The UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in Wembley Stadium promises to be a thrilling clash between the Bundesliga rivals.
Bayern Munich romped through the league, winning by 25 points over the next closest competitor, which happened to be Dortmund. However, when the clubs matched up two previous times this season, the result on each occasion was a draw.
That's a testament to the coaching job Jurgen Klopp has done with a Dortmund roster lacking the star power of some of World Football's elite. For the Black Yellows to be in this position is a phenomenal achievement on its own, and is well deserved.
The Bavarians have to be considered the prohibitive favorites given the margin of dominance in their Bundesliga-winning campaign.
With that, however, comes an immense amount of pressure—particularly due to Bayern's recent history in the Champions League. In two of the past three finals, the Bavarians have come out on the losing end.
Putting an end to that heartbreak creates plenty of motivation to get the job done this time around, but it also adds even heavier weight to the expectations on Bayern right now. Manager Jupp Heynckes' squad is attempting to cap off one of the best seasons ever by a European club.
Bayern standout Thomas Müller doesn't feel the past losses will have a negative effect, per the Champions League's official Twitter page:
Champions League @ChampionsLeague
"@FCBayern's Müller: Last year’s final won’t have a negative impact – only a positive one, because we’re motivated." #UCLfinal5/24/2013, 4:07:34 PM
There aren't many excuses for Bayern not to capitalize on this latest golden opportunity to capture the Champions League trophy. Mario Gotze won't be available to Dortmund due to a hamstring injury, which takes away an explosive element to the Black Yellows' attack.
The 20-year-old Gotze is also slated to join the Bavarians in the summer, which is hatching all kinds of theories as to whether he is truly hurt enough to not play in such a big match.
If there is a club that can get it done as a heavy underdog, Dortmund is the perfect candidate, because Klopp's teams are always viewed in such a way—and thrive in that role. The aforementioned two ties against Bayern proves this club is capable of rising to the occasion and hanging tough with anyone.
As James Young of The Independent points out, the versatility of Dortmund's midfield will help absorb the loss of Gotze, which will showcase the tactical brilliance of Klopp even more.
With all those positives working in Dortmund's favor, it will still be Bayern Munich that emerges victorious in London.
The superior firepower that the Bavarians possess on the attack between Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on the wing and Müller contributing from the midfield will be enough to win out.
Gotze's absence will throw off Dortmund's chemistry no matter what. That can't be underestimated for a club so used to leaning on the young star's magnificent talents.
Heynckes seemed optimistic during Friday's press conference, where he conveyed how well Bayern thrives when firing on all cylinders and functioning as a close-knit group (h/t Sky Sports):
Heynckes very positive as #Bayern presser ends: "We play fantastic football as a collective. If we draw on that tomorrow we’re going to win"5/24/2013, 4:36:31 PM
Expect the style of play to be aggressive, especially with the Black Yellows having to take more chances and be more assertive on offense in the absence of Gotze. Bayern hasn't allowed a goal in its past four Champions League fixtures, though, and other than striker Robert Lewandowski, there aren't many dependable scorers on Dortmund's side.
The outcome will be tight since this is such a strong rivalry, bolstered by national pride on this massive international stage. Thanks to superior depth and fielding a more complete team, Bayern will escape with a victory.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3, Borussia Dortmund 2