Preview: UEFA Champions League Final: Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund

UEFA Champions League Draw

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will take their rivalry to a whole new level when the two sides will emerge from the tunnel at the Wembley stadium to face off in this season’s Champions League final.

Just a few years ago, the Bavarian giants came to the rescue when they handed a sum of €2m on an interest free loan to Dortmund to facilitate the payment of players’ wages as the Westfalenstadion club came on the verge of bankruptcy. Proper management system at Die Schwarzgelben ensured their revival and a subsequent shift in power saw Borussia Dortmund lift the Bundesliga title on two consecutive occasions in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 season. However Bayern, having comfortably regained the title from Dortmund this season, have now set their sights on winning their fifth Champions League trophy.

The recent announcement of the transfer of Dortmund starlet Mario Götze to Bayern has not helped in reducing the animosity between the clubs and though Götze won’t feature in the match owing to an injury he suffered in the semifinal against Real Madrid, tension between the two sets of players will be at an all-time high.

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga

Despite finishing 25 points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, Jurgen Klopp’s men have proved their mettle in the Champions League. After topping the group that consisted of the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, Dortmund swept aside Shakhtar Donetsk in the Round of 16. The team had to toil hard over the two legs against La Liga side Malaga in the quarter finals and two controversial goals from Marco Reus and Felipe Santana scored in injury time ensured their advancement into the semifinals, where they were drawn against nine time champions Real Madrid. Dortmund thrashed Real Madrid 4-1 at home after striker Robert Lewandowski made fun of Real’s defence and scored all four goals for his side on the night. The Germans had a torrid time at the Santiago Bernabeu but managed to hang on and advance to the finals with a 4-3 aggregate score line.

Dortmund’s weakness is the lack of depth in their squad and with Mario Götze ruled out of the final due to injury, Klopp will have to think hard about the formation of his starting XI. The influential manager might be forced to tinker a bit with his preferred 4-3-3 formation and adopt a 4-4-2 to accommodate Kevin Großkreutz in place of Götze. Großkreutz inclusion might prove to be a blessing in disguise as the German workhorse will get involved in tracking back and defending more than Mario Götze would have done. Dortmund are also sweating on the fitness of star defender Mats Hummels who damaged his ankle in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Hoffenheim.

With Lewandowski leading the attack up front, Marco Reus will operate from just behind him in support. The fluidity with which Dortmund can switch play from defense to attack is frightening. The composure that every Dortmund player possesses in his favoured position is enviable and it is this trait that has brought so much success for the club in the past few years.

Manager’s Quote:

“If you look at the results of Bayern Munich this season, they basically destroyed anyone in a heartbeat – anyone but us and that is what matters now. We’ve always fought back and we can beat Bayern Munich. We know this, and so do they But we have to make it come true now. We know we will play against probably the best team in the world at this moment in time but we also know we are the only ones who have the weapons to be an actual threat to them. And this is exactly what we want to capitalize on.”

Expected XI:

Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Błaszczykowski, Gündoğan, Kehl, Großkreutz; Reus, Lewandowski.

Bayern Munich

FC Bayern Muenchen v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg

Bayern Munich is perhaps the unluckiest club to have missed out on the chance of adding another Champions League title to their trophy cabinet despite making it to the finals in last two out of three attempts. The Bavarian giants strengthened their squad over the summer and announced the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri, Dante, Mario Mandzukic and Javi Martinez in a bid to avenge their heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Chelsea in last season’s final held in their own backyard. Placed in Group F alongside Valencia, Lille and BATE Borisov, Bayern emerged as group winners with 4 wins and 1 draw in their 6 games. The side travelled to London to face Arsenal in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie and emerged victorious with a 3-1 score line. The reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena proved to be a tricky one but in the game that had 9 players receiving yellow cards, the Die Rotens held their nerves and advanced to the quarter finals on the basis of away goals. Juventus were expected to provide a strong competition in the quarter finals but Bayern swept aside the challenge posed by the Serie A giants and glided into the next round with a 4-0 aggregate win. Up next were Barcelona at home and this was the game that confirmed Bayern’s supremacy in Europe. Barcelona were humiliated over the two legs as Bayern thrashed the newly crowned La Liga champions with a 7-0 aggregate score line.

This will be Jupp Heynckes’ penultimate game as the manager of Bayern Munich and the players will be determined to win the game for their retiring manager. With no major injury concerns and all players in fine form, Heynckes has the luxury of starting his strongest XI in the most important game of the season. Philipp Lahm will once again lead the side out of the tunnel while Manuel Neuer is an automatic starter in between the posts. The midfield duo of Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger has forged a great partnership as the season has progressed and can once again expect to start. Up front, Mandzukic’s fine goal scoring form has forced Mario Gomez to sit on the bench and the same can be expected for this match.

Manager’s Quote:

“I have never experienced this, and that’s why this is an extraordinary season. We have broken almost all records. Normally when you score a lot of goals you also concede a lot, but … players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Mario Gomez, Mandžukić, Thomas Müller, Shaqiri, they have all learned to defend as well. That is essential in today’s football. I think that football has changed, it has become more complex. For example, it’s faster, you have less free space and you have to play from such small spaces. Also the players, and player generations have changed, so that means that communication with the players is different nowadays.”

Expected XI:

Neuer; Lahm, Dante, Boateng, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Muller, Ribery; Mandzukic.

Some Stats:

  1. Bayern Munich have scored 29 goals in this season’s Champions League while Borussia Dortmund have hit the back of the net 23 times.
  2. Bayern have fired in an average of 16.8 shots per Champions League game, the fourth highest ratio in this year’s competition. Dortmund average 14.6 shots per game, the 10th best figure.
  3. Both sides have conceded 10 Champions League in this European campaign. After conceding 10 goals in their first eight Champions League games this season, Bayern have kept four clean sheets in a row.
  4. Bayern’s top scorer in this season’s Champions League is Thomas Muller (eight). He has scored 27.6% of the Bavarians’ goals. In contrast, Robert Lewandowski is Dortmund’s top marksman with 10 goals, 43.5% of his side’s total goals.
  5. Bayern boast a pass completion percentage of 85.5%, the fourth highest in this year’s competition, compared to Dortmund’s 79%, the seventh lowest pass success rate.

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