Bayern Munich will be looking to complete their domestic double when they meet RB Leipzig in the DFB Cup final at the Olympiastadion on Saturday.
After a stunning comeback during the second half of the campaign led them to their seventh successive Bundesliga title, Bayern Munich will be keen to bring home the DFB Pokal when they lock horns with RB Leipzig in the final on Saturday.
The Bavarians are coming on the back of a comfortable yet nervy 5-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. But, they have struggled in the Cup thus far, having won all of their matches with just one-goal margin. They were also on the verge of letting Werder Bremen complete an impressive comeback to win 3-2 in the semi-final. But, a late goal from Robert Lewandowski ensured their ticket to the final.
As for Leipzig, they have been one of the most defensively solid teams in Europe’s top five leagues, having conceded just 34 goals in 34 matches. They also finished third in the league and a 2-1 loss to Bremen was their first defeat in domestic competitions since a 1-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund in mid-January.
Die Roten-Bullen have done quite an excellent job in the DFB Cup as well this season, knocking out clubs like VfL Wolfsburg, TSG Hoffenheim, FC Augsburg and Hamburger SV. Also, they were excellent in their most recent meeting with Bayern, securing a 1-1 draw in Matchday 33. Hence, they will be confident of their chances of beating the Bavarians this weekend.
And here at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at the two sides ahead of their high-octane DFB Cup final this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Manuel Neuer is set to start in between the sticks, having returned from injury. However, Bayern have been dealt with the injury to Leon Goretzka, who has been ruled out. That means Javi Martinez is likely to start in central midfield alongside the ever-present figure of Thiago Alcantara. The veteran midfielder will look to provide defensive cover for the backline.
The defensive unit will remain unchanged with Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba occupying the full-back slots while the central defensive partnership will be formed by the duo of Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule. These two will need to careful of Timo Werner’s pace on the break, coupled with Yussuf Poulsen’s physical and aerial prowess.
Niko Kovac is unlikely to make any real changes to the attack, which means both Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman could continue to feature in the wide-attacking roles.
As for Thomas Muller, he will operate as the lone attacking midfielder. The German international will be crucial in carving up spaces in what is expected to be a rigid Leipzig backline.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Kovac will hand the trio of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha an opportunity in the first-team. Likely not given how successful the youngsters have been under the tutelage of the Croatian mastermind. But, we could expect them to feature late on, should Bayern seal the tie early in the game.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Alcantara; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowksi
Despite their defeat to Werder, Leipzig manager Ralf Rangnick is likely to retain the 4-4-2 formation he used last weekend. However, we could expect a lot of rotations given the quality of the opponent.
Lukas Klostermann is more than expected to replace Nordi Mukiele in the right-back position. It will be interesting to see how the German international fares against Alaba. Marcel Halstenberg, on the other hand, will be deployed on the opposite flank, where he will come up against his national teammate Kimmich.
Willi Orban is set to return at the heart of Leipzig’s four-man backline. He will partner Ibrahima Konate, who will replace Stefan Ilsankar in central defence. Both the defenders will look to keep a close eye on this season’s Torjagerkanone winner Lewandowksi.
In midfield, Konrad Laimer is likely to get the nod ahead of Ilsanker and Diego Demme. Kevin Kampl will partner the Austrian in the double-pivot. These two will be critical as Leipzig look to defend with their two banks of four, which means it will be vital for them to maintain a tight formation throughout the game.
Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer could be deployed in the wide-midfield slot to complete the second bank of four. These two will move in-field and operate in a central role during attacking phases. But, they will stay narrow during defensive stances, with fullbacks dropping deep. And finally, the Leipzig attack will be led by the trusted offensive duo of Werner and Poulsen.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Orban, Konate, Halstenberg; Sabitzer, Laimer, Kampl, Forsberg; Werner, Poulsen
- Niko Kovac has won 16 of his 17 cup matches as a coach. He lifted the trophy last season with Frankfurt against Bayern, only losing the 2017 final against Dortmund. He could become the first coach since Felix Magath in 2005 and 2006 to win back-to-back DFB Cups.
- Timo Werner is Leipzig’s top scorer in the cup this season with three goals. He has also scored five in three Bundesliga matches at the Olympiastadion against Hertha Berlin.
- Thomas Müller has scored 30 goals in his 49 DFB Cup appearances. Leipzig as a club have played just 29 cup games in their 10-year history.
- Robert Lewandowski has five DFB Cup goals this season, one behind Hamburg’s Pierre-Michael Lasogga. He could become the first player in history to finish as top scorer in three consecutive seasons.
- Leipzig are in their first DFB Cup final and are looking to become the 26th team to win the trophy.
Player to Watch
It could be a vital game for Gnabry who is likely to emerge as one of Bayern Munich’s most important attackers next season, when both Robben and Ribery leave the club. But, with the Bavarians reportedly trying to rope in Manchester City star Leroy Sane, the onus will be on Gnabry to impress Kovac. And helping Bayern winning the DFB Cup could be a fitting way to do so.
Gnabry was already regarded as one of Bundesliga’s best attackers during the 2018-19 campaign. The German international was involved in 17 league goals – making him the second most productive player for Bayern this season, despite managing just under 2,500 minutes of football.
Gnabry’s ability to take on defenders coupled with sheer pace will provide some genuine threat for Leipzig, especially on the break. And it will be imperative for the Leipzig defenders to keep hold of him if they are to lift the Cup this weekend.
Bayern Munich 1-2 RB Leipzig
Expect this to be a cagey affair, where both the sides will look to assert their dominance, especially in midfield. That’s why we think Leipzig may have the upper hand given their efficient and aggressive midfield unit that could exploit the ageing Martinez. Hence, we expect a 2-1 win for the East German giants.