Over the past few seasons, Borussia Dortmund was a team to fear, a team whose title hopes were not just pipe dreams. That Dortmund has not been the one Bayern has faced this season, the once consolidated club has slowly been torn apart, and this season has culminated an inevitable decline.
Now the Dortmund of this season will be the last of its kind, longtime manager Jürgen Klopp electing to step down after his seventh season in charge. He has done his best to overcome injuries and transfer departures of his best players, but his efforts came up short this time around.
Dortmund can find consolation with another strong run in the DFB-Pokal, a tournament they have done well in over the years. However, for the third year in a row, Bayern Munich stand in their way. Will they be up for the challenge this time around? Here is a look at how they are currently constructed.
Throughout their struggles this season, Dortmund's identity never faded. They are still a team who works hard, presses high, and feeds off of arguably the most energetic fan base in Europe. What has changed is the performance on the individual level, several players underachieving and thus dropping the team performance. It does not help that their two best players are now wearing red instead of yellow.
The defense holds part of the burden for Dortmund's downfall, but it is not much worse than the one that took the field last season. Players have come in and out though, Klopp using several different combinations to duct-tape over several squad injuries. The unfamiliarity and inexperience of the players shown through in the Hinrunde, but Mats Hummels's presence has restored some stability to the back. They have now kept four clean sheets in their last nine matches, and held the Bundesliga champions to just one goal. Their foundation is not as stable as it once was, but it is still there.
In the past few seasons, mediocre midfield performances floated under the radar with such a strong attack. That is no longer the case, the attack and defense simultaneously underperforming. That has made Sven Bender's and Ilkay Gündogan's return to form and fitness even more imperative to Dortmund staying afloat. Gündogan has orchestrated the play well in his return, allowing Dortmund to pursue the attack in different angles. The flanks have left much to be desired, Marcel Schmelzer coming forward to provide the only support there. They can contain their opponents from the midfield, but do not always beat them there.
Dortmund's attack is reason one, reason two, and reason three they have dropped into mid-table. The loss of Robert Lewandowski has left a gaping hole in the striker position, one that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ciro Immobile, and Adrian Ramos has not filled. To make matters worse, the attacking midfield outside of Reus has not provided the dynamic scoring options Dortmund had in the past. They have left a lot of chances on the field, and only when they grasp them will they be able to return to their former glory.
Marco Reus – The German's class is not news, but this season unearthed his irreplaceability. Dortmund was simply a different team when he returned at the start of the Rückrunde, His athleticism is more imposing, his passing more precise, and his finishing more clinical than any of his replacements, which is why everyone around the world could hear the sigh of relief when he extended his contract. The attack will start and end with him, and odds are he is the one at least partly responsible for Dortmund's opening goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – It is hard to call the Mario Götze replacement "overrated" considering how far his stock has dropped, but he constantly proves how disappointing he has performed this season. The number of chances he has to score is astounding, something he surely deserves credit for. He does not grasp any of them though, with just two goals after averaging around two and a half shots per match. Since Kevin Kampl has joined the side, his playing time has dropped considerably, starting only half of the matches he's played since the Rückrunde. The jury is out if he will get a look on Tuesday in Dortmund's biggest match of the season.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – The additions of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang made Sokratis as much of an afterthought as his last name. He is the most important transfer for the Schwarzgelben in recent seasons though, giving Dortmund's defense a well-above-average defender. He has remained consistent throughout the constant changes in the back, and wins the ball rather well for a defender who is not very tall. The sale of Hummels was unthinkable a few seasons ago, but not anymore with Papastathopoulos in the side.
How Dortmund beat Bayern
Even in the misery of their defeats in the Bundesliga, Dortmund created a lot of chances against Bayern. Even if they convert one or two of them, the complexion of the match could completely change. Dortmund, after all, contained Bayern to the tune of just three goals in two matches. If Dortmund get the early goal, it could be tough for Bayern to muster a response, even in the friendly confines of Allianz Arena.
How Bayern beat Dortmund
The way Bayern won the two matches against Dortmund in the Bundesliga were completely different. With options abound, the Rekordmeister overwhelmed Dortmund to a breaking point in the first match, and Guardiola out numbered Dortmund in the defensive third to hold onto a clean sheet in the second. The midfield is where Bayern will win the match, especially with the return of Thiago Alcântara and his invaluable playmaking abilities. Oh, and Bayern have lost one match at home all season.