It is not breaking news that this Saturday night at Wembley Stadium in London Town, the Champions League final will be contested by two German teams, the yellow blacks of Borussia Dortmund and FC Hollywood themselves Bayern Munich but it is a fixture to leave butterflies in the stomach.
Bayern Munich go into this final as favourites over their rivals but if this season’s cup winners are anything to go by then it is anyone’s game. Swansea and Wigan won domestic silverware in England, we have a Rome derby to contest the Coppa Italia despite neither Roma or Lazio being anywhere near top draw in recent times, Saint Ettiene won the French League Cup with Evian a chance of winning the French Cup next week and Atletico Madrid finally getting the royal monkey of their cross town rivals off their back winning the Copa del Rey. A fascinating list of upsets and unexpected triumphs so Bayern will have to be on top of their game if they are to turn favouritism into silverware.
Bayern have been here before, favourites against Chelsea last year in their own stadium and were expected to make a better fist of things three years ago against Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan side. They seem to be the bridesmaid and never the bride but in what is going to be Jupp Heynckes’ final game in football management they may finally have found the one winning formula that has been absence in recent Bayern teams, hard work.
It is certainly a shock to most Chelsea, Real Madrid and even Munich fans to see Arjen Robben tracking back and helping his full back because until this season, it just didn’t happen. Robben has also worked hard on being and staying fit and with that in mind and an injury to the brilliant Toni Kroos he has turned into Bayern’s European X Factor. Always capable of the spectacular but he is also adding much needed cover to his full backs. Exactly the same can be said about Frank Ribery. The often-maligned Frenchman has knuckled down and has had a fantastic season. Dortmund’s full backs, Marcel Schmelzer and Lukas Pisczek will have their work cut out in keeping these two guys quiet.
In addition to what was already at Munich’s disposal came a huge summer for a team that ended last season pot less. The little known Brazilian Dante was signed from Borussia Monchengladbach for a nominal fee in Bayern terms and has moved extremely close to the world class category this season. He has been a rock and is always capable of scoring from corners. Mario Mandzukic signed in the summer as an alternative to Mario Gomez after the Croatian had a fantastic Euro 2012. He has moved from alternative to the big German striker to an upgrade to him and will be leading the line once again on Saturday, a perfect signing.
Javi Martinez was also added to the roster late on last summer after struggling to come to an agreement in terms of fee with the Spaniards club, Athletic Bilbao. Bayern forked out a huge amount on Martinez and despite a season at centre back in Spain last year, Heynckes moved him into his preferred position of midfield and along with Bastian Schweinsteiger have provided a tremendous wall in front of Dante and co.
Despite these fantastic signings and the strength of Manuel Neuer Phillip Lahm, Thomas Muller, Schweinsteiger, Robben and Ribery there may be one man in particular who they will be cursing they missed out on last summer and that is Marco Reus.
Reus will line up in yellow and black after a high profile snubbing of Bayern last season to sign for Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund from Monchengladbach. With 19 goals from attacking midfield this season in all competitions and four in Europe, including the opener at the Etihad against Manchester City, Reus will be hugely important for Klopp on Saturday.
Mario Gotze will be a Bayern Munich player this summer and has been ruled out of the final meaning that Reus’ position and importance has almost doubled. He is the creator where the hard working Kevin Grosskreutz and Poland captain Kuba Blaszczykowski will work around. Reus would usually play wide and switch but could be taking up the number ten role, the gaping hole that has been left by Gotze.
That is the more likely way around the attacking problem in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 formation. The other one is to push Ilkay Gundogan into the number ten role and Nuri Sahin in the centre of the park next to Bender.
Despite formation, Reus will be important and he could prove himself to be a real match winner this weekend playing behind Polish hitman Robert Lewandowski, who could also be on his way to the Allianz Arena this summer, if reports are to be believed.
Dortmund’s strength in the two seasons before this one was a settled partnership at the back in Nevan Subotic and Mats Hummels. This has been disrupted through injury to both this year and if Hummels, a former youth product at Bayern is passed fit after a scare last weekend, Dortmund have a terrific base to build upon and a key to be able to let Reus especially show Bayern what they are really missing.