Dortmund keen to beat Bayern, reduce rivals' lead

Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel (right) celebrating with assistant Arno Michels during their 2-0 German Bundesliga win over Darmstadt on Wednesday. The result puts them five points behind league leaders Bayern Munich ahead of tonight's top-of
Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel (right) celebrating with assistant Arno Michels during their 2-0 German Bundesliga win over Darmstadt on Wednesday. The result puts them five points behind league leaders Bayern Munich ahead of tonight's top-of-the-table clash.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BERLIN • Germany's top two clubs go head-to-head today, with hosts Borussia Dortmund out to ignite the Bundesliga title race by further trimming the lead of Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich.

Bayern seemed to be running away with a record fourth straight league title when they enjoyed an 11-point buffer just last month.

But Mainz, who moved up to fifth place, slammed on the brakes with a shock 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.

It was only Bayern's second league defeat of the season but it could not have come at a worse time as they chase a treble of titles, with manager Guardiola leaving at the end of the season to join Manchester City and pressure mounting with every match.

Dortmund's 2-0 win at Darmstadt the same night, meanwhile, cut Bayern's lead to five points and adds spice to an already mouth-watering clash at Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel rested eight players against Darmstadt, and is missing only centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos from his first-choice line-up.

"Let's not beat about the bush - we want to cut the gap to two points," said Dortmund captain Mats Hummels.

"Saturday's going to be a brilliant game, we'll be really up for it," he added.

Recent history, however, suggests that Dortmund will do well to get all three points. When the sides met last October, Bayern dealt Dortmund a 5-1 home thrashing.

Bayern have won four of the last five league meetings, including victories in their last two visits to Dortmund.

However, for the first time in his three seasons at Bayern, Guardiola has a league rival breathing down his neck.

"This Borussia Dortmund team are completely different to the last three years," said the Spaniard.

"We will have to fight until the last game and the last second."

A sub-plot to the showdown sees the league's top three scorers shooting it out in Dortmund.

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski has 23 goals in 23 games while Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is just one behind with 22. Munich's Thomas Mueller has also scored 17 league goals.

Lewandowski can expect a another hostile reception from home fans on his return to Dortmund.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Dortmund keen to beat Bayern, reduce rivals' lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe