When Bayern Munich dismantled Barcelona, the world became aware that a new super power has emerged. Jupp Henyckes has steadily turned the Reds of Bavaria into the heavy weights of European Football. However, to make it stick at least for the time being, Dortmund (again) stand in the way of FC HOLLYWOOD. The very same team that denied them the domestic double last season.
The newly crowned German Champions upped the stakes this time around, winning the title with 6 rounds to spare and zooming through to the Pokal final (v. Stuttgart) exactly a week from today. They might have avenged the defeats to Dortmund with victories in the Super Cup and the Pokal last eight encounter, but the Bavarian red army are aware than anything other than victory tonight will be deemed totally unacceptable. It is now or never for Bayern Munich who have lost two finals in the last three seasons. Last year’s the more agonizing.
Borussia Dortmund’s story has been a fairytale one. Die Schwarzgelben failed woefully on the European front last season…Nevertheless, they came back strongly this time around, eliminating the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Malaga, etc to reach today’s showpiece event. The road to Wembley has been turbulent and difficult, but the Yellow and black army of Ruhr have weathered every storm since and tonight represents a chance to make up for what has been a disappointing domestic season.
The 2011/2012 Bundesliga Champions ended the season a massive 25 points behind Bayern Munich and were sent out of the Pokal by today;s opponents. Dortmund know quite alright that Bayern are not finished yet. The pain and ache emanating from the two championships they lost to the Ruhr giants in addition to the crushing 5-2 defeat in the Pokal Final last May remain(s) fresh Victory over Dortmund will be the perfect finale.
Die Borussen were dealt a huge blow on Wednesday with the news that Mario Gotze will sit out the Final. The Bayern bound midfielder has failed to win the fitness battle and will never have the chance to repay the Dortmund fans who have cheered his name for more than a decade. Whatever happens, the Bundesliga runners-up might never be able to come to terms with the Gotze transfer which hit Jurgen Klopp harder than anyone associated with the German high flyers.
In his interview with Donald McRae of the Guardian, he opined that when Michael Zorc (Dortmund Sporting Director) told him of Gotze’s move to Bayern, he was befuddled and couldn’t think about any other thing. He even had to skip an outing with his wife the very night and declined to speak with anyone. It was that hurtful. This development, amongst many others, will be enough motivation for Dortmund to get one over Bayern tonight. With or without Mario, Die Scwarzgelben have a chance to claim their second European crown tonight and that they will strive tooth and nail to achieve.
One injury Bayern have got used to for the past 5-6 months is the absence of Holger Badstuber. The German international sustained a career threatening injury in December and suffered a relapse two weeks ago. He has since undergone a corrective surgery under the famous Dr Richard Steadman which is expected to keep him out for another ten months.
In his stead, veteran Belgian, Danny Van Buyten has held sway, bringing all his experience to bare and combining almost perfectly with purchase of the season, Dante Costa Bonfim. The 29 year old Brazilian has earned rave reviews all season and deservedly so. That Bayern have remained ever so strong at the back in all competitions this campaign is largely down to his bravery and immense defensive capabilities. He has improved his strengths and worked on his weaknesses. He has stepped up since his 4.7 Million Euro move from Borussia Park.
Together with Captain Lahm and Alaba, the quartet have kept clean sheets in all their knock-out games since Laurent Koscielny scored at the Allianz Arena. Juventus and the almighty Barcelona were shut out home and away.
If Bayern have Van Buyten and Dante in central defence, Dortmund possess Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels. The latter was groomed by Bayern Munich. He left for Dortmund initially on loan, until it was made permanent in February 2009. He has since gone on to not only become an indispensable general of Klopp’s yellow and black army, but also one of the best defenders in the business.
Perhaps the most sought after centre back in the world, he must prove himself today – the biggest of his career to date. It is not as if Neven Subotic is anything less that world class. The Serbian has been a pillar at the back for Dortmund since his move from Mainz 05 five years ago.Only six days separate the pair (Neven and Mats) in age and both will not be 25 until December. Arguably the finest defensive pair in European football.
DORTMUND: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Gundogan, Bender S, Kuba, REUS, Groskreutz, Lewandowski
Roman Weidenfeller has been one of the best goalies in Europe this season. In fact, in one-on-one situations, he’s arguably the best. The 32 year old custodian is one of the reasons why Dortmund find themselves within 90 (120 at most) minutes of being crowned Champions of Europe for only the 2nd time ever. Lukasz Piszczek is scheduled to undergo a hip operation soon after the season draws to a close. Something that will keep him out of action for at least four months.
With the news that Gotze cannot feature, the absence of Mats Hummels would have been more excruciating for Die Borussen. The German defender has been declared fit to play. Club Captain, Sebastian Kehl has to make do with a place on the bench, with Sven Bender the preferred choice in midfield. Marco ‘Rolls’ Reus is expected to step into the void created by Gotze’s absence from this match and departure from next season. When called upon, he has not disappointed. He is one of the most talented footballers in the German top flight and discounting the threat he poses will be utterly fatal.
10-goal Pole, Roman Lewandowski, will look to redeem himself tonight after he inexplicably threw away the chance to score the winning goal v today’s foes at the Iduna a few weeks ago. Despite that, his exploits against Real Madrid brought the Football World to a standstill and comparisons with the deadliest finishers in the Universe became rampant and countless. He has the ability to tear apart any defence, including the very one that hasn’t conceded in four knockout games and counting.
Gotze might be absent, but Kev Groskreutz is no amateur. He has showed his capabilities when called upon and scored a classy goal in the match v Die Roten at the Iduna Park. He can do a job at Wembley, surely.
BAYERN MUNICH: Neuer, Lahm, Dante, Van Buyten, Alaba, Martinez J, Schweinsteiger, MULLER-ROBBEN-RIBERY, Mandzukic
Manuel Neuer is comfortably seated among the best five goaltenders in the world and rightly so. He is not Germany’s Number One by default. Four straight clean sheets against Juventus and the Blaugrana is no mean feat. He is ably supported in defence by Lahm, Dante, Van Buyten and David Alaba.
The Bayern skipper, Lahm, is the most disciplined full back in football today and it is an official statement of fact. Jerome Boateng made a huge impression at the Camp Nou when Bayern ran riot. However, this might not be enough to keep out Van Buyten from the starting eleven. Toni Kroos has not been missed one bit. A better and more talented footballer (at least for now) has replaced him and performed even better.
Arjen Robben, one half of the ROBBERY gang, has been almost unplayable since the Kroos injury. He tore Jordi Alba inside out and ensured that the left back got suspended for the return leg in Catalonia. He scored against the Spanish Champions home and away and put in some of the best all round displays you would ever ask of a winger. How Jupp Henyckes made him so habituated still baffles me. Javi Martinez didn’t allow his Spanish compatriots a moment’s rest in the Barcelona game.
Xavi and Iniesta were vastly ineffective and it was down to his energetic display throughout the 180 minutes. He hassled and hassled until frustration set in for his more illustrious colleagues. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support and extraordinary contribution of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The cornerstone of the Bayern midfield and one of the best deep lying playmakers in the world rarely has a bad game.
After keeping Andrea Pirlo in wraps during both legs of the quarter-final, it was the turn of Xavi Hernandez to be reduced to mere mediocrity. ‘Schweini’ as he is fondly called, is a contender for best footballer of 2013 if the Bavarians win the Champions League.
Franck Ribery needs no analysis. What he has is clear for all to see. It is the Croat, Mario Mandzukic, who has surprised everyone with his mesmerizing performances. HE has relegated Mario Gomez to the subs bench and fittingly so. He doesn’t score many, but his industry is a vital element. It is Thomas Muller who carries with him all the ammunition necessary to gun down their arch-enemies. His eight Champions League goals have come against the likes of Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona.
He is a big game player and has proven that so many times. The 2010 World Cup top scorer and best young player keeps improving. Whatever role he plays-whether behind the striker or on the wings, he gives his utmost.
A combined Bayern-Dortmund ELEVEN in my opinion will be—-> NEUER, Lahm, Dnate, Hummels, Schmelzer, Schweinsteiger, Gundogan, Muller, REUS, Robben, Lewandowski.
You may agree or disagree. It is my humble opinion.
Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime
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