DORTMUND • Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick believes the absence of fans means there is no longer a "home advantage" as the Bundesliga leaders travel to Borussia Dortmund for their top-of-the-table clash today.
Seven-time defending champions Bayern beat second-placed Dortmund 4-0 last November in front of 75,000 home fans.
The teams meet again in Dortmund, but this round, the Westfalenstadion - usually filled to its 82,000 capacity - will be empty owing to health and safety measures drawn up to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Since the German league's restart on May 16 behind closed doors, home advantage has counted for little, with 10 of the 18 games played won by the away team, and Flick is aiming to continue that trend in "Der Klassiker", which is the showpiece fixture of the German domestic calendar.
At his pre-match virtual press conference yesterday, he said: "It is a very special game. As a coach, there is no question that the fans are a missing factor.
"The atmosphere can inspire any team. It is about how you can cope (without the support). You have to accept the current situation and can't look for an excuse."
Bayern head to Dortmund with a four-point lead and a victory would put them in a comfortable position with six games left.
Flick, however, is not expecting a similar result to their Allianz Arena rout, insisting that Dortmund were now a different proposition.
"The conditions are very different compared to the first game," he said. "We've also had a good run and every player is a little bit more motivated. We are on a good run, and have lost only twice in the last 23 games and drawn once. We relish this game."
Part of Flick's wariness stems from the danger posed by Dortmund's star arrival in January, Erling Haaland.
Since moving from Austria's Red Bull Salzburg, the 20-year-old Norwegian sensation has been on a tear, racking up 10 league goals in as many games.
Such has been his form that rumours suggest his €75 million (S$116.4 million) release clause may be triggered in the summer, with Real Madrid and Juventus heavily linked to the player.
Robert Lewandowski, who leads the Bundesliga scoring chart with 27 goals for Bayern this season and also has 27 goals in 23 league games against former club Dortmund, feels the hosts have a gem on their hands.
The Poland striker said: "It would be better for him to stay in the Bundesliga to increase his skills. He has not only great potential but also much time to become an even better footballer.
"I wouldn't like to put pressure on his shoulders by my words but I believe that he will reach the top level if he works very hard."
The Bavarian giants will be missing Thiago Alcantara through injury, while Dortmund will not have the services of skipper Marco Reus and Dan Axel Zagadou.
However, coach Lucien Favre was boosted after former Bayern defender Mats Hummels and Axel Witsel were passed fit, and Jadon Sancho looks set to start after coming off the bench in the last two games.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA
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