Bayern Munich may well be favourites to lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley Stadium this weekend, but their opponents have every chance of causing a minor upset.
Here are five reasons why Borussia Dortmund will win the Champions League.
1. Jurgen Klopp
Klopp reminds me of Sir Alex Ferguson – a tactical genius and a man who can fire up his players when a confidence boost is most needed.
On several occasions this season, Dortmund have let a lead slip but managed to recover and come out victorious. This can be put down to Klopp’s encouragement - clearly highlighted in the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.
Dortmund had just been denied a penalty, then Madrid quickly broke away and scored at the other end. The young team looked deflated and heads dropped. Luckily, it was just before half-time to allow Klopp to give them a sense of belief during the team-talk.
His side then went out and scored three more goals which, ultimately, sent them through to the final. So, despite being underdogs for the final, I feel Klopp will focus his team, give them belief and tell them to take the game to Bayern.
2. Bayern’s temper
The Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich earlier this month saw Bayern receive four yellow cards and one red, compared to Dortmund’s one yellow.
Bayern had only received eight yellow cards for the entire season prior to the match. Dortmund frustrated them, tempers rose, tackling became erratic.
The anticipation for Bayern in the final will be phenomenal, having falling at the final hurdle against Inter Milan and Chelsea in recent years. They will get stuck in, they will be eager to finally taste continental glory.
However, if it is a repeat of Saturday’s game where Dortmund held the ball and matched them physically, Bayern will have to be cautious. Giving away too many free-kicks around the box could be deadly given Marco Reus’s free-kick ability.
Dortmund also pose an aerial threat in the form of Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic getting on the end of balls delivered from either Mario Gotze, Marco Reus or Jakub Blaszczykowski.
3. Dortmund’s physical presence
Bayern’s steamrolling of Barcelona was down to their sheer ability to outmuscle their opponents. As good as Xavi and Andres Iniesta are, they were no match for Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Dante and Jerome Boateng towered over Barca’s little attackers and didn’t them the slightest of chances. However, when teams can match Bayern’s physicality and take the game to them, Bayern get flustered. This was highlighted in the second leg against Arsenal, where the Londoners battled and fought for every ball. Mikel Arteta bossed the midfield and Bayern become error-prone, narrowly progressing to the quarter-finals. Dortmund battled on Saturday and Bayern lost their cool.
Many say games can be won or lost in the middle of the park. Both Dortmund and Bayern play the modern 4-2-3-1 with two deep-lying midfielders to allow the three attacking midfielders to flourish.
Dortmund’s two deep-lying midfielders Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan have been exceptional all season, with Gundogan being particularly outstanding against Madrid. Bender sits and soaks up any attacks to allow Gundogan to act as a deep-lying playmaker to provide for the forward four. They work in tandem, very similarly to Martinez and Schweinsteiger.
The battle of the midfielders will be fascinating and whichever pair comes out on top, could be the engine behind their team’s victory.
Bayern tend to focus their play down the wings with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben or when Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos drift out wide. Luckily for Dortmund they have the formidable Lukasz Piszczek at right-back to shut down any attacks Bayern attempt down their left flank, as he did excellently against Madrid and keeping Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.
Another key battle in the game will be the one between Pizczek and Ribery, with the powerful Pole towering 14cm over the fantastic Frenchman. If the left-side is closed down, Bayern may took to exploit the right and challenge the Dortmund left-back, Marcel Schmelzer. But unluckily for Bayern, Schmelzer has been fantastic in the Champions League. If Bayern do get some balls into the box, their attackers will have to try and beat the giants of Hummels and Subotic to the ball.
Both teams can outmuscle most teams so the physical battle between the two could decide the game.
4. The golden trio
Whereas Bayern have the attacking clout of Ribery, Robben, Muller and Kroos, Dortmund have the troublesome trio of Gotze, Reus and Blaszczykowski.
The trio have provided seven goals and eight assists in the Champions League on top of their 33 goals and 28 assists in the Bundesliga this season. Reus is a player with the technique and speed to slice through any defence and set up his incoming teammates or finish the chance himself.
Gotze’s fitness is in doubt but should he play, he will be the tricky maestro in the pocket just behind Robert Lewandowski playing through balls to cut Bayern’s defence. Blaszczykowski is the out-and-out right winger that can whip in a ball that can panic the best of defences.
5. Robert Lewandowski
Heavily linked with a move away from Dortmund in the summer, the big Pole showed exactly how deadly he is against Madrid. Scoring 33 goals across the Bundesliga and Champions League this season, he is the focal point of Dortmund’s attack.
However, he was wasteful in the second leg in Madrid and had a golden chance from the penalty spot to win the game against Bayern. If he rises to the occasional on May 25, like he did in the first leg against Madrid, he could be difference between the two very well-matched teams.
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