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Bayern Munich hosts Borussia Dortmund in Bundesliga, Moenchenglkadbach takes on Hoffenheim

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FRANKFURT, Germany — In the past few years, showdowns between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were the highlight matches of the Bundesliga seasons. Dortmund usually came out on top, even if Bayern claimed the title at the end.

This season, it is another Borussia, the one from Moenchengladbach, which is turning into Bayern's closest challenger, holding the defending champions to a 0-0 draw last week.

Dortmund, on the other hand, is languishing near the bottom following a terrible start. Less than a third into the season, Dortmund is already 14 points behind leader Bayern and faces an uphill struggle just to make it into the Champions League places.

Dortmund must now travel to Munich, while Moenchengladbach hosts Hoffenheim.

Here are some things to know about this weekend's matches in the Bundesliga:


DORTMUND'S TROUBLES

Hit by a series of injuries, Dortmund has lost its last four matches in the Bundesliga and has the most defeats of all teams at six. It is one point away from the danger zone.

Instead of being a title challenger, Dortmund now must fear about reaching a European competition next season.

Bayern, however, produces the best in Dortmund, which has not lost in its last four visits to Munich. Bayern has started the season with six victories and three draws.


ROBBEN'S THREAT

Bayern winger Arjen Robben is Dortmund's main concern, having scored five goals in the last five matches against the team, including in last season's German Cup final. He also scored the winner in the Champions League final between the two clubs in 2013.

With Robben on the field, Bayern has five victories in five league matches, without the often-injured Dutchman, Bayern has only one victory in four matches.

Robben missed the 0-0 draw in Moenchengladbach and the 3-1 victory in Hamburg in the German Cup on Wednesday because of a leg injury.

"But I think it's going to work out (for Saturday)," Robben said.

PHOTO: Bayern's Franck Ribery from France, left, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the German soccer cup second round match between Hamburger SV and FC Bayern Munich at the Imtech Arena Stadium in Hamburg, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. At right is Hamburg's Heiko Westermann. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Bayern's Franck Ribery from France, left, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the German soccer cup second round match between Hamburger SV and FC Bayern Munich at the Imtech Arena Stadium in Hamburg, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. At right is Hamburg's Heiko Westermann. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)


KAGAWA FACTOR

The return of Shinji Kagawa could also work in Dortmund's favor. The Japan midfielder has played four times against Bayern and all four were Dortmund victories.

Back in Dortmund after an unhappy spell at Manchester United, Kagawa proved his worth again when he scored one and set up another in Dortmund's 3-0 German Cup victory at St. Pauli.

St. Pauli plays in the second division but Dortmund will take any victory it can as it tries to shore up its shaken confidence.


MISSING LEWANDOWSKI

Robert Lewandowski's departure for Bayern has severely blunted Dortmund's attack. After nine matches last season, Dortmund was second behind Bayern with 22 goals scored. It has only 10 goals at the same stage this season.

Trying to fill the void, Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp has been rotating three strikers, Ciro Immobile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adrian Ramos. But sporting director Michael Zorc thinks Dortmund has a different problem.

"We've made unbelievable mistakes in the defense, like never before," Zorc said.

Dortmund has conceded 15 goals.


UNBEATEN RIVALS

Apart from Bayern, two other teams are unbeaten — Moenchengladbach and Hoffenheim. The two, along with Wolfsburg, are four points behind Bayern.

Sunday's match in Moenchengladbach should prove a thriller. Both teams play attractive, attacking football and both are coming off German Cup victories.

Moenchengladbach was the first team to stretch Bayern this season and the champions had goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to thank for coming away with a point.

Lucian Favre's team could match a club record if it stays unbeaten on Sunday. The Moenchengladbach team of the 1970-71 season went unbeaten in its first 17 matches in all competitions and Favre's side is match short of the mark.

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