This DFB-Pokal might produce some mixed feelings for those who support Bayern Munich.
It’ll be the first edition of the German cup final since the 2016/2017 season to not feature the competition’s record winners. In the 10 finals preceding this, only three did not feature Die Rekordmeister. Instead, the game — being played not on a weekend for the first time since the 1984 season and on a Thursday for the first time ever — features the two teams who have put the most pressure on Bayern’s Bundesliga title hopes in recent years.
On one hand, we have the traditional second power in Borussia Dortmund. Despite finishing runners up in the last two seasons, silverware has not been easy to come by for Die Schwarzgelben. Dortmund’s last major trophy came in the form of the 2016/2017 DFB-Pokal, when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1. However, in the four seasons since then, Dortmund hadn’t advanced past the Round of 16 for three years in a row (once to Bayern, twice to Werder Bremen).
This season, Dortmund benefited from a considerably favorable road to the final. They breezed through the first two rounds — beating MSV Duisburg and Eintracht Braunschweig before drawing SC Paderborn in the Round of 16. It took extra time for BVB to come out on top, 3-2. Their quarterfinal match against the only Bundesliga team they faced in their run to the final — Borussia Mönchengladbach. A 1-0 win over a Mönchengladbach side coached by their future boss Marco Rose led to an easy 5-0 win over Holstein Kiel — setting up Dortmund’s trip to Berlin.
On the other hand, we have the young upstarts in RB Leipzig. A team that is on the brink of a major transition, Die Roten Bullen are set to lose their manager — Julian Nagelsmann — and at least one, if not two of their key starting center-backs this year. Despite all of their noise, including a run to the UEFA Champions League semifinals, they have never won a major trophy in their short lifespan as a club.
Unlike their opponents, Leipzig’s five game run to Berlin featured three matches against Bundesliga competition. Astonishingly, Leipzig only allowed one goal during the tournament. Their clean sheet streak started with wins in the first two rounds against 1. FC Nurnberg and FC Augsburg. It continued to the Round of 16 and quarterfinals against the two major VfL’s of German football — Bochum and Wolfsburg respectfully. Only in the semifinals, when they managed to beat Werder Bremen 2-1 in extra time, did their streak of zeros end. But the ends justify the means, and Leipzig made their second Pokal final in three years.
With no dog in this fight, here are our predictions for the final:
Tom Adams — Borussia Dortmund
I truly feel that BVB has really felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic both last season and this season, especially with the amount of injuries they sustained to key players at really crucial moments; namely, Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho for long periods of time. Not to say that every club hasn’t, but I feel it hampered them just as much as it did for us, but we have a deeper squad at Bayern. I also still feel really bad and sour about Jude Bellingham’s goal at the Etihad against Manchester City being wrongfully disallowed, because I think that really would’ve tilted that tie in Dortmund’s favor and I wanted to see them progress; it doesn’t help that I despise City. They’re in a decent patch of form and I really think Haaland and company deserve a piece of silverware at the end of the season. Leipzig and Nagelsmann still deserve tons of credit, but I think Dortmund just has too much fire power to expose them, as we saw over the weekend in Dortmund’s 3-2 win that mathematically clinched the title for Bayern.
I also feel bad for some of the inadvertent stick Fear The Wall gets on our Twitter timeline. Obviously, Leipzig doesn’t have an SBN page, so I’d hope that the Pokal could give FTW and Dortmund fans something to be happy about in a season that’s been, in large parts, relatively underwhelming and disappointing.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-1 RB Leipzig
Jake — RB Leipzig
I have a small fascination with East German football. I don’t actively follow a team that played in the old DDR-Oberliga (my ancestral team I guess would be Dynamo Dresden and I won’t support them for...obvious reasons), but I love the history of the league, its team’s successes, and the league’s downfall. There’s a special place in my heart for any of the old Oberliga teams, and I actively root for another one of them - any of them - to return to the Bundesliga.
Which brings me to this point: since German reunification, only three teams from the East have made the DFB-Pokal final, and none played well. In 1997, Energie Cottbus was shut out by Wolfsburg 2-0. In 2001, Union Berlin had their attempts to become the first team from the capital to win the cup thwarted by Schalke 04, who also won 2-0. The most recent attempt came from this same Leipzig team, who in 2019 lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich in a game much closer than the scoreline suggested.
This really seems like Leipzig’s final chance — with this group — at achieving anything. Whether or not you like with the way Leipzig rose up the German football pyramid, you have to admit it’s been exciting. Now, it seems like that all could go away. Nagelsmann and Dayot Upamecano are defecting to Bavaria. Rumors of Ibrahima Konate moving to Liverpool seem like they’re set in stone. Consider other names rumored to leave in this window: Marcel Halstenberg, Emil Forsberg, Yussuf Poulsen, Marcel Sabitzer, and Hwang Hee Chan.
For this game, I really feel that Leipzig will take that energy of desperation into the final. They’ve played better at each stage of the Pokal than Dortmund and defend much better than them too. Moreover, I feel the loss at the weekend will help them mentally prepare for this game. With Erling Haaland questionable following a muscle injury, I’m not sure whether or not Dortmund can rise to the expectations of the moment. Whereas this last weekend saw a desperate BVB trying to climb into the top 4, this Thursday, we’ll see a Leipzig desperate to win something for the first time.
The wheels on the bus are falling off, and considering how fun the ride has been, it’d be a real shame to come all this way for nothing.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 1-2 RB Leipzig (added extra time)
Samrin — Borussia Dortmund
I began the season absolutely despising everything RB Leipzig stands for but am ending it with quite some love for the “underdogs.” The methods Leipzig have used to meet the “50 + 1” rule are dubious at best; as a supporter of the Bundesliga and as someone who absolutely loves the fact that the clubs are majority member/fan-owned, Leipzig stands against everything I care for.
And yet, Julian Nagelsmann’s team have been a joy to watch on various days. Their 3-2 win against Manchester United and 2-1 victory over PSG were perhaps the standout performances; there were more though including a 3-2 comeback victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach. Their football makes me stand up and take notice; Emil Forsberg, Marcel Sabitzer, Danny Olmo, Angelino, Christopher Nkunku and Amadou Haidara have been delightful to watch in some games. The entire team seems to work so well together.
That being said, Borussia Dortmund represents what German football is all about; the Yellow Wall is what fan representation looks like. They haven’t exactly been saints this season; their announcement of Marco Rose’s hiring unofficially ended Gladbach’s top four hopes. They have often poached players from other Bundesliga clubs while Bayern has been blamed far more for it. However, I have a soft spot for Mats Hummels, considering his Bayern roots and one for Marco Reus; Reus’ career has been derailed by injuries and he hasn’t been able to reach the insane heights he could have otherwise, although he has been delivering captain’s performances over the past two months in almost every game. He would have surely had a World Cup on his Resumé in the very least if not for injuries. I would like to see both Hummels and Reus end up with more medals.
More than anything, as much as I want to see Julian Nagelsmann and his delicately balanced team do well, Dortmund represents the culture of German football; in a year in which the game was almost derailed by the European Super League, I almost have no choice but to root for Borussia Dortmund.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2-1 RB Leipzig (added extra time)
Teddy Son — Borussia Dortmund
Before we get started, no, I’m not rooting for Dortmund because I like them or anything. I know they’re not our traditional rivals, and I know they also helped us win the Bundesliga this past weekend, but I still have no love for BVB. That said, while my feelings toward Dortmund are those of ambivalence and sometimes disdain, but my feelings toward Leipzig are those of absolute hatred.
I don’t need to expound on the despicable roots of RB Leipzig and their unjustified rise to the top flight of German football. They stand for everything that German football stands against, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t hate Leipzig outside of, well, Leipzig. In fact, I found out through RBL’s YouTube channel that a lot more neutrals would rather see Bayern win another title rather than see Leipzig win anything. For good reason, too. They are a dirty club run by dirty money, and they do not deserve to win a single piece of silverware, whether that be the DFB-Pokal or a pub league cup in a local park. They are a team that circumvented a rule that defined German football through fishy means and pretended that they are clean, even going as far as to invent a ridiculous, nonexistent word to squeeze their mother company’s initials in their club name. They are a club that undermined the influence of fans in a football club’s affairs, something almost criminal in Germany. Pathetic. The day RBL wins anything will be the saddest day in German football history.
If I could snap one football club out of existence for good, it would be Red Bull Leipzig. They are a disgrace to German football, they do not deserve to be playing with the big boys, and they definitely should not win this season’s Pokal final. Fingers crossed tightly that Dortmund present them with the demolition that they deserve.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Leipzig