Pep Guardiola committed to coaching Bayern Munich three and a half years ago, undertaking the impossible task of following up Jupp Heynckes' treble with one of his own. He has failed to do that, Atlético Madrid issuing the third and final blow in the Champions League, but he could still complete his second domestic double in three years.
To achieve that, he will have to defeat the same team that he completed his first domestic double against, Borussia Dortmund. The two teams will face off for the third German Cup final in five years – fourth German Cup final since 2008 – and Dortmund will try to get revenge for the blown goal line call that allowed Bayern to win the German Cup the last time.
The German Cup will feature the two best teams in the Bundesliga once again, but Dortmund will hope not to put in an outstanding performance in another competition only to be bested by near perfection. This cup fixture has gone to extra time half the time, and with the way these two teams played this season, 90 minutes may not be able to separate these two teams either.
The Match (112th Meeting)
Location: Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
Referee: Marco Fritz
Bayern: 12 W, 1 D, 0 L – 14 YC, 1 RC
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Television and Streaming:
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Bundesliga: 42 W, 29 D, 23 L
DFB Pokal: 5 W, 0 D, 3 L
UEFA Champions League: 1 W, 1 D, 1 L
DFL Supercup: 1 W, 3 L
Ligapokal: 2 W, 0 L
Largest Victory: 11-1 (Bundesliga: November 27, 1971, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 3-6 (Bundesliga: September 9, 1967, Dortmund)
Though Guardiola has made his share of coaching mistakes during his time in Munich, the German Cup final against Dortmund in 2014 was one of his masterclasses. Franck Ribery had a bad back, Philipp Lahm left in the first half, and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had to play left back, and somehow Bayern managed to hold on to win in extra time.
Guardiola does not face as much adversity this time around, even though Arjen Robben and Mario Götze will miss the final and Javi Martinez and Xabi Alonso may not play either. His first team is pretty much set – Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller as his attacking partnership, Franck Ribery and Douglas Costa on the flanks – so the tough part of his job will come in the mid-game adjustments.
What could those be? Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcantara were controversial bench players when Bayern played Juventus in the Champions League in March, but both came off the bench to snatch the result in extra time. The dynamism of David Alaba and Philipp Lahm also allows Guardiola to get interesting with his defense, maybe even man-mark players like Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to disrupt Dortmund's buildup.
Whatever the tactical tweaks Guardiola makes to get Bayern another trophy, the crowd better enjoy it because it is the last time we'll get to see his outside-the-box tactics with the Rekordmeister.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Franck Ribery – Thomas Muller – Douglas Costa
Arturo Vidal – Xabi Alonso
David Alaba – Jerome Boateng – Javi Martinez – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Medhi Benatia, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rode, Thiago Alcantara, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Mario Götze (ribs), Arjen Robben (groin)
Shame that Dortmund had to play in the same league as Bayern, for they put together a campaign worth remembering. Thomas Tuchel could come up short in a third major competition, but he may still be the manager of the season. Dortmund have played 55 games this season – a lot for a team in an 18-team league – and yet the entire squad should be ready to contribute to Dortmund's biggest game of the season.
Well, almost their entire squad, with Ilkay Gündogan undergoing knee surgery this week. Losing a star midfielder may be a problem for most clubs, but not for Dortmund. Julian Weigl, Gonzalo Castro and Shinji Kagawa have helped give Dortmund one of the best central midfields in Europe, astounding to think considering where each player was two seasons ago.
Though several players have benefitted greatly from the Tuchel takeover – Henrikh Mkhitaryan most of all – Dortmund's defense is not much better than it was a year ago. Mats Hummels is having the season of his life – one of the reasons why Bayern were keen to bring the defender back to Munich – but the unit as a whole has been wildly inconsistent. That may have something to do with Roman Bürki, a goalkeeper who has not done well to replace the aging Roman Weidenfeller.
Dortmund have fallen at the hands more times than not against Guardiola during the manager's time at Bayern, but Tuchel has the weapons to make Guardiola's Munich departure a little more sour.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Shinji Kagawa – Marco Reus
Julian Weigl – Gonzalo Castro
Marcel Schmelzer – Mats Hummels – Sokratis Papastathopoulos – Lukasz Piszczek
Bench: Roman Weidenfeller, Matthias Ginter, Erik Durm, Sven Bender, Nuri Sahin, Christian Pulisic, Adrian Ramos
Out/Suspended: Ilkay Gündogan (knee), Joo-Ho Park (ankle), Neven Subotić (arm)
Despite popular belief, this match may not have the tension many are expecting, which will lead to a much better game. Dortmund will probably blast out of the gates as they tend to do against Bayern, and the way Bayern handles the early blows will be interesting to watch. Hummels will be the key player, for his ability to handle soon-to-be teammates Müller and/or Lewandowski will help Dortmund to prevent the match from getting out of hand. Guardiola is simply too skilled in one-off games to not come away with the victory, and he can celebrate one more title in Munich before making his move to Manchester.