Champions League final: Bayern Munich have more to lose than Borussia Dortmund
The anticipation in Germany for the Wembley final is increasing
Germany and Wembley. It just works.
So says Bild, anyway, Germany's major national tabloid. In the build up to the all German Champions League Final next week, the paper has been crowing happily about every single German victory, however tenuous, at the home of English football.
Bert Trautmann's 1956 FA Cup victory with Manchester City, in which the German keeper played on with a broken neck, Dietmar Hamann's bullet stroke at the send off of the old stadium in 2000, Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal in 1996 and, perhaps most curiously of all, motor racing victories in 2007 and 2008 at the Race of Champions. "Even Schumacher has won here!" cackled Bild.
For a rivalry which has traditionally been a rather one sided affair, there is a marked sense of Schadenfreude from Germany's widest selling newspaper at the prospect of 50,000 Germans turning up at Wembley to spoil the 150 anniversary celebrations of the FA.
The real rivalry on display on 25 May, of course, will not be Anglo-Germanic. The real rivalry is, happily, between the two teams fighting for the right to call themselves European Champions.
After both FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund had confirmed their safe passage into the Final, relations were at boiling point. Bayern had just poached Mario Götze, looked set to do something similar with Robert Lewandowski, and when the teams faced each other in the league the following Saturday, it was the mutual distaste, rather than the football, which took centre stage. A red card for Rafinha prompted a touchline scuffle between Jürgen Klopp and Matthias Sammer, while Dortmund chief executive Hans Joachim Watzke declared that "anyone who thought this was not going to be a heated match doesn't know Borussia Dortmund, and doesn't know FC Bayern."
That rivalry, though, has all but gone silent in recent weeks. Bayern have been too caught up in their licence to celebrate a 23 German title, while BVB have been focusing on rebuilding their squad in preparation for the imminent departure of Götze, and the probable one of Lewandowski. The arrivals of Christian Eriksen and Kevin De Bruyne have been all but confirmed, while the likes of Julian Draxler and Fallou Diagne have been ruled out.
The détente has officially set in. BVB veteran Sebastian Kehl was quick to remind the press this week that "we're not out to ruin Bayern's season, we're out to make our own", and even the ever combative Jürgen Klopp has limited himself to insisting that "we will not be blown away by Bayern like Barca and Juve were."
He has reason to be confident in his assertion. After two defeats in this fixture in the last three years, the pressure on Bayern is immense. Defeat would, whatever Dortmund's intentions, be a disaster for Bayern, despite how dominant they have been this year. With the furore surrounding Uli Hoeness' tax scandal threatening to destabilise the on field elation as well, Bayern arguably have a lot more riding on this fixture than their rivals.
"We're in danger of picking up a reputation as losers," warned Thomas Müller on Tuesday, "and not unjustifiably if we lose again. No one wants that." Perhaps even more important is Bayern's supposed claim to being the heirs to Barcelona's throne. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung pointed out this week, Bayern are "unbeatable, but not yet era defining."
That is an accolade they can only begin to obtain if they win next week. As for Dortmund, well they have already overachieved. The pressure is off. More to the point, they are safe in the knowledge that, despite the 22 point gulf this season, Bayern have not beaten them in the league for nearly three years. The gap between the two teams is not as great as it may first appear.
As for the German invasion of Wembley, well Bild are somewhat alone in their Angle baiting. In a recent survey, only 80 per cent of respondents said they thought the all German final meant that their country was already the strongest footballing nation in Europe. The nation may be celebrating an unprecedented success this month, but they know there is a long way to go until Bayern, Dortmund or Germany can start defining an era.
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