Here we are again. For the fourth time in nine years, Bayern Munich meet Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal final. Berlin will be a divided city again. On the Red and White side, there’s the German champions, still smarting from their Champions League exit but unencumbered by another, bigger game, as they were in 2012, a week before the so-called final at home (v Chelsea) when Jürgen Klopp’s men thrashed them 5-2. The Black and Yellows, too, finished the league season on a slightly low note, playing out a 2-2 draw at home to 1. FC Köln that had Thomas Tuchel bemoaning a loss of “form and attitude”. There’s every chance the Borussia players were saving themselves for the final, of course, but sometimes it’s hard to switch gears.
If form counts for anything in this German Clasico, Bayern seem to have more momentum after their 3-1 win over Hannover. The Lower Saxons were already relegated and didn’t offer too much resistance but it was nevertheless instructive to see that a number of key players like Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribéry, Arturo Vidal and Jérôme Boateng were in very good shape. Mario Götze, too, scored two goals that will make him more likely to feature at the Olympic stadium on Saturday, albeit as a sub. Thomas Müller, rested last week, will certainly come back into the starting line-up.
Bayern will be without Arjen Robben, the Dutchman who’s scored winning goals against Dortmund in the last two finals (2014, in the cup; 2013 in the Champions League). Xabi Alonso and Javi Martinez have recovered from knocks to make the Berlin trip. Pep Guardiola has a wealth of options available in midfield but the only tough decision relates to the second centre-back spot next to Boateng. Joshua Kimmich or David Alaba might well be preferred to Medhi Benatia in light of the danger posed by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: pace.
Thomas Tuchel must hope that the striker (25 goals in the league) will regain the irresistible form from earlier in the season; his performances and scoring rate have tailed off a little over the last two months, when an ankle injury also had a negative impact. The Gabon international is unperturbed, however. “I’ll score two against Bayern,” he promised. All eyes will be on Mats Hummels, however. The pressure on the BVB captain to do well in his last competitive game before switching sides will be immense.
The absence of Ilkay Gündogan (knee cap) might tempt Tuchel to opt for a slightly more defensive line-up, with Gonzalo Castro and Julian Weigel holding midfield in a 4-2-3-1. A defence with three at the back that can become a five when Bayern attack is also an option. Dortmund came close to beating Bayern with that strategy in the thrilling 0-0 draw at the Signal Iduna Park in March. That scoreline was very misleading, as both teams created enough clear-cut chances for a 3-3 draw.
There should be goals in Berlin, perhaps more than usual in a final. Bayern are rightly seen as favourites - they have the better team and the better players - but that doesn’t always translate into a big difference when it comes to the result. The sheer attacking prowess on show at the Olympic stadium should make this a cracking contest.
Rafa’s Best Bets
Bayern First Goal. No goal, no bet 1.57
Total Goals Over 3.5 3.00