This season’s Champions League final is an all-German affair with both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich eliminating Spanish counter-parts Real Madrid and Barcelona en-route to London. While all of Germany and Bundesliga supporters across the world rejoice, the finalists themselves and their fans get yet another opportunity to renew their rivalry and mutual hatred on Saturday. The teams themselves have had their own skirmishes over the last 3 seasons. Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich to the title in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons, and added insult to injury by humiliating them 5-2 in the DFB Pokal finals. Bayern have replied back by taking this season’s league title by a big margin and knocked out their nemesis in the quarter finals of the DFB-Pokal. And if things weren’t enough for the two sides on the pitch, the latest transfer saga involving Mario Götze has certainly spiced things up.
An event of this magnitude makes it difficult for fans of both sides to keep their emotions and passions in check and so is the case for Tacklers as Dortmund fan Arnav Bose (AB) and Bayern fan Siddharth Mohan (SM) lock horns in an epic battle. The Hard Tackle brings to the desk their latest edition of Rival Rendezvous in which both fans go head to head in a war of words before the big final.
As is the custom, the host kicks-off first.
AB - Last week Hummels wobbled off the pitch and now Götze wobbled out of the clash. More reasons to be ecstatic even before the fat lady had sung?
SM – Firstly, I will come out saying that I am thrilled to see two German sides contesting the final. Secondly, it is quite saddening that little Mario Götze is going to be missing the finals. Mats Hummels, I think should be fit to start the game. When you play a final in the Champions League, Europe’s premium cup tournament, as a fan you want to see the best eleven from both sides take the field even if that means your rival playing their best 11. Mario Götze has been in inspirational form for you guys this season and his absence will be a huge blow. But I do believe Klopp has able replacements for him. If Götze started I would have given Bayern a 50 % chance. In his absence a little over a 60 % chance.
AB - The first game played between the two sides post Götze transfer recorded a number of unnecessary player-on-player bust ups, including a face-off between Klopp and Sammer. Those were incredulous scenes with respect to the relatively calm nature of Der Klassiker. Do you think such never seen non-football drama(between Bayern and Dortmund) will have a part to play in the final as well? And is that a good thing at all?
SM – Well the volcano had to erupt sometime or later and it did in the last league meeting. The resentment has been building up for the last 3 years between two sides looking to stamp their authority domestically. Dortmund’s dominance over the last two seasons has come at the expense of Bayern going trophy-less and this year Bayern have done the same to Dortmund. The transfer of Mario Götze was probably the spark that was needed to start the fire. I won’t be surprised if this drama is carried on to the pitch on Saturday night. But in hindsight, this can only add to the healthy rivalry that has been developing between the two and hence lead to even better competition in the Bundesliga. Both Klopp and Sammer are professionals who understand the workings and politics in the world of football and the bust-up that happened was simply in the heat of the moment.
AB - Uli Hoeness had a lot of interesting things to say to Watzke about sustaining domestic competition for the benefit of the Bundesliga, only a few days prior to the transfer. Don’t you think such high-profile transfers[to Bayern] at this rate only makes the league weaker?
SM – Are you suggesting Bayern should hold back on their transfer policies and wait for rest of the league to catch up to their level of competence? I think the onus is on the teams in the Bundesliga to raise their level of competitiveness in the coming years and challenge Bayern for the title. Bayern have been alone in flying the flag of the Bundesliga in the Champions League for some years now and it has been refreshing to see Dortmund and Schalke join them in recent years. But with the big European clubs stocking up on talent every year, Bayern have to do the same to remain in contention in the Champions League. I understand Dortmund not being happy because we snapped-up one of your best talents in Mario Götze. Hell, I’ll be furious if Thomas Muller gets taken away like this. The Bayern board and new manager Pep Gaurdiola obviously considered Götze to be of value to Bayern and so have offered a good sum for him. Will there still be complains if Götze was bought from an English club?
AB - Is the favorites tag an added burden against an opposition that knows Bayern through and through?
SM – Well the same can be said about Bayern knowing Dortmund through and through, and hence taking the field with no pressure. But yes, whatever pressure and burden that is on the shoulders of Bayern is largely due to their excellent campaign so far and the weight of expectancy that has surrounded them all season. There is also the small issue of the desperation that is in Munich and in the hearts of fans after the disappointments from the previous seasons.
AB - Third final in the last four UEFA Champions’ League appearance. The ghost of the last two defeats will be there. How devastating would it be to the fans if they lose the third final on the trot considering the fact that this is probably one of the best Bayern sides since the 70s?
SM – The ghosts of those two defeats are well and truly buried. Bayern Munich this season have been rampant to say the least. They have simply brushed aside sides both domestically and in Europe. They won the league weeks back and won with a 25 point lead over nearest contenders Dortmund scoring 98 goals and conceding a measly 18. In the Champions league, we have cruised through most of our fixtures like it was a Sunday League. Confidence and morale in the team are at a new high and there seems to be a general belief of invincibility. The ghosts of previous seasons no longer matter. As for a third defeat – Nah that’s not happening.
AB - It was almost exactly a year back when Dortmund thrashed Bayern in the DFB-Pokal final. That was their fifth straight victory over Bayern. Since then Dortmund have not beaten Bayern yet, but have lost only one significant game in the DFB-Pokal quarter final (A DFL Supercup loss does not break one’s season). Revenge on the mind?
SM – Ah I was hoping you didn’t bring this up. Yes that was very painful loss and the memory of it still hurts. Even as a die-hard Bayern fan, I must admit Dortmund were the better team on that day and deserved the win. Bayern were probably distracted by the Champions League to be played a week later and well let’s just say they failed to turn up on that day. That defeat and the loss the following week to Chelsea did sap team morale and confidence, and it has taken tremendous amounts of courage and mental toughness for the current Bayern squad to get those defeats out of their systems. Revenge is on our minds!
Siddharth to fire his salvos now
SM - Going straight on to the big news that has hit the footballing world, Mario Götze has been confirmed to miss out the Champions League finals against Bayern. How will his absence hurt Dortmund’s chances on Saturday?
AB - Well, Götze is one of the star performers of the side and needless to say that his absence will be felt when it comes to the creative department. We have already played three games without his involvement. Even though we’ve failed to win any of those, we were mighty close to seal it against Bayern on matchday 32. Grosskreutz, the chief enforcer of that game against Bayern is likely to replace Götze in the team and take Reus’s place in the left side of the midfield, with Reus taking up Götze’s position. There is another option in keeping Reus in his position and letting Gündogan play in a more advanced role, and use Kehl as Bender’s partner in the double pivot. Whichever way they shape up for the finals, I am sure the lads will be up for it to prove themselves to be an uncomfortable opposition to Bayern in their last game of this season.
SM - Klopp quoted saying “ It felt like a Heart Attack” when he heard Mario Götze was leaving. Dortmund it seems are quite accustomed to losing out on their key players season after season. Sahin left at the end of 2010-2011, Kagawa followed at the end of the next campaign and you guys are losing out on Götze and Lewandowski at the end of this season. Why do you think BVB can’t hold on to their top stars in spite of the success they have tasted in the last 2-3 years?
AB - Well, Klopp had philosophically answered that question in that same interview. Dortmund have the best fanbase in Germany, an eccentric coach, and a bunch of young and enthusiastic fore-runners of modern-day football. What we do not have, unfortunately, is a worldwide popularity yet and the financial strength to pay astronomical wages to the star players. That’s the harsh truth with which we have to live with. And I believe if Dortmund win this season’s Champions’ League, some of the players who were rumored to leave the outfit someday in the near future, like Lewandowski, may not leave at all. In Kloppo’s words again, if the Dortmund stalwarts like Hummels, Subotic, Gundogan, Reus, Lewandowski are more patient than Sahin or Kagawa, they may become a part of a brand new German legacy. This is a dream project and everybody has to be play his responsible part to bring about it’s success. If someone wants to take short cut to taste success, of course, they are welcome to leave!
SM - Klopp has been quite the chatter box this week in calling Bayern a ‘James Bond villian’ and issuing a rallying cry to the neutrals asking them to support his side in Saturday’s showdown. Do you think this is simply to mask a sympathy cry and an excuse for his side being incompetent against Bayern?
AB - Incompetent against Bayern? You do mean financially, correct? Otherwise it’s laughable. It’s Dortmund who have defeated Bayern in five straight games in back to back seasons and forced them to register Götze and Martinez’s record transfers. So much for incompetence. This year we have lost only one significant game against Bayern, the DFB-Pokal quarter final. DFL Supercup loss only matters if losing Community Shield matters to Manchester United. By the way, Klopp wears his emotions in his sleeves. He spoke his heart out in that interview and spoke as he felt unlike a certain someone who talked about sustaining domestic competition with our chief, Watzke, and then turned 90 degrees the very next day. Moreover, Klopp doesn’t even need to appeal to the world to support his side. Know why? Davids of all times will always cherish majority of the neutral support against the Goliaths.
SM - Dortmund were very successful and had a great side from ’95 to 2002 winning the champions League and 3 domestic championships. But they suddenly hit rock bottom and it has taken some courage and good management for them to come up again. What in your opinion is key to holding on to this success and building an era at Dortmund?
AB - Tag Line should be: Not to repeat past mistakes. Yes, players will leave every now and then. But that should not be a reason to go overboard to sign superstars with super wages. Klopp has the knack of finding diamonds in the rough and the ability to polish them to perfection. So, theoretically it should be keeping as much hold possible of the core of this team, sign one or two players keeping their transfer fee and wage bill in mind, and promote a couple of academy players into the first team. The key to a long standing success: a) Financial stability and b) success with the resource available. Both these factors are complementary. That’s how Bayern have built a legacy. Let’s see what Amini, Bittencourt and Koray Gunter have to offer in season 2013-2014.
SM - After winning back to back league titles , Dortmund fell short by a staggering 25 points behind Bayern in the league and were knocked out from the DFB Pokal in the quarter finals. Does it hurt to go trophy-less this season (Bayern are of course winning the Champions League Final) ?
AB - It would definitely hurt if we lose the final and end up winning nothing in a season. But it would not be the end of the world and Bayern have shown Dortmund the path. After two barren seasons Bayern did splash the cash, but mainly in finding formidable covers for their ace players. Dortmund have a very strong first team. But in certain areas they are helplessly short of able backups. Schmelzer and Piszczek are deputyless. Kuba on the right wing has no able backups. Leitner or Grosskreutz can be moved to the right but the effect will not be the same. And it’s not easy to find a cover for Dortmund’s #9, especially if you don’t have Bayern’s cash reserve. If Kloppo manages to find these missing pieces(of course, without splashing the cash as much as Bayern did or usually does), Dortmund can surely resurrect from this season’s embers and come back strong next season.
SM - Götze and Lewandowski leave with big holes to fill. Klopp will of course hunt for the best to replace them this summer. What will Dortmund’s realistic targets be for the next season?
AB - It’s difficult to say about the realistic targets. Götze is a huge loss. I don’t want to talk about Lewandowski’s transfer as yet. It will take some time to find the right co-ordination, right combination to finalize the actual team that can negate Götze’s loss. Just like a lot of permutations and the rise of Gundogan finally managed to get over Sahin’s departure or rise of Götze in central position to help Dortmund forget Kagawa. I am a realist. So, let’s say title challenge in Bundesliga, semifinalist in DFB-Pokal (at least) and last eight of Champions’ League.