Friday, May 24, 2013

Champions League Final Preview: Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund

As not enough of you know, the Champions League Final happens tomorrow, 5/25/2013, at like 7 PM on Fox Soccer Channel, or maybe sometime earlier on a different network. As less of you know, it's an all-German final this year. After Bayern Munich arsoned Barcelona in a 7-0 aggregate victory and Borussia Dortmund snuck away with a 4-3 win against Real Madrid, Germany will finally reclaim itself as a soccer powerhouse on Saturday, as a guaranteed winner will come from the most-liked (according to recent studies) and most-populated (according to Google) country in Europe.



Before getting into predictions, how exactly did we get here? Pretty simple on Bayern's end. They took a dump on basically every team they played. Only Arsenal even gave them a minor scare, but anyone who watched that series knows it was more a case of Bayern complacency than any sort of Arsenal excellence (by the way, does such a thing even exist? Arsenal is just not that good...). Dortmund had a trickier route. They hardly snuck by Malaga in the quarterfinals, scoring two goals after the 90th minute of the second leg (both of which were needed due to the lovely away goal rule) to win 3-2. Then, after decimating Real 4-1 in the first leg, they held on for a 2-0 loss in the second leg, sealing their place in Wembley.

Now individually, this looks like an easy call. Bayern have been absolutely unstoppable this season, owners of the most talented group of players in the world. Dortmund have a good squad of young ballers, but their shining star, Mario Gotze, is not only leaving for Bayern in the summer, he's also injured for the final! So scratch off Dortmund's most Bayern-esque talent. Through and through, Bayern are better. The goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, is the best in the world. The defense features quick, versatile outside backs in Alaba and Lahm (also one of the world's best players), a good-footed giant in Dante, and some steel in Van Buyten (very slow steel, but steel nonetheless). The midfield is so ridiculous I hardly want to write about it, but as a blogger, feel that it's my obligation. (WARNING, ADULT SECTION, IGNORE IF YOU ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18) But just to make sure we all understand how good this group is, I'm going to emphasize it, giving an exclamation point for every time I jizzed in my pants looking at the name.

Ribery. !!!
Robben. !!!
Muller. !!!
Martinez. !!!
Schweinsteiger. !!!

!!!!!!!!

Um, I'm gonna go clean up. Hang on. I'll finish this later.(END OF WARNING)


Ok we're chill.

You get the point. There's more speed on Bayern's wings than a hummingbird's. And the centers are as well rounded as it gets. They defend, pass, score, run, lead. What else could you possibly ask for? And to think, Toni Kroos is injured. It would be even worse with him.

By the way, where exactly does Gotze expect to play when he gets here? Hope he doesn't have too much in mind, he might be pushed out wide, up top, or even on the bench. I just don't see him getting into this group.

And up top, they've got Mario Madzukic, star of Euro 2012, or Mario Gomez, the worst player in the 2012 Champions League Final against Chelsea. Or Claudio Pizarro, a personal favorite and goal machine who gets no love from the coaching staff.

I would roll out some names from Dortmund, but uh, besides Gotze, Robert Lewandoski, and Marco "Rolls" Reus, you won't know any of them. This much is obvious; the Bayern players are more famous, more heralded, and simply better.

HOWEVER

Bayern aren't mentally tough.

They say that the German players, and the Bayern players, are supposed to have the greatest sense of calm, the most mental toughness of any collection in the world. This generation of players has been proving that wrong over and over again. Going into Euro 2012 as favorites, Germany crashed out against Italy in the semis, not even making it to challenge Spain. And last year, in the Champions League Final, again favorites, they missed chance after chance, were scored on by Didier Drogba (whose mental toughness matches his frame) in the 88th minute to tie, botched a penalty in extra time, and proceeded to lose the shoot-out at the end. This isn't a group that deals well with pressure.
And guess what's heaped upon them in the runup to this game.

They're the odds-on favorite, having won the Bundusliga (Germany's domestic league) and owning more experience than Dortmund. Borussia, though, despite lacking the quality of Bayern, have a mentality that could just overrun Bayern's quality. When they were placed in the "Group of Death" in the Champions League group stage, facing Real Madrid and Manchester City, they didn't blink, winning the group comfortably. And before this season, they had a lengthy win streak against Bayern, who just couldn't seem to stop Borussia.

Think back to the Malaga victory. Could Bayern have come back, down two goals, in the 90th minute? It's doubtful. The German national team, who field six Munich players in the starting line-up, couldn't against Italy. And here we are, at a point where the pressure is even greater. Can Bayern do it? Something tells me the pressure gets to them. Something tells me that the constant coverage in German is eating away at Arjen Robben's frail psyche, that Mario Gomez will come in off the bench too nervous to control his own first touch, that Van Buyten just isn't ready to play at this level. Dortmund believes they can can. I think Bayern knows they should, but doesn't believe the same way Bayern does. Expect a Dortmund victory tomorrow.

Final Prediction: Dortmund 2, Bayern 1

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