effectively they transition to the new league and team could impact how Dortmund perform across multiple competitions, one of the aspects they struggled with last year.
Moreover, they’ll want to show the 80,000 supporters that will pack the stadium that their team can still take it to Bayern. General manager Michael Zorc was adamant about getting their first title of the season, especially since Dortmund lost their last two chances to win the trophy and not having won since 2008. A win against Bayern would also take them two five, one more than the record champions in this competition.
As intense as their rivalry is though, Klopp or Guardiola will not risk injuries in this game. Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski are all likely to miss the game due to injury while Mario Götze will have to wait for his debut against his former side, being left in Munich to nurse an injury of his own. Of course, that’s not to say he won’t take it seriously. Klopp reassured supporters that he will not field a B-team and the rate Bayern have been playing neither will Guardiola.
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