1st June, 2013 ; 19:00 GMT
It was only a week back that Wembley, London witnessed one of the best Champions League finals in recent years as German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund locked horns for the coveted trophy. Jupp Heynckes’ Reds ran out winners 2-1 in a thrilling contest thereby winning their second major trophy for this season and third if one counts the DFB Supercup victory early this season. Bayern have met Stuttgart twice in the league this season, beating them on both occasions with scores of 6-1 and 0-2.
Bruno Labbadia’s Stuttgart have had a rather disappointing season and never lived up to the expectations surrounding them. They finished 12th in the table and their league form in the last 2 months has been woeful to say the least. Their cup form has been much better than their league form. Having brushed aside SV Falkensee-Finkenkrug, St. Pauli and Köln, Stuttgart came up against a resilient Bochum side in the quarter-finals. A 2-0 win got them to the semi-finals where they faced fellow Baden-Württemberg side Freiburg. The semi-final turned to be a cracker of a game as Stuttgart put up a solid defensive display to win the game over their high-flying neighbours.
The Pokal finals will also bring an end to a 42 year old career in the Bundesliga for a certain German legend. Jupp Heynckes started life in the German top flight in 1963 when he signed as a player at Borussia Mönchengladbach and will be finishing his stay at the end of this season. He has already won the league championship and the Champions League this season and winning the treble on Saturday will be a first of his long career. His influence and tactical improvisations have been key to Bayern’s success this season and in Schweinsteiger’s own words “We want to give Heynckes a special farewell”. Jupp Heynckes is of course courted by Real Madrid and only time will tell if he decides to move to the Spanish capital for a second stint.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The European Champions will be without the services of their Brazilians Dante and Luis Gustavo with both leaving to join their national side in preparation of the Confederations Cup. Towering 35 year old Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten will be partnering Jerome Boateng in the heart of the defense for the game. Van Buyten will be out of contract at the end of this season and he will be keen to impress everyone associated with the club in light of Holger Badstuber’s injury keeping him out until next February. Neuer, Lahm and Alaba should be taking up their regular positions in the defensive line.
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez are slowly tending towards becoming one of the most feared midfield pairings in football today and they should be involved again to dictate terms in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos’ injury 3 months back gave Dutchman Arjen Robben an opportunity to redeem himself and he has definitely grabbed the chance with both hands. The scorer of the winning goal last week will slot on the right wing alongside Thomas Mueller and Franck Ribery. Mario Mandzukic has been impressive in his debut season at Bayern and will lead the attack. The game could also be the last for departing Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk as well as strikers Mario Gomez and Claudio Pizarro. Gomez has found himself on the bench for much of the season and has largely been used as a substitute for the tiring legs of Mandzukic. With rumours of Robert Lewandowski’s move to Munich coming through, this could very well be Gomez’s last game in the colours of Bayern.
Jupp Heynckes should adopt the same tactics that has earned him so much success this season. The constant pressing from the middle of the park and quick changes from defense to attack along the wings has foxed most opponents and expect Stuttgart to be given no mercy on Saturday.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, DVB, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Müller, Ribery; Mandzukic
Labbadia will be hoping his side don’t suffer the hiding they received when the two met last September in the league. Bayern ran out 6-1 winners with all goals coming inside the hour. Stuttgart will be without the services of midfielders Tamás Hajnal, Daniel Didavi and Mamadou Bah through injury while veteran keeper Marc Ziegler will also miss the game.
Young Sven Ulreich will start between the sticks as Gōtoku Sakai, skipper Serdar Tasci , Georg Niedermeier and Cristian Molinaro line-up in front of him. Ivory Coast defender converted midfielder Arthur Boka should partner Christian Gentner in a bid to keep Schweinsteiger and Martinez at bay. Hungarian playmaker Hajnal will be missed for his ball playing abilities and vision but youngster Alexandru Maxim has been in good form lately and will get the nod to play in the number 10 role. Ibrahima Traoré and Austrian Martin Harnik will flank him and their season’s top goal scorer Vedad Ibišević will lead the attack. Stuttgart will take the field in Germany’s favourite 4-2-3-1 but they have often shifted to a 4-4-1—1 against attacking sides depending on the pace of Traoré, Harnik and Ibišević for quick counter attacks.
Things do look bleak for Labbadia and his men when they take on a rampant Bayern Munich in the cup finals. But if history is any evidence, stranger things can happen on a Cup-Final day. Unfancied and relegation threatened Wigan beat a talent-oozing side of Manchester City in the English FA cup final and Atletico Madrid showed up well against city rivals Real in the Copa Del Rey finals. As Labbadia out it “there are always days on which the team wins who may not have the same quality as their opponents. We’re hoping tomorrow will be one of those days”.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Ulreich ; Sakai, Tasci, Niedermeier, Molinaro ; Boka, Gentner ; Harnik, Maxim, Traore ; Ibisevic
Cup Final Facts
- Jupp Heynckes has never won the DFB Pokal finals as a coach. He did win it as a player back in 1973 with Borussia Mönchengladbach.
- The last time Stuttgart beat Bayern was in 2010.
- Bayern will be the first German side to win the historic treble if they triumph on Saturday (Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal).
- This will be Bayern’s 19th Pokal final. They have won 15 Pokal finals before this.
- The last time the two sides met in the cup was in the 2011-2012 season. Bayern beat Stuttgart in the quarter-finals.
Player To Watch Out For
Bastian Schweinsteiger – After a frustrating and disappointing campaign last season, Bayern’s midfield conductor has turned things around in the current one with some excellent performances in the middle of the pitch. Bayern’s key man in terms of bridging the defense and attack, Schweinsteiger has played 38 games scoring 9 goals and directly assisting 8. The German international has played a brilliant role in shielding the back four during attacks and has covered up for the attack minded Alaba on numerous occasions. The deep lying playmaker will be an important player for the Bavarians in unlocking Stuttgart’s backline and in ensuring his side maintain ball possession.
Bayern Munich 3 – 0 VfB Stuttgart
Bayern Munich have had a phenomenal season and there hardly seems to be anyone who can stop them in their current form. Bayern Munich to win and lay their hands on the historic treble to give Jupp Heynckes a fitting farewell.