Mario Gotze has been ruled out of the Champions League final this Saturday as he has been struggling with a hamstring injury since the semi-final second-leg against Real Madrid.
On the face of it, this may seem as a disaster for Borussia Dortmund, even the bookmakers have slashed the odds for a Bayern Munich win since the announcement. However, it may not be as bad as first seems.
Gotze has been on fantastic form this season, forming a formidable attacking force with Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski.
The 20-year-old German has scored 12 goals and provided 14 assists across the Bundesliga and Champions League this season, so his absence will be a minor blow to Dortmund's chances. But only a minor blow.
Just before Dortmund first-leg tie against Real Madrid, it was announced that Bayern Munich had triggered Gotze's €37m release clause and that he had agreed terms to team up with (what will be) Pep Guardiola's side in the summer.
The early announcement of the move would have made Gotze's appearance in the final awkward. If he was playing, the occasion may get too much for the young German and his performance could have suffered. Even the greatest professionals would find it difficult to play at their best against their future employers.
Say he scored the winner in the fourth minute of added time, his reception in the Bayern Munich dressing room would be far from friendly. So maybe his exclusion from the final is the best case scenario for the player.
In the 2011/12 season, Gotze was diagnosed with a hip injury that ruled him out of the second half of the season. During that season, Gotze's absence did not adversely affect the team's performance as they secured their second Bundesliga title in a row. However, this was a Borussia Dortmund side that contained the brilliant Shinji Kagawa, who would later leave for Manchester United. Marco Reus returned to Dortmund as his replacement with devastating effect.
eus has scored more goals, provided more assists and averaged a higher whoscored.com rating than his Japanese counterpart. With Reus and Jakub Blaszczykowski in Klopp's armament, Dortmund do not completely rely on Gotze.
Kevin Grosskreutz is the most likely player that Klopp will opt for as a replacement to Gotze on May 25. The versatile German replaced Gotze in the second half of the 2011/12 season and in the second leg against Real Madrid.
Whereas Gotze is a fantastic attacking player, Grosskreutz is a better all round player. He has the ability to play anywhere down either flank, from full back to winger. It will be expected that Klopp will move Reus into the central attacking midfield role, behind Lewandowski, with Grosskreutz down the left and Blaszczykowski on the right wing.
Grosskreutz's ability to track back and defend could be greatly advantageous for Dortmund. As he did against Real Madrid, he can form a partnership with the left-back, Schmelzer, and shut down any attack that Bayern Munich try down their right side. The other advantage is that it allows Reus to play a lot more centrally, allowing him to be move involved in the game and work his usual magic with even more effect.
Cup finals can be decided by the slimmest of margins, but it does not look like Gotze's absence will tip the scales in Bayern Munich's favour. It is shaping up to be a great final and hopefully the best team, on the night, wins.
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