Dortmund and Bayern is not a Klassiker but rivalry remains fierce
Borussia Dortmund won their first five league matches this season and the hope was that the Bundesliga might have a title race after three years of Bayern Munich dominance.
Such positive optimism has since turned to fear, such is the fickle nature of football. Dortmund have dropped four points in their past two games, against Hoffenheim and Darmstadt, ahead of Sunday's showdown at Bayern.
The Bundesliga hasn't managed to provide a thrilling title race in a long time. The league suffers in its marketability; with the champions seemingly a foregone conclusion, the scrap for the Champions League spots will only excite so many fans. The league is trying hard to get worldwide attention and Sunday's match between Bayern and BVB has been branded Der Klassiker to make it more recognisable on the international stage.
Yet, the history of rivalries between title challengers is too diverse in German football for it to be a "classic" showdown. The Bundesliga money-men may want Der Klassiker to be on a par with El Clasico in Spain between Barcelona and Real Madrid but for now, it's a dream.
But even without nicknames to create hype, there are 90 minutes of football to look forward to.
Since Thomas Tuchel arrived at Dortmund, he has initialised a long overdue evolution to mould BVB into a team comfortable in possession. The Black and Yellows have learned a few new tricks and are eager to dominate a match by controlling the ball and keeping a rhythm, just like Pep Guardiola's Bayern do.
These two teams will look to control the ball and keep possession in a league that otherwise treats the "Umschaltfußball" -- the transmission football -- dogmatically.
It's hard to foresee how either coach will adjust during the match. Tuchel rested most of his first XI for Thursday's 1-1 draw at PAOK in the Europa League, so Dortmund should be up for the challenge. But will they able to seize control at the Allianz Arena or wait for the counter-attack like others do there?
And how far up the pitch will either side start to press once possession is lost? Tuchel will have to come up with a plan if his defence wants to stand a chance against Guardiola's attack. The Dortmund coach sang the Catalan's praises during Friday's news conference. "Pep is the best -- even though he wouldn't admit it himself," Tuchel said, after raving on about Guardiola's reign at Barcelona.
Guardiola will have done his homework and found Dortmund's weakness so far this season; their right flank.
So how far can Tuchel allow his full-backs to push forward without being eaten alive by Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman? Costa against Matthias Ginter is a mismatch Dortmund supporters are already worried about. The right-back has excelled in attack, stringing together six assists in six Bundesliga games, but he has found it hard to defend against technically gifted players.
Will Guardiola man-mark Julian Weigl after praising him explicitly in the prematch news conference? The youngster has been vital for Dortmund's possession play; the pivotal point to distribute the ball from one zone to another while always being open for a pass.
Munich, despite being portrayed as the unstoppable champions-in-waiting, do have deficiencies the away side will look to target. Dortmund's attack will ask questions of Pep's defence. The Black and Yellows will most likely expose Xabi Alonso's lack of pressing resistance and pace in some way. If BVB overload their left side with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shinji Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they could potentially hassle Philipp Lahm, who hasn't quite been his usual self so far this season.
The real beauty lies in the fact that both attacks have various tricks up their sleeves, making it incredibly hard for the respective defences to contain.
This match has all the ingredients to be a highly entertaining game of football. If it lives up to the hype, perhaps it might eventually earn the privilege to be called a Klassiker.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.