Yes, you read it right. Bayern Munchen may play the best football in the world at the moment, but their history in the Champions League has been heart-breaking in the last 30 years.
A football saying states that the germans are beaten only when they are in the bus leaving the stadium. Another one says that when the germans play poor they reach the final, and when they play good they win it.
The fact is that Bayern lost five of their last six Champions League finals, including soul-devastating losses like the one against Manchester United (1999) or, more recent, against Chelsea last year. Only Benfica lost more in this time-span. No matter how the game looked on paper and on the pitch, no matter how good the bavarians played or how favoured they were before the game, Bayern ended up on the losing side for most of their last 30 years. The lone, but unforgetable, exception remains the 2001 triumph against Valencia, with Oliver Kahn as the hero. Had Kahn not made a historic match, we would be talking about 6 consecutive finals lost. Brrrr. So, the question is asked again. Why does Bayern keep losing these Champions League finals. And will it be different this time?
It`s not the oponents. Last year they were heavily favoured against Chelsea. It`s not their game. Spectacular football from Bayern was played in almost all these lost championship matches. Could it be bad luck? It could, Chelsea didn`t deserve to win last season, Manchester United scored twice in the last 2 minutes of the game back in 1999 … but good luck also came Bayern`s way in the 2001 final. It seems more plausible that the bavarians simply can`t handle the pressure.
I start to feel a little unfair towards this faboulous team, but Thomas Muller himself is being more harsh than I am. “We will be chokers if we lose again. We must win this time, there is no excuse”. Maybe the pressure isn`t the reason for losing in the finals, otherwise Thomas wouldn`t put so much of it on his team`s shoulders.
Saturday night Bayern faces a team which played only one Champions League final, and won it en-fanfare. As good as the bavarians play this year, they aren`t in any way sure winners against a side that has shown fantastic football over the course of this Champions League season. It`s true that Heynkess` team has not lost to Borussia this season and won the Bundesliga confortably, but in a Champions League final things are different – Bayern knows it best.
There aren`t too many injuries and/or suspensions between the two teams, but Dortmund received a serious blow once the absence of Mario Gotze was confirmed. The fact that the future Bayern player will not play tonight due to an injury has made headlines, and it remains to be seen how much his absence will weight, especially against a Bayern midfield that has shown superiority over Borussia this season. One thing is for sure though: no Dortmund fan will miss public-enemy Gotze on saturday night. Emerging star Kevin Grosskreutz will probably start in Mario`s place. Bayern Munchen can`t count on injured Badtstuber, with Van Buyten being his probable replacement at the back. Toni Kroos remains sidelined for last years finalists.
Both teams have played great offensive football this season and it`s only natural to expect an open, free-flowing and high scoring game. While I`m sure it will be a spectacular final, goals may or may not come. Finals are always tight, the stakes usually limiting the risk. Both teams could have problems if they open themselves too much.
With not too much separating this two teams, the difference could be made on the flanks, where Bayern has the ability to accelerate with Robben and Ribery. While Borussia is solid in the center-court, the reason they have been dominated by the bavarians is the ability Bayern has to open the game on the wings. Dortmund does not have a proper answer to this and it will be interesting to see how the flamboyant Jurgen Klopp responds to this problem against experienced Jupp Heynkess. On the other hand, Borussia could benefit from Badstuber`s absence and press in the centre, where their main strengh lies, even without Gotze.
This will be a tight one, and could really go either way, Bayern have the slight advantage but with their record in the finals and with Borussia`s potential in a good day, it`s hard to say what will happen. Expect a well-balanced match, with a nice rythm but no unnesecary risks from either of the two teams. One goal difference or extra time could decide this.
The question asked at the start of the article should have an answer and a conclusion to it. It doesn`t. But it will have one saturday night. This Champions League final will show us what Bayern Munchen are made of. And most of all, it will show us that beautiful football with whom we all fell in love years ago.