Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund Saturday 06 April, 17:30 Live on BT Sport and Betfair Live Video
In every good superhero story there has to be a nemesis, an opposing force who will push the protagonist to their maximum, who will demand that every screed of energy is exhausted to achieve victory. In recent years, Bayern Munich simply haven't had that powerful foe to bring the best out of them, and by their own admission it has cost them at the highest level i.e. the back end of the Champions League.
Frankly, no-one expected anyone to really challenge Bayern this term as they sought a seventh consecutive league title, even though this was always earmarked as the start of a transition under new coach Niko Kovac. The Croatian was seen as a dependable and tough operator who had impressively maximised his resources at Eintracht Frankfurt, but he was no means Bayern's first choice to replace Jupp Heynckes. Kovac was expected to have time to settle in, to establish a style in a straightforward maiden season.
The reality has been startlingly different. Borussia Dortmund, who were meant to be at the start of their own rebuild, clicked into gear far more quickly than anticipated in Lucien Favre's first term at the helm. Skipper Marco Reus produced some of his best ever displays, ably assisted by terrific teenage Englishman Jadon Sancho, Spanish goal-poacher Paco Alcacer,rehabilitated and revitalised Mario Gotze and the powerful midfield axis of Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney. Dortmund mixed pace with precision to devastating effect. While BVB's players have often referenced Favre's tactical acumen, Bayern's senior players are known to have reservations about Kovac's ability to break teams down, fears that were exacerbated by the limp Champions League exit to Liverpool.
As Bayern faded after a flawless start, Dortmund surged nine points ahead of the champions, only to have that advantage chipped away in chunks as injuries and defensive errors took their toll. When Bayern moved ahead of BVB on goal difference last month, it seemed that the tide had turned. However, last weekend's dramatic win over Wolfsburg (the third straight victory secured by a goal in the 84th minute or later) gave Dortmund a two-point advantage to take into Der Klassiker, after Bayern were held to a 1-1 draw at Freiburg.
So here we are, approaching the most important clash between these old foes since the 2013 Champions League final. In a strange way, Bayern's slip-up at Freiburg may help them, because it leaves no doubt that the Bavarians must push for a win. Had they led in the title race, the naturally-cautious Kovac may have been tempted to contain, to avoid defeat at all costs. Now he is forced to attack, and that will delight the likes of top scorer Robert Lewandowski, who felt isolated in both Champions League games against Liverpool.
Bayern have won their last seven Bundesliga home matches, and overall in the league they have won 13 of their last 15. Games like this tend to bring the best out of players like Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and David Alaba, who is expected to be passed fit for the game.
Dortmund are a very talented group, but it is their defence that is the concern here. They have given away some awful goals in recent months, have kept just two clean sheets in the last 12 games in all competitions, and have won just two of their last seven away matches. Players like Reus, Sancho and Alcacer (who is a doubt with an arm injury) are digging Dortmund out of trouble recently, but the worry is that BVB keeping getting into bad situations in the first place.
For all of Bayern's issues under Kovac, they still have excellent players, and their Bundesliga form is very strong. They have won their last four Bundesliga home games against Dortmund, with the last three ending 6-0, 4-1 and 5-1. I'll back them to win again in a Bayern/Over 2.5 Goals double at 10/11 on the Sportsbook.
Stuttgart to grab precious victory
Stuttgart v Nurnberg Saturday 06 April, 14:30
Most of this weekend's focus is on Der Klassiker, but when it comes to the wrong end of the table, this match is almost as important. Stuttgart are currently in the relegation playoff spot, but Nurnberg's win over Augsburg last week has dragged them to within four points of the Swabians.
Although Stuttgart were eventually overpowered in last Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, they competed well in the first half against one of European football's most dangerous and in-form teams. Although Opta tell us that VfB have only won one of their last 12 top-flight games, and are having their worst ever Bundesliga campaign, their performances have been far better since they reached their nadir in a 3-0 hammering at Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Stuttgart have lost just one of their last four home matches, and they face a Nurnberg side that has the worst away record in the division. Don't be fooled by last weekend's 3-0 home win against Augsburg - FCN scored the opener against the run of play, and then punished their opponents on the counter. I see this as a flash in the pan rather than the start of a concerted push for survival. After all, Nurnberg hadn't won any of their previous 20 Bundesliga matches.
Stuttgart have better players, and to me they look the more cohesive unit. I'll happily back them to win at 1.85.
Limping Foals to stumble again
Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen Sunday 07 April, 17:00 Live on BT Sport and Betfair Live Video
These are not happy times at Borussia Park. Borussia Monchengladbach have slipped out of the top four thanks to a run of one win in seven matches, and it's been confirmed that coach Dieter Hecking will be leaving at the end of the current campaign, even though he signed an extended deal as recently as November.
Last weekend's 3-1 derby defeat at Fortuna Dusseldorf was arguably the low point of their season. The Foals were 3-0 down inside 16 minutes, and star player Thorgan Hazard was hauled off before half time. A combination of poor finishing and dreadful defensive errors is threatening to ruin what's been a largely impressive campaign.
Conversely, Werder Bremen are flying. They made it through to the semi-finals of the DFB Cup on Wednesday with an excellent 2-0 win at Schalke, boss Florian Kohfeldt has just been named as Coach of the Year, and forwards Max Kruse and Milot Rashica are on unstoppable form.
Werder haven't lost a game in 2019, and they are 1.90 to avoid defeat here. I think that's a great price.
Back Bayern/Over 2.5 Goals double on the Sportsbook at 10/11
Back Stuttgart to beat Nurnberg at 1.85
Back Draw and Away on the Double Chance market in Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen at 1.90