Any meeting of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – the game known as Der Klassiker – is always hotly-anticipated in Germany and beyond.
But Saturday’s clash has the fascinating sub-plot of two absurdly prolific strikers vying to outdo one another in the simple art of scoring goals.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the line for Bayern as they look to pull clear at the Bundesliga summit, while Erling Haaland will offer Dortmund’s main threat as they attempt to climb back into the top four.
Two of world football’s deadliest strikers go head-to-head on Saturday night as Robert Lewandowski’s (left) Bayern Munich take on Erling Haaland’s (right) Borussia Dortmund
The situation at the Bundesliga summit ahead of Saturday night’s showdown, as Bayern Munich try and keep themselves clear at the top and Dortmund push for the top four
BAYERN MUNICH vs BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Saturday 5.30pm kick-off UK time
Live on BT Sport 2/BT Sport Ultimate
Many meetings between these two clubs in recent years have had a direct impact on who wins the title. That’s not the case this time but the personal duel between the Pole and the Norwegian will have TV viewers the world over absolutely gripped.
Though they come from different generations – Lewandowski is 32 and showing no signs of slowing down; Haaland 20 and very much getting started – they are peers when it comes to being amongst the world’s deadliest strikers.
There’s respect between the pair as well. Last week, Haaland said of the Bayern man: ‘He is just crazy. When I score a goal it’s like ‘one goal closer to catching up to him’. And then he just scores another hat-trick like it’s an everyday thing.’
Last year, Lewandowski, a former Dortmund player, advised his young heir to remain in the Bundesliga a little longer rather than be tempted by a big-money move to La Liga or the Premier League.
Ahead of Saturday’s showdown, we compare the these two world-class strikers.
All strikers are measured first and foremost in the number of goals they score, so let’s compare the two this season.
Lewandowski has netted 34 times in 32 matches for Bayern Munich across all competitions and is the Bundesliga’s leading scorer with a remarkable 28 in 22.
He has missed only one of Bayern’s 23 league matches this season and of the 22 he has featured in, he has failed to find the net in only four.
Add to that four goals in the Champions League so far and two in Bayern’s successful FIFA Club World Cup tournament in Qatar last month.
Lewandowski rounds the keeper to score during Bayern’s emphatic European win over Lazio
The Polish international played a part in Bayern winning the recent Club World Cup in Qatar
Across all games, Lewandowski has been averaging a goal every 80 minutes, a statistic that improves to a goal every 67 minutes in league matches.
Lewandowski has scored more than one goal in eight different matches, with the highlights being a four-goal haul in Bayern’s 4-3 win over Hertha Berlin back in October. He also netted a hat-trick in their 5-0 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt.
With 11 rounds of the season left, Lewandowski has a great opportunity to break Gerd Muller’s record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single campaign, which has stood since 1972.
He’ll need 12 more goals from here on in, with his personal previous best league return being the 34 of last season. It seems inevitable he’ll exceed that and Muller’s long-standing feat is well within his sights.
Comparing the record of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland across appearances in the Bundesliga, German Cup, German SuperCup, Champions League and UEFA Super Cup this season. Courtesy of Sofascore
As for Haaland, he has a rather neat return of 27 goals in 27 matches for Dortmund across all competitions.
This includes 17 in 18 Bundesliga games, plus eight in the Champions League and one in each of the German Cup and the German SuperCup.
His goal frequency is not quite as good as Lewandowski’s with a goal on average every 86 minutes. He too has netted more than one goal in eight different games.
Haaland scores a stunning acrobatic goal in Dortmund’s recent derby win over Schalke
The Norwegian also thrived in the Champions League, scoring two goals away to Sevilla
And Haaland also punished Hertha Berlin by scoring four against them. This came in Dortmund’s 5-2 win at the Olympiastadion back in November.
One caveat is that the Norwegian was absent for eight games this season through injury so you can well imagine he’d really be challenging Lewandowski’s numbers if he’d remained fit.
They score many goals like greedy strikers should, but both Lewandowski and Haaland are team players as well. Both have racked up eight assists so far this season.
The Bayern man set the tone for his season by setting up goals for Thomas Muller and Jamal Musiala as well as scoring one himself in their opening night 8-0 drubbing of Schalke.
And Dortmund already know about his all-round game. Not only did Lewandowski play for them between 2010 and 2014, scoring 103 goals, but he has scored 19 times against them since leaving.
Lewandowski fires home during Bayern’s 5-1 victory over Cologne in the Bundesliga last week
He’s also set up three more goals, including one for Leroy Sane when Bayern won 3-2 at the Signal Iduna Park back in November.
Haaland is certainly a predator but he has always been willing to square a pass to a team-mate in a better position. That’s happened three times this season in one-on-one situations with the keeper.
He’s picked up with the assists of late, setting up goals in recent meetings with Augsburg, Freiburg and Arminia Bielefeld.
When you combine Haaland’s 27 goals and seven assists, he’s played a part in over half of Dortmund’s goals so far this season.
Haaland celebrates with Reinier after scoring in Dortmund’s win over Arminia Bielefeld
STYLE OF PLAY
While both are capable of racking up insane quantities of goals, they go about it in different ways.
You’d describe Lewandowski as the classic penalty box predator who uses his intelligent movement and awareness to drop into those small pockets of space to shoot for goal.
His positional sense is second to none in world football and it allows him to out-fox defenders, staying one step ahead by never being predictable in the runs he makes.
Anticipation of his team-mates passes and crosses is also essential and the bulk of his goals come from central areas and on his favoured right foot.
Surprisingly he’s scored more headers in league games this season than Haaland despite standing three inches shorter at 6ft 1in.
Lewandowski is strong in the air, as Barcelona discovered in the Champions League last year
The 32-year-old also has an excellent penalty record, scoring 90 per cent of career spot-kicks
The Pole is also an accomplished penalty taker – he has converted 90 per cent of spot-kicks taken in his career, scoring 58 and missing only six. Half-a-dozen penalty goals have come this season, swelling his tally. He did see one saved against Hertha last month, however.
Haaland isn’t the designated penalty taker at Dortmund though he did net one against Borussia Monchengladbach in September. More recently, he missed one against Augsburg.
His style of attacking is perhaps more reflective of the modern game, which places a greater emphasis on speed and countering.
Not only is Haaland athletically built, cutting an intimidating figure for any defender with his brute strength and physicality, he is really quick.
Haaland finished after tearing downfield against Borussia Monchengladbach in September
Dortmund boast plenty of pace in their side and so Haaland is used to making forward bursts of almost 100 metres downfield at sprint speeds of almost 22mph to get into scoring positions.
In the season opener against Gladbach, he ran 86 metres to be in the right place to support Jadon Sancho and finish off the move with a goal.
That combination of speed and presence is nigh on impossible to defend against and his left-foot strikes, hit with incredible power, are usually unstoppable.
We’ve seen some imaginative finishing from Haaland as well. Take his acrobatic goal against Schalke a couple of weeks ago.
He arguably offers a broader variety of goals to Lewandowski, from short and long-range, and the frightening aspect is that he’s still only 20 and his game is still developing.
Standing 6ft 4in tall, Haaland is an enormous physical presence and powerful in the air
It is pretty unfair on Haaland to be comparing achievements given the 12-year age gap. As the flag-bearer for an exciting fresh generation of world class players, he has the potential to accomplish everything.
Already he has 112 goals in 156 matches in his club career and six goals in seven senior appearances for country Norway.
He won back-to-back Austrian Bundesliga titles with Red Bull Salzburg and picked up the coveted Golden Boy award for the world’s best young player in 2020.
Mind you, he’ll do well to achieve even half of what’s on Lewandowski’s glittering CV.
Haaland already has an excellent scoring record for his country Norway, with six goals in seven
His extraordinary goal return of 470 in 688 games has already ensured legendary status and that’s not to mention 63 more for Poland.
Then there’s the almost unrivalled medal collection. Lewandowski has won the Bundesliga in all but two of the past 10 seasons with either Dortmund or Bayern.
He also has four German Cup successes and the crowning glory of the Champions League last season, having been a runner-up to Bayern with Dortmund in 2013.
Lewandowski has won every honour in the club game, including the Champions League
He deservedly won the FIFA The Best player of the year award after a storming 2020
By popular consensus, Lewandowski should have won the Ballon d’Or last year after his contribution to Bayern’s Treble success but the prestigious prize wasn’t awarded. He did, however, win FIFA’s The Best accolade.
By scoring against Lazio last week, Lewandowski pulled clear of Raul to move third in the all-time Champions League scoring chart with 72 goals.
It’s highly unlikely he’ll catch Cristiano Ronaldo (134) and Lionel Messi (119) but for the past two years at least he has undoubtedly been their equal.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Lewandowski may be 32 but continues to defy age. He recorded the best goal return of his career last season and there’s no way he’ll be finished anytime soon.
With his Bayern contract running until 2023 and absolutely no desire to get rid of the Bundesliga’s most prolific striker, Lewandowski could easily spend the remainder of his career there.
Given the team’s strength at the moment, continued dominance on the domestic front looks set to continue for another few years.
And Bayern only illustrated why the bookmakers consider them favourites to retain their European crown by sweeping Lazio aside in last week’s meeting.
Lewandowski can look forward to playing at Euro 2020 with Poland in the summer
Lewandowski will remain key to all of that for the next 2-3 years you imagine. He probably has at least one more international tournament left in him as well, with Poland heading for Euro 2020 in the summer.
As for Haaland, the sky really is the limit. Given the explosive start to his career, many are asking whether he could aspire to Messi or Ronaldo levels of greatness.
It does look increasingly likely his time with Dortmund will be a brief one. They stand to turn an investment of £15m when they signed him from RB Salzburg into a sale that brings in over £100m, possibly this summer.
Haaland can afford to be fussy with interested clubs if he moves on from Dortmund this year
His agent, Mino Raiola, said recently that only 10 clubs in world football can afford Haaland, including four in the Premier League – believed to be Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Add Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid into the mix and you could well see a fierce bidding war.
Wherever Haaland ends up, he is guaranteed to provide goals in vast quantities.