Wembley Stadium, London
May 25th, 2013; 19:45 GMT
‘Der Kaiser’ Franz Beckenbauer, Germany’s most celebrated footballer, was only 20 when he and Bayern Munich faced Borussia Dortmund for the very first time in their history in 1965. Beckenbauer missed a penalty in that game and Dortmund ran out 2-0 winners over the Bavarians. Unlike that October day, this week Beckenbauer will be sitting on a cozy, comfortable seat to watch Borussia Dortmund take on Bayern Munich for the 101st time in the 2013 Champions League final.
The Champions League will be observing its very first all-German final. And with two domestic rivals competing, this has every making of a cracker of a game. Rivalry between the two probably started in the late nineties with Dortmund challenging Bayern’s dominance domestically and in Europe. But the rivalry has reached a whole new level over the last three years starting with Dortmund’s title-winning season in 2010-2011. The Ruhr Club did the double over their rivals and followed that up with another league double the following season in yet another title-winning campaign. The Bavarians were also humiliated that season in the DFB-Pokal final losing 5-2 to Dortmund. Bayern’s revenge this season has been in the DFB Supercup and in the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal with both the league games finishing in draws. Things haven’t been easy off the pitch either. The Mario Götze transfer has escalated hatred between the clubs over the last couple of months since the young playmaker chose to join Bayern at the end of the current season.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Ruhr valley in western Germany was rocked by the news that influential playmaker Mario Götze would not be fit in time for the Champions League final. Young Götze suffered a hamstring injury during the second leg tie against Real Madrid and his absence will come as a big blow to Jürgen Klopp’s men in Yellow and Black. Center-back Mats Hummels was also nursing an ankle injury but should be fit to face his old club.
Klopp has favoured the now popular 4-2-3-1 for much of this season and expect Dortmund to line-up the same way. Four-goal hero of the semi-final, Robert Lewandowski should lead the attack with Reus and compatriot Blaczszykowski on his flanks. The number 10 role has come into much debate since Götze’s confirmed absence but German international Ilkay Gündogan should get the nod. Gündogan, known for his excellent in-game vision and ball playing ability, has had a break-through season at Dortmund playing in the central defensive midfield role. A box-to-box midfielder in the making, Gündogan’s skills make him the ideal candidate for the role.
Sven Bender should assume his regular position in midfield behind the attacking trio and should be partnered by on-loan Nuri Sahin. Veteran midfielder Sebastian Kehl would have probably been a first choice replacement but considering the physical battle that is bound to take place between the midfields, a younger fitter Sahin will be a more apt choice. Hummels is expected to shake off a niggling ankle injury to slot alongside Subotic, while fullbacks Schmelzer and Piszczek should start as well.
The injury to Götze has come up at a bad time for Klopp, but being the brilliant tactician he is, he should pull out something from his magic hat. Bayern’s midfield was key in their dominating victories over Juventus and Barcelona, and Klopp will be aware of the need to break up their build-ups from the middle of the park. Expect the 4-2-3-1 to change into a 4-3-3 with Bender and Sahin shielding the back four and Gündogan sweeping up loose balls ahead of them. Fullbacks Schmelzer and Piszczek love to bomb up the pitch in support of the attack, and the defensive midfield duo have a vital job in covering for them. Hummels is an excellent propagator of attacks from the back; don’t be surprised to see him high up the pitch at times.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller (GK); Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Sahin, Bender; Blaczszykowski, Gündogan, Reus; Lewandowski
German record Champions and two games away from the elusive treble, Bayern Munich will come into the game in a buoyant mood. This is their 3rd finals in 4 years and though the previous two led to heartbreaks, their excellent showing in the current campaign suggests that those ghosts are long buried. Long-term causalities Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber are still on the treatment tables, but Jupp Heynckes comes into the game with no fresh injury concerns.
Playing their standard 4-2-3-1, three out of the back-four pick themselves. Skipper Phillip Lahm will slot into right back with young Austrian David Alaba playing on the other side. Bayern’s defensive architect Dante has arguably been the buy of the season and has marshaled his defense quite well. Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten has been Heynckes pick to partner Dante in most games, and the 35-year-old has done remarkably well to say the least. But he has historically struggled against quick-paced attackers and Dortmund’s attacking quartet is one of the fastest in today’s world. Jerome Boateng should get the nod ahead of the towering Belgian.
40-million man Javi Martinez has been one of the stars of Bayern’s season and should start alongside Schweinsteiger. Up front, the attacking midfielder trio of Ribery, Müller and Robben pick themselves. Mario Gomez has been on good form lately after being left on the bench for much of the season and has started a total of 17 games this season. Brought in as a back-up, Mario Mandzukic cemented his place ahead of his fellow striker with some impressive goal scoring and work ethics. He was instrumental in breaking up Juventus’ and Barcelona’s midfield game with his constant harassing and tackles, and given the importance of Dortmund’s midfield in their game play, Mandzukic should start ahead of Gomez.
In what is probably his last European game, Jupp Heynckes will be keen to outwit Klopp when it comes to tactical battles. Both Bayern and Dortmund adopt similar styles of playing and it could very well come down to physical strength and stamina becoming important as the game progresses. Bayern should hold a slight edge when it comes to a midfield battle with Schweinsteiger-Martinez fast becoming one of the most feared central midfield parings. Lahm and Alaba, like their counter-parts at Dortmund, love galloping up the pitch in support of the attack, but will be wary of their opponent’s pacy wingers.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Müller, Ribery; Mandzukic
Champions League Final Facts
- The two sides have met only once in the Champions league/European Cup. This was back in 1997-1998 with Dortmund winning by an aggregate score of 1-0.
- The last time Mario Götze failed to start for Dortmund against Bayern was in the 2012 DFB Pokal finals. Dortmund hammered Bayern 5-2 in that game. Götze though was on the bench.
- Bayern’s biggest win over their rivals is an astonishing score of 11-1 back in 1971. Dortmund’s was a 6-2 win in 1967.
- This is only Dortmund’s second appearance in the Champions League final. The last time they reached it, they won it.
- Bayern have lost five Champions League/European Cup finals to date. If they lose this one, they create a new record of 6 finals lost.
Player To Watch Out For
Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich)
He’s neither flamboyant in his play nor is he a scorer of brilliant goals. He may not have the incredible dribbling skills of his teammate Ribery or Barcelona’s Messi, but what Thomas Müller does have in his arsenal is an unmatched predatory instinct. It is quite incredible the amount of room he manufactures due to his clever movement and reading of the game. Playing mostly as a right winger, the young Müller is equally at home anywhere up front. Probably one of the most underrated players in the modern game, Müller has played 36 games this season scoring 21 goals and notching up 13 assists. As The Guardian’s Barney Ronay puts it: “Thomas Müller has invented his own role with a supernatural power to find space that is invisible to mere mortals.”
How does one come up with a sane prediction when it involves two teams that pretty much play the same way and have parity in most parts of the pitch in terms of their players? In a tight, exciting and fast-paced Champions League final to remember: Borussia Dortmund 1 – 2 Bayern Munich.
Blast From The Past