The All-German final is here, with Borussia Dortmund hoping that the overwhelming dominance shown by Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga season and in their semifinal against Barcelona won’t show up at Wembley, even though that without the injured Mario Gotze, the scales of balance tip even more in favor of the Bavarian giants.
For Bayern, it’s about not becoming the biggest losers of the recent Champions League era. In 2010, they were the underdogs heading into the match against Inter, completely suffocated and neutralized by Inter’s defense and clinical Diego Milito finishing.
Last year, Bayen weren’t the German champions, but they were the favorites heading into the final against an uninspiring Chelsea said, which simply parked the bus for the entire match, yet somehow equalized in the 90th minute and made it to penalty kicks after Arjen Robben missed a penalty kick, and later on Bayern lost on penalties.
This season was the perfection of the Bayern system. Still that familiar 4-2-3-1, but with personal tweaks. Dante becomes the center of the defense, better than anything Bayern had in the past. The rise of David Alaba on the left wing turned Franck Ribery into a much more dangerous player, while Philip Lahm has gotten more attacking responsibility with Arjen Robben missing most of the time. Toni Kroos is injured, which means Robben will start, but it’s been a different, more mature, and less selfish Robben this season, blending in instead of trying to steal the show.
Javi Martinez might have been the most important acquisition to the Bayern setup, becoming the man who takes out the creativity from the other team, helping Bastian Schweinsteiger focus on more attacking minded assignments and pressure higher up the pitch. Thomas Muller has continued his evolution into one of the most complete forwards in the European game, while Mario Mandzukic has kept a scorer like Mario Gomez on the bench simply because he can do much more on the pitch.
So how do Dortmund respond to all of this? After two years of five wins against Bayern, the tables have turned. Bayern have beaten Dortmund twice in non-league competitions: The Super Cup and the German Cup, while in the league there were two 1-1 draws, including one of them coming after Bayern have already clinched the title. However they’re going to do it, it’s going to take a special effort to make people forget Gotze, who has already played his final match for the club before going to Bayern, won’t be on the pitch.
No team works harder than Dortmund as a whole unit, and Kevin Grosskreutz who’ll be starting for Gotze is that kind of physical freak who can run up and down for 90 minutes without tiring, although his lack of play in recent times might effect that. For Dortmund to win it’s going to take more than simply moments of brilliance from Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski, but especially a perfect match from their midfielders, Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan. Without these two overshadowing their Bayern Munich counterparts, it’s going to be very hard for Dortmund to simply hang back and soak in the pressure. They’re deadly on counter attacks and defend them very well too, but being constantly dominated by Bayern isn’t something a team can hold on with for 90 minutes.
Prediction – Even without Gotze, Bayern were favorites. Now? They probably feel they can afford to be a tad more cautious in defending. The omission of Toni Kroos is a hit, but Robben seems to be different this season, and so does Ribery. It’s not only about them making plays on their own anymore. Dortmund were volatile in their previous two rounds, and their lack of perfection when compared to Bayern will show, losing the final.