Champions League Tactical Preview: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund



The biggest game in club football takes place on Saturday night, when Bayern Munich face Borussia Dortmund in the final of the Champions League.

Domestically, Bayern had much the better season, winning the Bundesliga in some style and finishing 25 points above Dortmund. That being said, Dortmund still possess a serious threat, having battered Real Madrid 4-1 in the first leg of their semi-final. They can count on a great deal of individual quality, despite the absence of the injured Mario Götze. With Munich's demolition of Barcelona still fresh in the memory, the Bavarians are favourites to lift the trophy 1.75, whilst Dortmund are at 4.80.


Probable line-ups

Götze's absence is a major blow for Dortmund; he is perhaps their key creative presence. Kevin Grosskreutz replaced Götze when he went off injured against Madrid and thus could start in place of the Bayern-bound playmaker on Saturday evening. Mats Hummels is also a slight doubt but is expected to be fit.


For Munich, Toni Kroos is still injured, which means that Arjen Robben will start at right wing with Thomas Muller moved to a more central position. Mario Mandzukic should get the nod up front with Mario Gomez on the bench, whilst Jerome Boateng will feature in the absence of long-term injury casualty Holger Badstuber.


Bayern's attacking threat

Bayern have been prolific in front of goal this season, netting seven times against Barcelona and scoring a stunning 98 goals in the Bundesliga (17 more than Dortmund). One thing the Bavarians have done particularly well this season is spread the goals around, with four players notching ten or more in the league. This will make Dortmund's job particularly hard; there are multiple danger men who need to be thwarted.

Bayern's two defensive midfielders, Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger, win the ball and distribute it to more attacking players, spreading the play to the wings when they can. Dortmund would do well to try to crowd out these two players, thus stopping Bayern attacks at source. Schweinsteiger in particular has a huge influence: in the first leg against Barcelona he had more touches of the ball (62) than any other Munich player, demonstrating his importance to the side.

Munich attack aggressively out wide, with Robben and Ribery aided by overlapping full-backs Phillip Lahm and David Alaba. As such, Dortmund's wide men will have to work incredibly hard, tracking their opposite numbers but also looking to get in behind them on the counter-attack.


Can Lewandowski make the difference for Dortmund?

Robert Lewandowski is one of the most sought-after forwards in Europe, having scored 24 goals in 31 league appearances this season. He also, of course, hit four against Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final. The Pole is available at 6.50 to score first and 3.05 to notch anytime.

With Götze out, Lewandowski and Marco Reus are undoubtedly the main men for Dortmund. But Bayern have been incredibly miserly at the back this season, conceding just 18 goals in their 34 league games - by far the best defensive record in the league. It's also worth noting that the German Champions kept out Barcelona over two legs, which further demonstrates their defensive solidity.


Conclusion

Bayern Munich's attacking threat makes them favourites for the title. Mandzukic, Muller, Robben and Ribery form one of the most dynamic attacking quartets in world football today, and are ably supported by Lahm, Schweinsteiger et al.

The key issue for Dortmund is whether they can cut off the supply to Bayern's attacking players by pressing Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez aggressively. Although the loss of Mario Götze is a blow, they can still rely on the firepower and threat posed by Robert Lewandowski, who is in exceptional form going into this game. We might be in for a very interesting duel between Lewandowski and Bayern's dominant centre-back, Dante.

Whatever happens, we should be in for an exceptional game of football between two brilliant attacking teams.


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