BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich on Saturday with arguably the two sides’ most important players, Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala, boasting a combined age of only 38.
Recent meetings of Germany’s two most successful clubs have often been billed as clashes between since-departed strikers Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski.
Instead this weekend, Bellingham, who has captained Dortmund in their last two matches, will go up against good friend and former teammate Musiala at Signal Iduna Park.
The now 19-year-olds played together in multiple England youth teams growing up before Musiala opted to play senior international football for Germany, making his debut last year.
Musiala has nailed down a place in Bayern’s starting XI this season, repaying coach Julian Nagelsmann’s faith with team-leading tallies in the Bundesliga of five goals and three assists.
Bellingham’s rise, to the extent he has worn Dortmund’s captain’s armband, has maybe been even more impressive — and more crucial to his team.
The England international netted for a third straight Champions League match in midweek during a 4-1 thumping of Sevilla in Spain.
The youthful complexion of the teams goes beyond Bellingham and Musiala, however, with Dortmund’s Karim Adeyemi and Giovanni Reyna and Bayern pair Mathys Tel and Ryan Gravenberch also nominated for this year’s Golden Boy award, won two years ago by Haaland while he was at Dortmund.
On Thursday, Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl suggested 17-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko could start on Saturday ahead of the struggling Anthony Modeste.
“He was very agile, very energetic (and) very dedicated. He played a really good game,” Kehl said on Thursday of Moukoko’s performance against Sevilla.
The teams go into the game level on points, two points behind early leaders Union Berlin and Freiburg.
Questions were being asked about Bayern’s chances of winning an 11th straight Bundesliga title after a four-game winless run in the league.
But they bounced back with a 4-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen last weekend before putting five past Viktoria Plzen in Europe.
“It’s a special game in Germany and a special game for us,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.
“You all know what has happened in Germany in the last 10 years.”
Bayern coach Nagelsmann faces concerns about two of the most experienced players, with both Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich in COVID isolation.
Speaking on Tuesday, Nagelsmann said the duo were “basically doing well” and “should be there if their health doesn’t deteriorate.”
A decision on the pair’s availability will be made late on Friday.
The Suriname international has been a driving force behind Union’s surprise charge to the Bundesliga summit, scoring six goals in eight league appearances, having previously mustered only seven in 59 in the German top flight.
Becker also got off the mark in the Europa League on Thursday, scoring the winner as Union got their first points in Group D by beating Malmo 1-0 in a game which was marred by crowd trouble in Sweden.
Union will be hoping Becker can continue his red-hot streak at Stuttgart on Sunday, by when they could have been passed by Dortmund or Bayern and Freiburg in the table.
8 — Successive victories over Dortmund for Bayern.
27 — The number of goals Robert Lewandowski scored for Bayern against Dortmund before leaving for Barcelona.
60 years — New Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso took Real Sociedad B to the Spanish second division in 2021-22 for the first time in six decades.
4 — Dortmund have won 1-0 four times in eight Bundesliga matches this season. They only won by that scoreline twice in the league last term.
Fixtures (1330 GMT unless stated)
Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen (1830)
Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke, Bochum vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz vs. RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich (1630)
Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Cologne, Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg (1530), Stuttgart vs. Union Berlin (1730)