Champions League Final:

Champions League Final: Can Jürgen Klopp and
Borussia Dortmund stop the Bayern Munich machine?

We are Bayern Munich, we have no weaknesses, says Thomas Müller - but what German giants also don’t have, however, is Klopp, the brilliant coach plotting their downfall

If you were seeking the distillation of the confidence playing for Bayern Munich breeds in its players, especially this recent gilded generation of Germans, then watching Philipp Lahm and Thomas Müller face questions yesterday at Wembley was an emphatic reminder of how they regard themselves.

Never more so than the moment when someone asked Müller what he considered Bayern Munich’s weaknesses to be and he responded as if the notion had never really occurred to him. “Our weaknesses?” he replied. “Maybe you should ask Dortmund what our weaknesses are; I can’t say we have any weaknesses.”

Later he was pushed on the thorny question of penalty-taking, not usually a problem for the Germans until their nerve went against Chelsea in the Allianz Arena last May and they lost a final that the whole club considered a home banker. “There’s always some players better than others when it comes to penalties,” Müller said. “You have to be realistic but, look, I don’t think anyone is going to wet their pants over it.”

This is FC Bayern, a club that scarcely encountered issues of self-esteem even when it was not considered the new force in Europe. Now they are strutting into their third Champions League final in four years, that belief seems unshakeable. Their coach Jupp Heynckes hailed his side yesterday as the best team in the last 50 years of the Bundesliga and the recent history is indeed hard to argue with.

There is the 7-0 aggregate demolition of Barcelona in the semi-finals, the 25-point winning margin in the Bundesliga, the fact that they have not conceded in 21 out of 34 league games this season. We could go on. Never mind that a poll by German television network RTL found that only 25 per cent of the German population wanted Bayern to beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final. This is Bayern and they are here to win.

The Great Room at the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane is already booked to accommodate 1,800 people for what Bayern expect to be the post-match victory party. They are ready to put right what they consider the aberration of not beating Chelsea last year in what should have been one of their finest hours. This time, they fully expect to add European Cup No 5 to the list and go level with Liverpool in third in the all-time titles list.

Surely they won’t screw it up this time, will they?

That is what makes it such an intriguing game. There are subplots, like the growing mood that German football is about to take over the world, with the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) expectation that the rights for the Bundesliga will double in value from €72m (£62m) a year to €150m (£129m) on the back of this year’s success in Europe. There is the clash between the coaches, the 68-year-old Heynckes and the enigmatic Jürgen Klopp, 23 years his junior.

But what makes this game most absorbing is the prospect that for all the good football sense, meticulous planning and sheer belief of the Bayern machine, this team of theirs is flawed. And that tonight is to be another one of those occasions when they allow the big prize, the second part of a potential treble, to slip through their fingers. Müller might say that none of his team-mates is about to wet their pants but that was, figuratively speaking, what happened in Munich.

In an interview for the match programme, Klopp outlined, in beguiling fashion, his football philosophy of “energy, speed, aggression, hard but fair duels, a lot of goalscoring chances, hitting posts and the bar and a lot of corners – that is what I call attractive.” He is the relative newcomer to the elite level, beloved of that oh-so-cool breed of European football connoisseurs. He is the edgy coach to defy the corporate, all-conquering monolith that is FC Bayern.

This is Klopp on Barcelona. “Others like how they play, dominant with only a few duels – the opponent can’t get into them because they play so quickly: it’s just about passing the ball around from side to side and then forward, and when Lionel Messi gets it, it’s a goal. What I like is something that’s still a bit rough, a bit flawed, something that isn’t perfect. And that’s our game, but it is so lively that the mistakes we make are [for the crowd] whitewashed by the experience.”

Even the absence of Mario Götze tonight gives Dortmund that element of unpredictability. There are no doubts as to what the Bayern XI will be but in the absence of the playmaker who will move to Bayern next season, there is not the certainty about Dortmund. The likelihood is that Kevin Grosskreutz will come into the side on the left and that Marco Reus will play behind Robert Lewandowski, but it is not definitive.

In spite of Bayern’s awe-inspiring league form this season, and their victories over Juventus and Barcelona in previous rounds, recent history is largely on Dortmund’s side. Bayern have won just one of the seven previous competitive games between the sides, a German Cup tie in February. Both league fixtures this season were draws and Dortmund won all four in the two preceding seasons.

Take a step back and the picture changes again. Looking at Bayern’s record in European Cup finals, the overwhelming feeling is that they should have won more. As it stands they have lost more finals, five, than they have won. Their first three trophies came in consecutive years in the mid-1970s, their only other triumph in 2001, two years after their greatest-ever choke in the Nou Camp against Manchester United.

There seemed to be a reluctance from Heynckes to admit that his team had been practising penalties. He avoided the issue for a bit, labouring the point that the pressure of a penalty shootout in a final cannot be replicated on the training ground. Then eventually he conceded that, yes, his players had practised penalties every day for the last week.

When he was asked to compare himself to Klopp, Heynckes bristled, preferring to concentrate on his greater “experience” and a determination that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated. Klopp, on the other hand, admitted that he once “tore a muscle celebrating too much” on the touchline. You get the feeling that Bayern can deal with pretty much anything that is thrown at them, with the possible exception of this remarkable Dortmund team and their manager.

Wembley way: European Cup finals at the home of football

1963: Milan 2 Benfica 1

Milan became the first Italian club to win the European Cup and prevented Benfica, winners in 1961 and 1962, from completing a hat-trick with a 2-1 win in front of 45,000 spectators.

1968: Manchester United 4 Benfica 1 (AET) Benfica lost out again in London as United became the first English club to win the trophy. Ten years after the Munich air disaster that decimated the “Busby Babes” side, United won in extra time.

1971: Ajax 2 Panathinaikos 0

Rinus Michels led Ajax to a convincing victory over the only Greek side to reach the final.

1978: Liverpool 1  FC Bruges 0

Kenny Dalglish’s 66th-minute goal proved to be enough against Bruges, who are so far the only  Belgian club to reach the final. This was the second of Liverpool’s five European Cup successes.

1992: Barcelona 1 Sampdoria 0 (AET)

It seems hard to believe after recent success that Barcelona became European champions for the first time in 1992. Ronald Koeman’s unstoppable free-kick won the match.

2011: Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1

Barcelona were crowned champions for the third time in six years, outclassing Manchester United in one of the finest Champions League displays ever seen with goals from Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and David Villa. Wayne Rooney got his name on the score sheet for United.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape