BERLIN (REUTERS) - Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich face Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, with relations between the German heavyweights seemingly at an all-time low.
The atmosphere between the football clubs soured since Bayern began snapping up Dortmund players two years ago, with Mario Goetze becoming the first of a successful Dortmund team to leave for their league rivals.
Long before striker Robert Lewandowski joined the Bavarians this season, a war of words erupted between club bosses.
With Dortmund winger Marco Reus triggering the interest of Bayern, and club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge saying this week they "might be potentially interested" in him, ties have never been so strained.
Club bosses will again skip the traditional pre-game lunch to avoid each other, while Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc rejected the latest Bayern advance for Reus as just another "distraction".
"We are not paying any attention to what comes out of Munich. It is repetitive after all," he said.
It is not the first time Bayern have made open advances for German international Reus but the timing is important as troubled Dortmund are under pressure to start delivering in the league.
They are in 15th place, a full 14 points behind Bayern, after losing six of their nine league games.
A 3-0 victory over St Pauli in the German Cup on Tuesday offered some respite for coach Juergen Klopp, with under-fire striker Ciro Immobile scoring once and setting up another.
Dortmund's defence also looked to be gradually find its stability, with Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic resuming their central partnership and Sokratis Papastathopoulos effective in his new role as full-back.
Fans are also fully behind the team with one woman making a public declaration of love during the post-game news conference on Tuesday. "You led us to success and we will lead you through the crisis," she told a smiling and embarrassed-looking coach Klopp, before he stood up to hug her.
He will need all the support he can get against Bayern, who are undefeated in the three competitions they are still in this season.
Dortmund beat them in the German Super Cup in August but that seems like a lifetime ago.
Bayern have continued to improve over the past few months and are now four points clear at the top.
With Franck Ribery back to full fitness and fellow winger Arjen Robben, who sat out their 3-1 German Cup win over Hamburg on Wednesday, also expected to return to the starting line-up, Bayern are the odds-on favourites.
"When you look at the table then no," said Bayern midfielder Thomas Mueller when asked whether the teams had similar quality. "But they do if you look at the difficulty factor.
"Dortmund are always an uncomfortable opponent. Maybe it is even easier for them than when they face other teams because they know exactly what plan to follow against us.
"I don't expect we will be leading 5-0 at half-time. There have been a lot of tight games in the past years between but if we keep our cool and avoid their quick breaks then we will look good."