Borussia Dortmund haven’t had the greatest domestic campaign this season, while their opponents for this week have been nothing short of sensational. But one must not forget just how difficult this fixture has been for Bayern Munich in the recent past. With so much at stake in this game, the resident team at TheHardTackle presents the latest edition of Rival Rendezvous as Aditya Balaram (AB hereafter) goes up against Siddharth Mohan (SM hereafter) in a war of words.
SM: Dortmund have been incredible this season in the Champions league, something of a revelation but have underperformed in the Bundesliga. It has been suggested that Dortmund are more focused on European adventures this season rather than domestic laurels. Is this a cover-up to mask Dortmund’s incompetency to mount challenges on two fronts?
AB: Competing on two fronts is never an easy job and given Dortmund’s fairly thin squad it was always going to be a difficult task. Dortmund’s improvement in the Champions League has been spectacular. If you compare this domestic campaign to that of last season, not too much has gone wrong. The only real difference is that Bayern have stepped up a few notches and made Dortmund’s domestic challenge look poor. I only see this season as an improvement from last year and do not think Dortmund have been incompetent by any stretch of imagination.
SM: Dortmund’s struggle this season against teams that are placed in the lower half of the table, who in all fairness to their style of play, ‘park the bus’, has been quite evident. Why are Dortmund struggling to unlock such defenses this season when they literally swept aside most in the previous two?
AB: Other than Fortuna Düsseldorf, I wouldn’t really say that teams have “parked the bus” against Dortmund. Yes, Dortmund haven’t scored with the same fluency as last season and I’d attribute that to the lack of options that Klopp has in the striking department. Robert Lewandowski was struggling to score at the beginning of the season and with Marco Reus not being as much of a provider as Shinji Kagawa was, Lewandowski’s goals will probably never reach the number from last season. If my memory serves me right, Bayern weren’t doing too well against defensive sides thanks to the lack of variety in attack last season.
SM: Should Dortmund have bought a creative playmaker along with the Reus? Reus has mesmerized the world with his attacking displays but he’s still not the playmaker that Dortmund lost in Kagawa. Do you think Klopp made an error in judgment here?
AB: I don’t believe that Klopp ever thought of Reus as a perfect replacement for Kagawa. Klopp has allowed Reus a free role up front and this has worked in the youngster’s favor but hasn’t complimented Lewandowski. A creative playmaker seems surplus given what Dortmund have and the way they’re playing at the moment. I’d preferred to have seen a striker of much better stature than Julian Schieber donning the black and yellow of Dortmund instead of a creative playmaker.
SM: Ottmar Hitzfeld came out today saying the title belongs to Bayern if they beat Dortmund (which of course we will). How do you think Klopp’s and Dortmund’s priorities change if this happens (it will happen)?
AB: Unfortunately, I think I have to agree with Hitzfeld on that but I disagree with you. We completely obliterated every side in the Champions League, sides that are far more powerful than Bayern, and we will relish this opportunity of getting a fifth consecutive Bundesliga win over Germany’s most successful side. With our confidence soaring high and our growing ability to slay “big” teams, the need to think of a defeat doesn’t arise.
SM: Do you reckon Dortmund have what it takes to win the Champions League this season?
AB: Dortmund’s chances of winning the Champions League are just as good as Bayern’s chances of winning the Bundesliga. With the Champions League being a tournament for the best of the best, I think we should do extremely well and continue to shock the world by eliminating giant after giant. To be honest, my only worry is that we might run into our slimy Ruhr rivals, lose all form of motivation just peeking at their disgusting blue and end up on the losing side.
After a grilling first session, it is now Siddharth’s turn to stand in the line of fire.
AB: Bayern have been so much better this season. Would you attribute it to all that heavy spending this summer?
SM: ‘Heavy spending’ is in my opinion a wrong term to be used here. I would attribute it to bringing in of more talent and increasing the depth in quality of the squad. Nothing comes free in today’s world and Bayern’s process of improving upon its squad has also come at a price. But this price will be made to look very small and well spent come the end of this season when Bayern win the treble.
AB: Talking about heavy spending, Javi Martinez seems to be finding his feet in the Bundesliga now. But he is yet to face a truly brilliant attacking unit. Do you honestly think he can deal with Dortmund’s fluent passing and quick counters?
SM: Yes, I am quite glad Javi Martinez is settling in well and his performances for Bayern in their last three games have been quite good. Martinez was brought into the team based on his showing for Bilbao in their last two La Liga campaigns and most particularly in the Europa League where he was quite calm and composed against some of the best in Europe which includes Manchester United. His big game attitude was very impressive and I am pretty sure he will up his game come Saturday night. His pace, anticipation and the physical presence he brings to the middle of the park will help Bayern curb Dortmund’s passing and counters.
AB: Mario Gomez has always been in Mats Hummels’ pocket when Dortmund and Bayern have faced off in the past two seasons. Would you prefer to see the other Mario start in attack? Or have you Bayern fans given up on all the Mario’s in your ranks and finally come to terms with the fact that Götze is the real Super Mario?
SM: Must laud your sense of humour when you say Götze is the real ‘Super Mario’ especially when he is going to be chasing the shadows of Schweinsteiger and Martinez tomorrow. But coming to your question, yes Gomez has had his problems in the past with Hummels and considering he’s short of match practice, Jupp Heynckes might consider using the other Mario, in Mandzukic, who has got lot more pace to burn than his namesake. Mandzukic’s brilliant run to turn in Ribery’s cross during the Super Cup at the Allianz strikes a clear picture in my mind as I argue about this. He outpaced Hummels and Subotic on that occasion and took the Dortmund back four completely by surprise. But I still expect ‘Super Mario’ Gomez to start and this time burn Hummels to the ground.
AB: With a number of big clubs finishing second in their respective groups, there is a good chance that Bayern might face one of them in the first knockout round of the Champions League. Would you prefer to see Bayern give up the Champions League at that stage and focus on not slipping up in the Bundesliga instead? Another trophyless season would be really bitter, wouldn’t it?
SM: Well that’s exactly the reason Bayern have as you put it ‘spent heavily’ during the summer. The depth in quality and talent added to the squad has been brilliant this season and Bayern so far have only gone from strength to strength and are yet to peak in my opinion. There is no question of slipping up in the Bundesliga and we definitely will be going a long way in the Champions League.
AB: If Bayern do win the Bundesliga this season (seems somewhat unlikely given that Leverkusen are thundering up the table and Bayern can’t really play too well in the Rückrunde) would it be the biggest success for the club in the past decade given the bitterness suffered over the last few years?
SM: Winning the 2012-2013 Bundesliga will simply add another feather to Bayern’s brilliant crown and it would not be right to call this our biggest success in the last decade. As for Leverkusen I would love to see them do well with their young squad but sadly they must be content with finishing second. Bayern still have a 10 point lead at the top and slipping up this season isn’t going to happen. Its true (hurts when I say this) that the last two seasons have been quite unlucky for Bayern when it has come to winning silverware, in spite of some brilliant showings. Our biggest success in the last decade is of course winning the double (just missed out on the treble) in the 2009-2010 season and of course beating Borussia Dortmund in 2008 DFB Pokal finals to gain our 14th Pokal title.