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It's a mouthwatering European football weekend as Guardiola & Klopp clash

In France meanwhile, Marseille will look to get the better of Paris St-Germain in La Classique.

Image: Martin Meissner/AP/Press Association Images

IT’S A LITTLE anti-climactic given that Borussia Dortmund are currently in 10th place in the Bundesliga table. Still, there’s always a special quality to games between them and Bayern Munich.

Incredibly, 31 points separate the teams. The Bavarians are coasting to another league title under Pep Guardiola and are ten clear of nearest challengers Wolfsburg. Still, the former Barcelona coach hasn’t had it all his own way.

The team has a collection of injuries – David Alaba recently joining Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez in the treatment room. Having qualified for the last-eight of the DFB Pokal and the Champions League, it’s a busy stretch and Guardiola knows it will be tough to keep it all together.

This month is a big challenge. I’m motivated. I know that it is not easy, we have many major problems.”

“I must speak with the players. We can do this. It is my most difficult phase since I’ve been here because it is the most important stage of the season. I was never looking for an excuse. I have much faith in my players. We want to fight for all competitions. But without David, Frank, Arjen and Javi, we are not as strong. When all are fit, we are strong. “Nevertheless, there are no excuses. If we don’t win, we’re to blame.”

It must ranker with Dortmund that such a distance has been put between the teams in such a short space of time. Last season, Bayern finished 19 points clear and there’s a genuine fear that the vibrant, successful spell that their rivals have experienced in recent seasons is over.

Germany Bundesliga Soccer Source: Michael Sohn/AP/Press Association Images

They’ve struggled to cope with transition. The players brought in to replace Robert Lewandowski and Mario Goetze have had well-documented problems and you get the feeling that the level of effort and energy invested in the last few campaigns has left everyone a little jaded. There was an inevitability to their recent resurgence stalling in the Champions League knockout round against Juventus – that it was just a step too far.

It seems certain that Mats Hummels will depart in the summer and there will be renewed talk linking Klopp with a variety of jobs.

The question is, can Dortmund mount a late rally that could secure a European place? Klopp is playing down talk of a renaissance and he’s right to do so. The club have been far too inconsistent to take anything for granted. Yet, this fixture on Saturday still fuels him with determination. He wants his side to make a statement and not wither away.

“We don’t see ourselves on a par with Bayern. Unless my memory fails me, I don’t think we’ve ever seen ourselves there. But since this is football, we’ve never seen ourselves without a chance whenever we’ve played them either. And that’s the same this time too.”

“Although we’re 10th, and although there’s a huge points gap between us, and although a lot is different compared to the past, Borussia Dortmund are still the home team and we’ve not been known to throw these games away in the past.”

France Soccer League One Dimitri Payet has been a key player for Marseille this season. They take on PSG on Sunday in what promises to be a thriller. Source: Claude Paris/AP/Press Association Images

In Ligue Un, it’s first against third as Paris St-Germain make the trek to Marseille on Sunday. The Parisians have a point advantage on Lyon but it’s extremely tight at the top.

Monaco and Saint-Etienne are still lurking in the background but it would appear that it’s a three-way battle for the title and this weekend’s high-profile clash could go a long way to determining where the championship trophy ends up.

For PSG, they’re still riding the wave of having eliminating Chelsea from the Champions League & have flattered to deceive for much of the campaign, seemingly going through the motions. Still, they can count on their big players and have no notable injury problems.

In contrast, Marcelo Bielsa’s Marseille are without the suspended Giannelli Imbula and injured defender Nicolas N’Koulou and bring a sorry record into the clash. They haven’t won a derby since 2011 and their last eight has seen them lose seven times.

But, that’s the past. Pick up all three points in front of their own fans on Sunday and their future could look very good indeed.

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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