Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness isn’t used to talking down his side’s chances.
Bayern visits Borussia Dortmund on Saturday for the German “Klassiker” — a highlight for Bundesliga fans at the start of the season. Few believed then, however, that Bayern would be four points behind and struggling after 10 matches.
“We’re not going as favorites to Dortmund, but as outsiders – for the first time in a long time,” Hoeness said after Bayern’s 2-0 win over AEK Athens in the Champions League on Wednesday. “You can’t just go to Dortmund and say, I want three points. Dortmund has played a very good season up to now, no question.”
Despite losing at Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Tuesday, Dortmund remains the only unbeaten team in the Bundesliga after racking up 30 goals in 10 games. The team managed 15 competitive games without defeat under Lucien Favre, ensuring he made the best start any Dortmund coach.
Even the loss to Atletico, which it beat 4-0 in their previous game, is being viewed positively by the club.
“Perhaps it’s not so bad after the last few weeks in which everything was top, to be brought back down to earth a little bit,” Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki said.
Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke went even further.
“I’m a bit happy that this long series (unbeaten) is over. It focuses minds for Saturday,” Watzke said.
Dortmund lost in Munich 6-0 in the previous meeting in March, with Robert Lewandowski scoring a hat trick against his former club. However, Dortmund is a new team under Favre and its new consultants of former captain Sebastian Kehl and Matthias Sammer.
New players like Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel and Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney have helped stabilize the team, while Spanish striker Paco Alcacer has been a revelation since his arrival on loan from Barcelona.
Favre has got the young players firing, too. Jadon Sancho (18), Achraf Hakimi (19), Dan-Axel Zagadou (19) and Jacob Bruun Larsen (20) are all thriving this season.
Dortmund’s resurgence has revitalized the league. Finally, there is a team that can challenge Bayern. The Bavarian powerhouse was top for the previous 12 meetings between the sides – since Dortmund last won the title in 2012.
“For German soccer it’s nice that you now have a game with a different constellation,” Watzke said. “People are looking forward to that.”
A win over its old rivals would put Dortmund seven points clear of the six-time defending champions before the international break.
While Dortmund has been lighting up the league with spectacular attacking soccer, Bayern has been grinding out results. Last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home against Freiburg added to the pressure on new coach Niko Kovac.
Kovac was always going to face a challenge following the experienced Jupp Heynckes, who led the club to a league, cup and Champions League treble in 2013 and got it firing again when he returned last season to take over from Carlo Ancelotti.
“We’re not playing with ease at the moment,” Kovac said after the game in Athens. “We really have to work hard.”
Source: The Associated Press