The biggest game of the Bundesliga season is here as Bayern Munich travel to an empty Signal Iduna Park to take on title rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Der Klassiker. Both teams come into the clash with different motivations.
Bayern come in to go 7 points clear of their title rivals while Borussia Dortmund aim to keep up with the league leaders in what promises to be a thrilling encounter considering the last few games. Although, it turned into a much different game than we anticipated.
According to the above statistical model by Michael Caley, the game observed a fairly even xG with both sides creating very little going forward. The difference was the wonderful chip from Kimmich to seal the game for Bayern in the first half. Now let’s take a look at how the two sides set up, their tactical plans to exploit eachother and the lineups.
Dortmund lined up in their typical 3-4-2-1 formation, the same formation they used against Schalke (read that analysis here) with an emphasis on Haaland leading the line flanked by Brandt and Thorgan Hazard behind him.
The midfield pivot of Dahoud and Delaney keep their place with Hakimi and Guerrero on either side. Both of BvB’s fullbacks are influential and we’ll get onto that later as we explore how BvB went about their business in this game.
Bayern played the 4-2-3-1 formation which has allowed them to return to the summit of the Bundesliga and exert their dominance once again. Hansi Flick loves his double pivots with Kimmich and Goretzka.
Lewandowski leads the line with Gnabry, Coman, and Muller behind him interchanging positions throughout the game (we’ll get to that later). Back four comprised of Alaba, Boateng, Pavard, and the mercurial Alphonso Davies who’s been a revelation for Bayern this season.
As we discussed in our Hansi Flick analysis, Bayern Munich have become one of the best pressing sides in the world under the German. The give little time to their opponents with the ball, not allowing them to settle to pick through holes that their obvious aggresive press leaves behind.
You can see this from Bayern’s positioning throughout the first half as they aimed to press Dortmund aggressively whenever the ball is played in the half-spaces/wide CBs. Their average positioning showed that the front three interchanged throughout the match well (Lewandowski was surprisingly deep) with Serge Gnabry being told to initiate the press.
Another thing that caught our eye after looking at the Opta data, was how uncharacteristically deep Alphonso Davies was, with the Canadian picking and choosing his moments to go forward due to the added threat of Hakimi on the other side. Due to him being very comfortable with the ball infield and outfield, it made Bayern’s rotational policy alot easier specially with David Alaba playing on his side.
We can see Bayern’s press in effect here with Gnabry starting it off as seen in the chart positions of the Bayern players above. Gnabry has angled his run as to cut off the pass towards Hakimi to make Piszczek either decide to dribble into traffic or attempt the more difficult pass on his weaker foot.
The press is relentless with both Kimmich and Goretzka converging in on Delaney to cut off any kind of maneuverability that he may have. Their objective was to win the ball higher up the pitch and pick Dortmund off on the mistakes they make in possession.
What caused BvB the most issues was Bayern’s constant rotation of their front players changing positions and creating different attacking angles from all across the pitch. Here we can see Alphonso Davies taking up a more central position in the final third while Alaba is making the ‘fullback’ Esque run that he always makes.
When Bayern had control of the ball the front three would interchange and move centrally to allow both Pavard and Alphonso Davies to take up the width on either side (more so Davies than Pavard). Gnabry would move centrally, Muller would join up in the right half space with Coman while Goretzka and Lewandowski would be looking to exploit space.
This style would depend on winning the ball back quickly and exploiting the space that Dortmund’s positioning would leave behind.
While when we look at Dortmund, their positioning is what you’d expect from them as they’ve relied on Hakimi to be their outball most of the time they are able stretch the opposition enough for either of Brandt/Hazard to exploit the half spaces. In the first half, they specifically targeted Alphonso Davies’ side as the young Canadian loves to go on his driving runs.
Dahoud had another fantastic game and he set the tone for how Dortmund’s midfield performed. He zipped passes into dangerous areas, made good decoy runs, and helped Delaney out when he could. Whenever Dortmund used to escape the first phase of Bayern’s press, they’d look for Hakimi on the right side to provide the width.
This would give Dortmund a favourable 2v1 situation against Davies as one of Brandt and Hazard were freely able to make the runs into the half space with literally acres of space infront of them.
Throughout the first half Dortmund got into these situations numerous times but the final ball was deemed lacking, specially from Hakimi. It didn’t allow them to take advantage of Alphonso Davies few lapses of concentration (he’ll learn) that happened.
Haaland himself was found isolated upfront, not to mention that both Boateng and Alaba marshaled him really well. They didn’t allow the young Norwegian to settle; with him his powerful running into space completely nullified, Dortmund only had Hakimi has a genuine outlet and that made them very predictable.
Here Dortmund creates a very good opportunity as Hummels wins the ball off Kimmich, and they play their way through the press only for Hummels himself to ruin the final ball which led them down the entire match and stopped them creating more clear cut chances.
Teams were locked in a stalemate, with neither being able to open the other up. Both teams had 10-15 mins of periods where they looked threatening. But it was Bayern that made the breakthrough. With Dortmund’s indecision to properly play/clear the ball off the line and Bayern’s inclination to press them high up the pitch….Kimmich took advantage of the situation to pull off an audacious chip that Burki couldn’t stop (he should have).
As you can see Dortmund clear the ball right back towards Alphonso Davies who keeps the pressure on Dortmund. Haaland later fails to clear his lines when the ball breaks to him allowing Kimmich to go for the spectacular and leave us all in a daze
Now the complexion of the match itself drastically changed. Dortmund in the second half took off Julian Brandt and Delaney for Jadon Sancho and Emre Can. Favre noticed that near the end of the first half Dortmund were losing the physical duels in the middle of the pitch while the final ball from Brandt wasn’t upto his normal standards.
In hindsight, these subs made sense but Favre was unaware of one thing: Jadon Sancho. The Englishman wasn’t able to constantly find room in the half spaces like Brandt did and Bayern were relatively comfortable dealing with his threat despite the lingering issues.
In the second half, Dortmund opted to increase their tempo and try to become more unpredictable. They relied on switches of play in wide areas to give themselves an opportunity to exploit Bayern. Which they almost did, as Jadon Sancho creates an overload on the right side allowing Emre Can to switch the ball quickly towards Thorgan Hazard
The Belgian lays it off to Haaland who sees his shot deflected by Boateng (that should have been a penalty) out for a corner.
Bayern were able to keep their defensive shape and their composure throughout the game and saw the game out claiming all three points to take the top seat in the title race.
The game was evenly contested, but as soon as Burki failed to save Kimmich’s chip It was always an upheal task for Dortmund to match Bayern’s strength and speed in key duels.
The Bavarians are 7 points clear and look to have got one hand on the Bundesliga title already.
Game Over? We hope there are many more twists and turns to come.