Champions League 2013: Key Storylines for Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich
Talk of a European power shift is a bit premature, but there's no doubting Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are the best of the Champions League this season.
The 2013 Champions League final will be the first ever between two German clubs. After the way Bayern manhandled Barcelona and Dortmund dispatched Real Madrid, people are beginning to talk about how German football has usurped its Spanish cohort.
Who wins the Champions League final?
By the time of the final, Bayern and Dortmund will have played four times this season across the German league and cup competitions. Despite that, this is a highly anticipated final.
Much like Athletic Bilbao did last season, Dortmund has become the darling of European football.
And Bayern's reputation speaks for itself.
Aside from just the clubs, you've got two of the best German coaches around—Jupp Heynckes of Bayern and Jurgen Klopp of Dortmund—facing off. Heynckes would love to go out on top as it's already been announced Pep Guardiola will manage the club next season.
While those are some of the biggest storylines going into the match, here are some of the biggest to watch when the match actually kicks off on May 25.
The Health/Mindset of Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze has made himself a lightning rod going into the Champions League final. Prior to Dortmund's first-leg win over Real Madrid, news broke that he would be moving to Bayern Munich in the summer.
In his last match as a Dortmund player, he'll be playing against his future club.
Since he's a professional, there shouldn't be too much of a problem in terms of motivation. Gotze's been one of the biggest factors in the club reaching the final of the Champions League. He'd love nothing more than to win a medal with his teammates.
Of course, there's a very good chance Gotze won't even factor in the result. He had to come off after only 12 minutes in the second-leg loss to Madrid, and it's an injury that makes Gotze questionable for the final (h/t ESPN.co.uk):
The club's official match report described the injury as "a suspected torn muscle in his left thigh', and coach Jurgen Klopp told reporters the same late on Tuesday.
It is expected that the Germany international will be out for around three weeks, which would leave him facing a battle to be fit in time for the Champions League final on May 25.
It's going to be a major uphill battle for Dortmund should it be missing a playmaker like Gotze. This match will likely be won in the midfield, so Klopp will likely have to do some major tinkering to offset Gotze's loss.
How Does Dortmund Answer the Combo of Martinez and Schweinsteiger?
Much of Bayern's success against Barcelona came as a result of having Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger sitting in front of the back four. Martinez, in particular, has been very good. He arrived at the Allianz after Bayern had paid the largest fee in Bundesliga history.
So far, he's been worth every penny.
He and Schweinsteiger have been the perfect complements for one another. Schweinsteiger has the license to run forward more, with Martinez staying back and playing more the anchor man.
In order to win the final, Klopp must figure out something Tito Vilanova couldn't: how to negate Bayern's devastating midfield tandem. Martinez and Schweinsteiger have had a big role in Bayern only allowing 14 goals in the Bundesliga and 10 goals in the Champions League.
Klopp's tactically astute. He's had trouble breaking down Bayern this season. The league is no longer a concern. He can now put almost all of his attention to devising a plan to score goals against his German rival.
Will Bayern Shackle Robert Lewandowski Again?
It's hard to call Robert Lewandowski's performance against Real Madrid in the first leg a coming-out party. But scoring those four goals was the kind of defining performance Lewandowski needed to cement his status as one of the best in the world.
It was the totality of his game that was the most impressive. He had the finishing to go along with great movement and stellar ball skills.
But unfortunately for he and Dortmund, Lewandowski has struggled this season against Bayern.
In his club's three matches against Bayern Munich, the striker has only found the back of the net once, which was in Dortmund's 2-1 loss in the German Supercup.
If Gotze will in fact be out, that's going to leave even more of the attacking burden on Lewandowski. He won't be able to afford to have a quiet game.
Is It Going to Be Good Arjen or Bad Arjen?
The semifinal saw the two sides of Arjen Robben.
In the first leg, he was unselfish and tracked back on defense. Either one of those traits is uncharacteristic of the winger. So for him to do both of them in one match is the kind of thing you'll see once every five years or so.
Then there's the other side where you watch Robben and wonder what all the fuss is about. You know exactly what he's doing every time he gets the ball. He'll run down the right flank, put the ball on his left and take a shot on goal. Generally, that shot ends up about 15 rows into the stands.
Of course, then he'll pull off a bit of mastery that makes you understand the prodigious talent he possesses.
This season has not been one of Robben's best. He's only made 14 appearances in the Bundesliga and eight in the Champions League. That first leg against Barcelona illustrated that he's capable of playing at a world-class level.
If he plays like that against Dortmund, Robben can help to boss the game in the attacking third.
If he reverts to his usually selfish ways, Robben will do more harm than good and leave Bayern exposed down the right flank.
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