17 May 2014, 20:00 (CEST)
Der Klassiker between two of Germany’s well-supported teams and recent title rivals is always a very special one for both sets of fans and neutrals, and the 105th meeting between the two giants on Saturday, May the 17th promises much the same. This meeting happens to be the final of the DFB Pokal, a piece of silverware both competing sides will be desperate to get their hands on.
Defending champions Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga way back in March with a record eight games remaining of the season, but since then have seemingly lost their appetite for winning. Two straight defeats in the Bundesliga followed by humiliation in the hands of Real Madrid in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League have made Pep Guardiola’s side look like mortals again.
Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund on the other hand seem to have annoyed Lady Luck somehow at the beginning of their 2013-2014 campaign. This is a season that has seen Dortmund’s squad affected by a number of injuries to crucial players at crucial times. A depleted squad negated Dortmund’s title challenge while their Champions League run was put to end by an overpowering Real Madrid (at least in the first leg). Call it team determination, talent or tactical masterclass coupled with a fully-functional frontline, but Klopp had his side fighting it out on all three fronts with the same passion and energy.
These two sides, apart from the customary meetings in the Bundesliga, also met in the season opener in the DFB Super Cup. Borussia Dortmund hold the edge over their rivals Bayern by 2-1, with score lines of 4-2, 0-3 and 3-0, the last a convincing thrashing of the newly-crowned champions. Whichever way the game goes, one thing’s certain: there will be plenty of goals and excitement.
Team news and tactics
Excellent wins over Frankfurt and Wolfsburg in the Pokal quarter- and semi-finals booked Dortmund a place in the finals, which gives them the chance at the season’s first silverware (not counting the German Super Cup). Robert Lewandowski’s goals have been important this season, but Dortmund’s key man has been Marco Reus. The ex-Gladbach attacker was an excellent buy for them last season, forming devastating partnerships with Lewandowski and Mario Götze. This season in the absence of the latter, Reus has become even more lethal, dictating the tempo with his on-ball ability, and his vision has made him the creator-in-chief of his side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after difficult starts have started to come to terms with Klopp’s game plan, while the gaffer to his credit has introduced an array of youngsters who have thrilled everyone. Jonas Hofmann, Erik Durm, Oliver Kirch, Marian Sarr and Miloš Jojić have certainly shown they can take up responsibilities in the absence of the seniors.
Klopp still has injuries to be concerned with when choosing his playing eleven for the cup final. Season absentees Neven Subotic, Sven Bender, Jakub Błaszczykowski and İlkay Gündoğan are still on the treatment tables. The back-line should feature Piszczek, Hummels, Papastatopoulos and Schmelzer, while Germany’s second choice keeper Weidenfeller will play behind them. The midfield should most likely feature young Miloš Jojić and Nuri Sahin, though skipper Sebastian Kehl could also start.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the line while the attacking trio behind him will be made up of Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and utility man Kevin Großkreutz.
Dortmund’s game plan throughout the season has been largely based on pace. In Lewandowski, Mkhitaryan, Großkreutz and Aubameyang, Klopp has lightning pace to utlize, and that coupled with an astute Reus can scare the living daylights out of any team. Sahin and Jojić will remain key in maintaining a sense of balance and stability while the backline will have to be alert to Bayern’s attacking prowess.
Possible starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Hummels, Papastatopoulos, Schmelzer; Sahin, Jojić; Großkreutz, Mkhitaryan, Reus; Lewandowski
Bayern’s first season under Pep Guardiola has been quite a good one. They wrapped up the Bundesliga in March, made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League, and are now appearing in the final of the DFB Pokal. Yet many Bayern fans will have a sense of disappointment as they prepare themselves to watch their side taken on rivals Dortmund. The manner in which they won the treble last season and their form at the beginning of this one made it mandatory for Bayern Munich to win back-to back trebles.
But a loss in concentration and appetite after clinching the league championship has certainly made the team a tad bit lethargic in their approach to games since. Defeats to Augsburg and Dortmund in the league put an end to their unbeaten run, while lackluster showings against Manchester United in the Champions League has left questions on everyone’s lips. The humiliating defeat in the semi-finals followed, and that has certainly brought the whole club back down to earth and the manner in which they have come down has been startling and disappointing.
To make matters worse, speculations regarding players’ futures and other uncertainties have come at the wrong time, which leaves Guardiola a big task in getting his players to concentrate on the game. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s inflamed left knee has dealt a big blow to the Bavarians, while leaving out top scorer Mario Mandžukić has raised quite a few eyebrows. The Croatian front man is said to have been left out of the matchday squad due to disciplinary issues, though according to Bild Mandžukić has already left for World Cup training and will become part of a swap deal with Chelsea FC for defender David Luiz after the international tournament. Charismatic left winger Frank Ribery also remains a major doubt for the game with a hurting back.
With Schweinsteiger out, it would hardly be surprising to see skipper Philipp Lahm back at central midfield with Toni Kroos and Javi Martinez keeping him company. This could mean a return for Rafinha at right back with Dante, Boateng and Alaba forming the back-line. With their front man not travelling with the team, Thomas Müller will lead the attack with Götze and Robben flanking him.
Bayern’s game plan will revolve around midfield domination against a relatively-inexperienced Dortmund one. They will of course keep a special eye on Marco Reus, and the addition of Lahm in midfield could go a long way in doing so.
Possible starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Lahm, Martinez; Robben, Kroos, Götze; Müller
- The 2013-2014 DFB Pokal final will feature the third meeting of Dortmund and Bayern in the cup final. The previous meetings were in 2007-2008 with Bayern winning 2-1 and in 2011-2012 with Dortmund winning 5-2.
- This will be Bayern’s 20th appearance in the DFB Pokal Final. They have won the cup 16 times.
- If Bayern Munich win the 2013-2014 Pokal final, it will be their 10th domestic double.
- Dortmund have won the Pokal 3 times while being runners-up twice.
- Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski will be joining their opponents post the World Cup.
Player to Watch Out For
Speed, poise, finishing and vision make up a dangerous combination for any footballer, and 24-year-old Marco Reus has all these qualities. A gifted winger when at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Reus turned himself into a superstar at Klopp’s Dortmund by quickly adapting to his new environment and becoming a key player. A slippery customer to mark, Reus has not just scored goals but also taken up the position of creator of the side. In 39 appearances so far, Reus has scored 23 and assisted 18.
Borussia Dortmund 2-3 Bayern Munich (A.E.T)