Saturday’s finale promises to be one of the more appealing Champions League finals in recent memory. Last year pitted an effective counter-attacking Chelsea team against Bayern; two years before saw Inter Milan performed the same trick against the same opposition. The year in between was perhaps the most aesthetic – if one-sided – final in recent memory as Barcelona ran rings around a helpless Manchester United side.
But this time around, the two most exciting and deserving teams in Europe find themselves only ninety minutes from the most important trophy in club football. And those ninety minutes promise to be spectacular. Well, it could well go beyond 90 minutes…
After a good spell in the ’70s when Bayern Munich won the European top competition three times in a row, they have only won it once since, in 2000 against Valencia. Die Roten went close in 2010 and even closer last year and the German Champions are heavily favoured to defeat Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in their third Champions League Final since the turn of the decade.
This season’s UEFA Champions League competition has been a surprise package in a number of ways in that two teams that many pundits picked to win it all (Barcelona and Real Madrid) fell short. The English Premier League big guns that have dominated the competition in the past decade didn’t have a single team in the quarter finals and most surprisingly, two German teams will be contesting the final on Saturday at Wembley. This is further proof of the strength of the German league.The Bundesliga has not always been a division to reckon with in European football, but their showing this season amongst the best European clubs has really made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. For me, the Bundesliga has to be the ‘best football league’ in the world right now. They have come a long way since the World cup in 2006 and the football development plans put in place have finally begun to bear fruits. Pep Guardiola, arguably the most-sought after manager of his generation, would not have gone to Germany, Bayern Munich to be precise if that were not the case.
Bayern head into this fixture in superb form, having won 13 of their last 14 games in all competitions. The Bavarians came through the Champions League group stages as winners of Group F ahead of Valencia, BATE Borisov and Lille. Jupp Heynckes’ side overcame Arsenal on away goals in the round of 16 and defeated Juventus 4-0 on aggregate in the last eight before a stunning 7-0 two-legged victory over Barcelona booked their place in this weekend’s Wembley final.
Dortmund won Group D ahead of Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City before easing past Shakhtar Donetsk 5-2 on aggregate in the last 16. Jürgen Klopp’s men then enjoyed a late quarter-final victory over Malaga before a 4-3 aggregate semi-final win over Real Madrid secured their final place.
Bayern’s experience and ability to score from every midfield position could be the difference in the game. They not only get goals from their wide players, Robben and Ribery; Toni Kroos, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Tomas Muller are also goal scoring threats and don’t bet against Martinez or Bastian finding the back of the net if they find themselves in goal scoring positions.
Borussia Dortmund on the other hand are a young, exciting side ably coached by the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp. They are also a team already in transition. After rearing a clutch of brilliant young players and riding them to the peak of European football, Jurgen Klopp has already begun to bid farewell to the club’s best players but he’ll hope they will make one final push and win the Champions trophy before making their exits in the summer.
With the most talented German of his generation – Mario Goetze – sitting this final out, Die Schwarzgelben will rely heavily upon the heavil-gifted midfielders Marco Reus, Kevin Großkreutz and Ilkay Gundogan to generate their offence and provide the ammunition for Lewandowski to punish the Bayern defenders. The Polish striker has already netted ten goals in 12 Champions League appearances this campaign as well as 24 in 31 Bundesliga matches.
Amazingly, Die Roten have lost only three times all season – to Bayern Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, BATE Borisov in the Champions League Group stage and in a may-as-well-have-been-dead rubber against Arsenal in the same competition’s round of sixteen. Surely they have got to be favorites and it will be a shock and utter disappointment (especially for the retiring Jupp Heynckes) if they don’t get the trophy at Wembley.
These two teams have faced each other four times this season, with Bayern Munich winning two of them and the other two ending in 1-1 draws. My heart says a Dortmund win but my head has given it to Bayern Munich.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: BAYERN MUNICH WIN (3-1)