Pitchside Europe

European match of the weekend: Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund

Two of the top sides in Germany go head-to-head as Bayer Leverkusen host Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga (Sunday 16:30 GMT).

With the runaway leaders Bayern Munich 11 points clear at the top, the race for the German title looks almost over - but the battle for second is very much alive.

Leverkusen occupy second place at the moment on 37 points from 19 games, but Dortmund, third with 36 points, can overhaul them with a victory.

"Dortmund, champions this year, that is ridiculous," manager Juergen Klopp said this week. "But our goal is to catch Leverkusen and finish the season in second place."

"We need to get 51 points, the maximum remaining from 17 games, and Bayern are 12 points ahead which means they would need a maximum of 39 points. Is that realistic?" he said of Dortmund's title chances.

The champions had also talked down their chances in their two back-to-back title-winning seasons but realist Klopp knows the second-place target is well within their reach, especially against a team he has lost to only once in nine league encounters since taking over Dortmund in 2008.

Klopp should have defender Marcel Schmelzer fit for the game while crowd favourite Nuri Sahin, back after spells at Real Madrid and Liverpool, could make his first start for the club after playing in a mid-week friendly against Cologne.

Leverkusen, however, will not surrender their slim lead without a fight, being the only Bundesliga team this season unbeaten at home.

The two sides met in the reverse fixture at Signal Iduna Park back in September, with the champions Dortmund running out comfortable winners.

On that day Mats Hummels, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski struck in a 3-0 win, but Leverkusen are a different proposition at home.

In fact, they are unbeaten at the unbeaten in their nine Bundesliga matches at the BayArena this season, the best record of any top flight club.

Despite that, their captain Simon Rolfes tried to play down the importance of the match.

"I would not rate the importance of this game too high," said Rolfes. "We will indeed measure ourselves on the highest level but there are only three points to give out against a direct rival.

"We are going into the game with a lot of confidence and at this level it may be details that will decide the game. We have to keep the pressure up against them throughout the game."


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Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund: Key stats