RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich may have a potentially title-defining match on Saturday evening, but before then there is another not-to-be-missed heavyweight tussle as Erling Haaland and Andre Silva go head-to-head when Borussia Dortmund take on in-form Eintracht Frankfurt.
As well as pitting together Europe’s highest-scoring forwards not named Lewandowski, Messi or Ronaldo, the Matchday 27 fixture will likely have a say in deciding who finishes in the top four.
Dortmund are currently fifth, four points behind their visitors to the Signal Iduna Park this Saturday, making victory imperative if they are to guarantee a return to the UEFA Champions League next season.
Watch: All of Haaland’s goals
Fortunately for them, Haaland is set to lead the line once again as they bid to make it 10 consecutive home wins over Frankfurt. The 20-year-old, like Silva, has 21 Bundesliga goals to his name this term; only Lewandowski (35), Messi (23) and Ronaldo (23) have more than the BVB and Frankfurt duo across Europe’s top five leagues this season.
A force of nature, combining elegant technique with battering-ram power, Haaland’s importance to the side cannot be overstated. When he was absent for four games due to injury between Matchdays 10 and 13, BVB only picked up four of a possible 12 points.
Set to make his 50th competitive outing for the club this weekend, Haaland already has the best goals-to-minutes ratio of any player in Bundesliga history to have scored at least 25 times, having found the net on average once every 84 minutes. That’s considerably better than Lewandowski (103), the legendary Gerd Müller (105) and Silva (110).
“It’s his will to win that sets him apart,” purred interim head coach Edin Terzic of the striker earlier this season.
Team captain Marco Reus has been equally impressed, saying, “I’ve never seen anyone like Haaland at this club. He’s unique. He’s still very young. He’s developed massively over the past six to nine months. He’s become really good with the ball at his feet and with a defender at his back. That wasn’t the case when he first joined us, but his achievements and goals give him an unbelievable power that helps us.”
That strength has been particularly evident in the closing stages of matches, with the Norway international scoring more often after the 76th minute (seven times) than in any other period of the game. Indeed, 14 of his 21 Bundesliga goals have arrived in the second half of matches.
Yet as prolific as Haaland is, there is still room for improvement. For example, he has only scored one of his last 15 Bundesliga goals on home turf, and seven at home overall in 2020/21, while just one of his goals this term has been a header; 18 have been with his left boot and two with his right. He has also tended to score in clusters, his 21 goals spread across just 11 games (having fired blanks in 10), netting at least twice on eight occasions.
Watch: Haaland – half-man, half-machine
These are areas where Silva, five years Haaland’s senior, perhaps has an edge. The Portugal international has scored 10 times at home and 11 away, finding the net across 15 different games. Furthermore, he has put his side 1-0 up eight times – more than any other player in the Bundesliga this term.
Averaging a goal every 97 minutes in 2020/21, he has 13 with his right foot, three with his left and five with his head. And unlike Haaland, Silva is more of an early bird, scoring 13 times in the first half of matches, with the period between 16 and 30 minutes his most productive window (seven goals), although he also has six between minutes 61 and 75.
That unpredictability and consistency has means Silva already has the second-best total for a Frankfurt player in the club’s top-flight history; only Bernd Hölzenbein managed more when he struck 26 times in 1976/77.
“He’s been very, very impressive,” said Adi Hütter of Silva, who has 33 goals in 49 Bundesliga outings all-told to date. “This season he seamlessly picked up where he left off after the restart [in 2019/20 after the coronavirus-enforced hiatus], where he was scoring all the time. He feels really at home in our team. It’s good for him and for us that he scores so much, but he also does an incredible amount of work for the team.”
Watch: All of Silva’s goals
Silva’s understanding with fellow attackers Filip Kostic and Daichi Kamada been crucial to the Eagles’ consistent attacking threat this term – Silva alone has been directly involved in 45 per cent of the team’s goals – and Frankfurt’s current scoring run of registering a goal in their last 21 consecutive Bundesliga games is their longest such streak since 1992.
Not only that, but Dortmund (54 goals) are one of only two sides (alongside Bayern, 78) to have scored more than Frankfurt (53) this season, a campaign that has been the Eagles’ most prolific in almost 40 years.
And as if that were not enough, Frankfurt have already won more points this season (47) than they managed in the entire 2019/20 campaign (45), and it is the club’s best-ever haul after 26 rounds of matches.
All in all, then, this is arguably the best Frankfurt side ever with their best striker ever. What more could you want from a high-stakes match-up?
“Reaching the Champions League with Frankfurt would be like winning a league title,” said Hütter recently, having respectively lifted the Austrian and Swiss championships with former clubs Red Bull Salzburg and Young Boys Bern.
“We believe in ourselves and in our chance of reaching that goal. But we know it’ll be hard work and everything will need to come together.” That, and Andre Silva.