Borussia Dortmund are aiming to recapture their status as the mandatory challengers to Bayern Munich when taking on second-placed Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
Tussles between Dortmund and Bayern have dominated the German football landscape in recent seasons but a defensive crisis has helped push Juergen Klopp’s team into an unfamiliar third place, three points behind Leverkusen.
Sami Hyypia’s side are enjoying their best ever start to a league campaign, though Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Bayern remain four points above them as their unbeaten season continues.
Dortmund have not given up hope of recapturing the Bundesliga title from the Bavarians this season, but to do so the high-energy pressing specialists will have to first leapfrog Leverkusen in the table. A home win on Saturday would put them second once more, albeit only on goal difference.
Klopp’s big concern remains his defence with a string of injuries leaving Dortmund very weak at the back. Emergency signing Manuel Friedrich, who was released by Leverkusen in the summer, will plug a hole again.
Dortmund have won three games in succession since suffering back-to-back defeats to Bayern and Wolfsburg and will be confident in front of their home fans having scored the most goals by any club in the Bundesliga this season.
Still, Leverkusen are a team to be admired despite their recent heavy defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League and a highly entertaining game is expected at Signal Iduna Park.
Dortmund possess the division's top goalscorer in Robert Lewandowski, who has plundered 11 goals so far this season, while Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling, also pictured above, has the second most with nine.
Opta head-to-head stats
- Dortmund have collected 13 of a possible 15 points from their last five meetings with Leverkusen, with their most recent meetings producing three wins in a row for BVB. Incidentally, Dortmund have never won four successive top-flight games against Bayer 04.
- Leverkusen are currently the best second-placed side in Bundesliga history with 34 points from 14 games.
- The only time Bayer 04 have had more points at this stage was in 2001/02 (36), when they finished as runners-up in three different competitions.
- Bayer 04 have failed to win in their last seven away games that have been played on Saturday evening (D3, L4). Their last away win at Saturday tea-time was a 1-0 victory against Schalke in October 2010.
- Leverkusen have scored the most first-half goals (17). Dortmund have scored the most after the break (23).
- Leverkusen have scored the most goals from counterattacks (6) ahead of Dortmund (4).
- The two top scorers in the Bundesliga, Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski (11 goals) and Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling (9 goals), will meet in this fixture. Kiessling (25 goals) just pipped Lewandowski (24 goals) to the golden boot last season.
- Robert Lewandowski is top of the point-scorer (goals + assists) list with 14 scorer-points – his team-mate Marco Reus is in second together with Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling and Sidney Sam (12 scorer-points each).
- After making his return to Mainz last week, Manuel Friedrich faces another former club in Bayer Leverkusen.
- He made 147 Bundesliga appearances for Bayer 04 between 2007 and 2013. He is set to play his 250th in Germany’s top flight.
- Leverkusen’s Lars Bender is without a win in five Bundesliga games against his twin brother at Dortmund, Sven (D2, L3).
- Sami Hyypia won the UEFA Cup with Liverpool in Dortmund on May 16th 2001. The Premier League outfit beat Deportivo Alaves 5-4 in the Westfalenstadion after a golden goal.
European matches covered live on site this weekend