With Bayern Munich four points clear at the summit of Germany’s top-tier and looking in menacing form, this clash is critical for both sides and their respective ambitions of challenging for top spot.
Both teams go into the game having suffered heavy defeat of late in a one-off match, before getting back on track in recent weeks. Dortmund were beaten 3-0 by Munich in a debilitating Bundesliga fixture recently, while Leverkusen’s Champions League qualification hopes took a sizeable blow after they were humbled 5-0 at home by Manchester United.
Hosts Dortmund really need a result in this fixture, as they find themselves seven points off the pace. Although the attacking talent available to Jürgen Klopp is considerable, it is at the other end that the Signal Iduna Park boss has overarching concerns.
Dortmund are going through something of a defensive crisis, with first-choice centre-half pairing Mats Hummels and Neven Subotić both on the treatment table, while full-back Marcel Schmelzer is also unavailable.
As such, Klopp has had to convince veteran Manuel Friedrich to move to Signal Iduna Park and feature in the heart of the Dortmund defence at the grand age of 34.
Leverkusen have been the surprise package in German football this season under Sami Hyypiä and have won 11 of their 14 Bundesliga games to date. Three successive victories domestically see the BayArena outfit go into this clash full of confidence, and with the players to get a result in Dortmund.
Rumblings in Germany this week have suggested that key international midfielder Sidney Sam is set to join Schalke in the summer, however the goal-happy winger will not be available anyway due to injury.
As such, much will depend on the attacking talents of Stefan Kießling and Son Heung-Min to provide the offensive impetus and take advantage of a makeshift Dortmund back four.
Another interesting sub plot will be the Bender brothers playing against each other in the midfield boiler room. Dortmund’s Sven and Leverkusen’s Lars recently started alongside each other in Germany’s 1-0 win over England at Wembley; however, there is every chance that the siblings will be in direct competition for a German World Cup spot – their personal battle here should be fascinating.
Dortmund have a good recent record against Leverkusen, with the Signal Iduna Park side winning six out of the last ten meetings, compared to their opponents solitary one triumph. This includes a double over their opponents last season.
There should be plenty of goals in the game given the attacking talent on show, and the fact that they have netted 66 times collectively this season in the Bundesliga. Dortmund’s frailty at the back should only add to this.
Both are in Champions League action in midweek, with their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds in the balance. Leverkusen need to get a win at Real Sociedad and hope Manchester United beat Shakhtar Donetsk, while Dortmund must win at the Stade Vélodrome against Olympique de Marseille to assure progression.
Bayern are certainly favourites for the title this season, but either or both of these sides could well be in the running come the end of the campaign. Dortmund need the three points more, but this should be an excellent indicator of just how far both sides can go this season.