BERLIN — Borussia Dortmund has to beat Bayern Munich on Tuesday if anyone is to have a realistic chance of stopping the seven-time defending champion from claiming yet another Bundesliga title.
"This game will be decisive. If we lose, it's more or less over," Dortmund defender Raphaël Guerreiro said after his side's 2-0 victory at Wolfsburg on Saturday. "At the same time, if we win, we can still dream of the title."
Dortmund is four points behind Bayern with seven games of the season remaining — if they can be played. The league was suspended for two months due to the threat of the new coronavirus and only allowed to resume on May 16 under strict hygiene conditions.
If it needs to be called off again, final league places will likely be determined on current position, though the league's measures against the virus appear to be working for now.
No supporters are allowed to attend any games for the rest of the season, ensuring Tuesday's game — known in Germany as "der Klassiker" — in Dortmund's 80,000-capacity Westfalenstadion will be the quietest ever Bundesliga clash between the old rivals.
However, Dortmund showed it can cope without the support of its "Yellow Wall" of almost 25,000 standing fans in its south terrace when it defeated Schalke 4-0 in the Ruhr derby on the league's restart.
"It's certainly different emotionally without spectators," Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said. "It comes down to the values that we brought to the field in the last two games. The team was right on point."
Both Bayern and Dortmund have been in record-breaking form with nine wins from 10 games since the season's halfway stage. Bayern's only slip was a scoreless draw with Leipzig on Feb. 9, while Dortmund dropped three points in a somewhat unlucky 4-3 defeat in Leverkusen the day before.
Dortmund s Erling Haaland greets Wolfsburg s Xaver Schlager, left, at the end of the German Bundesliga soccer match between VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund in Wolfsburg, Germany, Saturday, May 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, Pool)
"We're marching, Dortmund are marching, so we can look forward to Tuesday," Bayern's Thomas Müller said after scoring one and setting up another in his side's 5-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
The 30-year-old Müller is arguably in the form of his life, reinvigorated with seven goals and 13 assists since Hansi Flick took over as coach from Niko Kovac in November.
With Bayern's record 80 goals in 27 games and Dortmund's 74, neither side had scored so many at this stage of the league before. Bayern went on to score 101 in 1972.
Bayern's current team, which has looked impervious under Flick, could well eclipse that mark, while Dortmund's attack has been reinvigorated by the arrival of Erling Haaland. The 19-year-old Norwegian has 10 goals in 10 Bundesliga appearances since his winter transfer from Salzburg.
"Haaland can be another (Robert) Lewandowski," former Dortmund and Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told Kicker magazine, referring to Bayern's Polish star who scored 12 goals in his last six games against Dortmund. Lewandowski has 16 goals altogether against his former club.
Dortmund lost 4-0 in Munich in the sides' previous meeting in November, but Lucien Favre's team has been reinforced in the meantime by the arrival of Haaland and Emre Can.
"We're better," the Dortmund coach said. "We're playing with another system that's better for our squad. And we signed two players in winter and have a whole other presence."
Few Bundesliga teams are capable of pushing Bayern to its limits. Dortmund, the last team other than Bayern to win the title in 2012, has consistently come closest in recent years.
Müller is clearly relishing the challenge.
"We want to bring the title to Munich, there where it belongs," the evergreen Bayern forward said.