Bayern look in top gear but it won’t be one-way traffic
Munich are much stronger on paper and Dortmund have it all to do tonight in Wembley Stadium
A Bayern Munich fan outside Wembley Stadium ahead of the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
If the chaos in the flight paths above London yesterday didn’t do the trick then the gridlock on the roads from airport to stadium should certainly have served as a timely reminder to the managers of this year’s Champions League finalists that even the most meticulously made plans are subject to outside forces.
Having restored their dominance in some style back at home this year, Bayern Munich start tonight’s game as fairly hot favourites. Certainly Thomas Müller, their top scorer in the competition so far, was in particularly cocky mood at the team’s pre-match press conference and suggested that the team doesn’t have any flaws.
More realistically, Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp observed with a smile. “You can’t be so good that you can be sure.” If the Bayern camp has started to believe he is wrong then it might well be their undoing.
On the face of it, they do have some cause for confidence. After back to back Bundesliga titles, Dortmund’s domestic form this year would appear to undermine the widely made claim that this match pits the two best teams in Europe against each other.
25 point gap
Bayern have certainly been good this season but the six defeats and nine draws and nine draws recorded by their closest rivals went at least as far in explaining the 25 point gap between the two sides in the final league table.
Real Madrid can attest to just how devastating they can be on their day but Jose Mourinho’s side really should, it might be argued, have overturned the 4-1 defeat they suffered in their semi-final first leg when the two sides met again a week later in the Bernabeu while Malaga must still regard their last gasp defeat in the previous round as a gross injustice.
The spirit of adventure Klopp instils in his team to be admired and Dortmund are certainly one of the most entertaining sides around to watch but they certainly live dangerously at times, misplacing passes and surrendering possession more than most coaches could countenance in their haste to get forward.
The 45-year-old was all smiles and jokes at his press conference but he is certainly no clown. “Are they (the police) not allowed to use those blue lights in England?” he asked with a laugh after arriving late to stadium. “It would be useful tomorrow, otherwise we might not make to the match in time . . . If anyone knows a policeman, could they ask him please.”
When a remotely controlled camera descended into the middle of a circle made by his players during the training that followed, however, his smile was rather less good natured and though the operator was a safe distance away, his camera beat a hasty retreat.
Bayern are unlikely to do the same this evening although they must surely be wary deep down of losing a third final in this competition in just four years. Last year they dominated Chelsea and yet didn’t quite do enough to merit victory, a fact tacitly acknowledged by Müller.
This time, one suspects, the are well equipped to drive their advantage home although neither side could get the better of the other when they played in the league and Bayern’s win in the cup was a narrow affair.
But this one, suggested Klopp, is rather different. “It’s for the biggest cup in the world,” he said. “It’s only one game but nobody wants to lose, to give it up. We want to give everything for 90 or 120 minutes to take their chance. But,” he acknowledged, “they want to do the same of course.”
The club they set out wanting to do it against, suggested Müller and Philipp Lahm, was Barcelona and the manner in which they swept aside a team, widely hailed after their victory here just two years ago as possibly the best ever, certainly suggested this Bayern group have the potential for greatness too.
To achieve it, success at home where they enjoy all the advantages over their rivals is not nearly enough. They are, on paper, stronger than their opponents in just about every department bar up front, especially now that the exuberantly talented midfielder Mario Götze, who will join them over the summer, is missing from the Dortmund midfield through injury.
To make their superiority tell is the challenge, though, and Klopp says his side’s approach will be to adopt a tactical plan designed “to bring them down to our level because when they are on our level we can beat them.”
To do it, his central defensive partnership of Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels will have to be at their best and Robert Lewandowski might have something like the impact he did in last year’s German cup final when he bagged a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over the Bavarians.
Just about any measure of current form suggests it will not happen but Bayern’s record at stage of this competition offers some hope and then there is the fact that Dortmund’s one previous European title came after their southern rivals had last got in the way of a hat-trick of titles.
They’ll do remarkably well to repeat the trick but it is, at least, unlikely to be one way traffic.