Skip to content

Champions League final preview: A bitter rivalry with much higher stakes

May 24, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Souvenir Champions League final scarves are seen on sale at a stall near Trafalgar Square in central London Reuters

When Bayern Munich face Borussia Dortmund tomorrow at 2:45 ET at Wembley, they won’t be playing for a ticket into the elite. They won’t be playing for the right to be recognized as permanent contenders. They’ve already done both of those.

The path each of these bitter German rivals took to get to the final already showed the world they can play with the big boys, and probably will for a while. What they will be playing for is the ability to validate each of their enormous semifinal victories.

Oh yea, and a whole lot of pride. And a big shiny trophy. And a moment their players and fans will never forget.

But that’s much more to it than that.

When Bayern Munich shocked the world by torching tiki-taka and sending Barcelona (and quite frankly, the rest of the soccer community) home shaking their heads, they made fans question, “have we just witnessed a changing of the guard?” It’s obvious Bayern is going to be around for a while – you don’t just beat the best 7-0 and evaporate the next season. But they need this win, they need it to validate (there’s that word) their victory against Barcelona. Heck, Bayern’s been to the Champions League final two of the last three years, but haven’t hoisted the trophy since 2001 when they beat Valencia. How can they claim to be top of the mountain if they can’t finish the deal?

They can’t. And they know it. Thomas Mueller knows they can win all the Bundesliga titles in the world by 100 points, and it won’t matter if they can’t finish on the world’s biggest stage. “We have to win,” he told The Independent. “If you lose three finals in four seasons you are going to be labelled chokers. We could win a lot in London but we could lose a lot, too.”

Then there’s last year’s final they need to erase. The gut-wrenching, heart-deflating loss to Chelsea when it should have been theirs. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation, about how Bayern can’t seem to close the deal anymore. We should be talking about how they are trying to win back-to-back Champions League titles; we should be talking about how the 7-0 crushing of Barcelona was the nail in the coffin, not the firing of the first shots.

Mueller said after last year’s final, he was so crushed, so dejected, if “a ball had fallen at my feet, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it.” Think he wants to feel that again? When asked to pick one word to describe the feeling after the defeat, he selected “pleite.” German for “bankrupt.” If Bayern do end up with yet another loss, they would have the most Champions League finals losses of any club – 6.

Then there’s Dortmund. They beat Real Madrid in the semis in a completely different fashion, but it had the same impact. After losing the first leg to Dortmund 4-1, Los Blancos didn’t wither like a dandelion hit with Round Up, much like their Catalan counterparts did. Madrid fought, clawed, and battled in the second leg, but Dortmund gained world respect by holding it off. Madrid won the second leg 2-0, but it was too little too late, and Borussia Dortmund claimed the trip to the final.

Dortmund’s been here before. They lifted the Champions League trophy after beating Juventus in 1997. But since, they’ve always been second-tier to Bayern. Never mind they won the Bundesliga the previous two seasons, a fantastic accomplishment considering their banishment to midtable finished before Jurgen Klopp took charge five years ago. In the international eye, Bayern Munich has been number one. This season has especially been tough. If seeing their rivals win the league by 25 points wasn’t enough, the Bavarians defeated Dortmund in both their meetings this season with a trophy on the line – the Supercup and the DFB-Pokal.

If that’s not enough, their young star Mario Gotze has made a switch – no, a defection – to Bayern Munich. FC Hollywood activated the 20-year-old sensation’s release clause in his contract, meaning there’s literally nothing Dortmund can do to stop him from leaving. Oh yeah, and he’s hurt and can’t play in the finals. Think fans would like nothing more than to send him off with a doubt in his mind about whether he’s made the right decision?

It’s a heck of a mountain for Dortmund to climb, as they come into Wembley pretty banged up. Along with Gotze’s injury, Lukasz Piszczek will play but needs hip surgery at the end of the season, and Mats Hummels will also walk wounded as he looks to shake off a recent ankle tweak.

Ultimately for Borussia Dortmund though, this match is also about that word – validation. Sure, they fought a great semifinal fight and probably cemented Jose Mourinho’s departure from Real Madrid. But if they again find themselves second-fiddle to their most hated foe, will the world remember the heights they’ve climbed the past few seasons?

On the line is a chance to climb out of German greatness, which both these clubs have achieved over the last decade, and into the group of international stars. Whether it’s Bayern Munich looking to become the new “best” in many people’s eyes, or Borussia Dortmund trying to remove the shackles of the Bundesliga and enter themselves into the conversation of Europe’s best clubs, this is a lot more than just the 96th meeting between the two German giants. It’s the first with so much on the line.

Latest Posts
  1. Weekend off gives Toronto a chance to get Michael Bradley right

    Apr 24, 2014, 7:34 PM EDT

    DefoeBradley AP

    Michael Bradley’s sidelined for a week with a “nerve issue” in his foot. He and Jermain Defoe are expected to be ready for TFC’s next game on May 3.

  2. European power, U.S. enclave Tyresö FF continues playing out its sad soccer parable

    Apr 24, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    tyreso_ff

    Tyreso is Leeds. It’s Anzhi, it’s Málaga. And it has a chance to win a European title before potentially closing its doors.

  3. Scolari reveals eight players on Brazil’s World Cup roster, praises Neymar

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    FBL-WC2014-FRIENDLY-BRA-RUS

    After praising Neymar, Scolari inadvertently lets some of the names on his final roster slip:

  4. VIDEO: PST Extra – What next for Manchester United?

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

    Manchester United Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    The PST Extra lads break down United’s options, as the Red Devils prepare for life after Moyes:

  5. Home teams take leads in first legs of Europa League semifinals

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT

    benfica_juventus AP

    A late goal from Benfica gave the Portuguese champions a win over Juventus, while Sevilla impressed at home against Valencia.

  6. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes admits hatred at being a ‘keeper in new book

    Apr 24, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    Victor Valdes

    Valdes on his hatred of being a ‘keeper plus top tips to succeed:

  7. Cristiano Ronaldo makes TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people list

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:58 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    Real Madrid star takes what’s become an obligatory spot for soccer on the list.

  8. Premier League Power Rankings: Two way tussle for top spot – Week 35

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    Liverpool launched themselves ahead, as their midfielders flew out of the traps. AP

    With the final few weeks of the season upon us, nothing is settled at the top or the bottom:

  9. Premier League Scenarios: Title Chase, Race for Europe and Relegation

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT

    Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    This is your Matchweek 35 primer to all the scenarios in the title chase, European qualification and relegation.

  10. Report: Mix Diskerud targeted by New York City FC

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    South Korea v United States Getty Images

    Assuming a deal could be worked out, Diskerud’s fluid style of play would fit nicely within the attacking philosophy of Jason Kreis.

  11. ‘The Chosen One’ banner of David Moyes taken down by Manchester United

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:40 PM EDT

    The Chosen One Getty Images

    Now with Moyes out and Ryan Giggs in as interim manager, the banner has been removed from Old Trafford.

  12. Manchester United have two transfer deals provisionally in place – Cavani, Shaw, Fabregas all on radar

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    Southampton v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    This is all the calm before the storm that will be Manchester United’s summer of 2014.

  13. #tbt: Louis van Gaal explodes on live television in 2009

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    France v Netherlands - International Friendly Getty Images

    If van Gaal is appointed United boss, Jose Mourinho will have some competition for best post-match sound in the 2014/15 Premier League.

  14. Chelsea approves Jose Mourinho’s desire to play ‘B Squad’ against Liverpool

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Spain Soccer Champions League AP

    For Chelsea, the Liverpool match represents, well, a headache, apparently.

  15. WATCH: Spain’s official World Cup anthem may be the worst music video you’ve ever seen

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:17 AM EDT

    Credit: Daniel Ernst Credit: Daniel Ernst

    So bad you have to see it. That’s the only was to describe Spain’s official World Cup anthem.

  16. David Moyes tipped by Roberto Martinez to make swift return to management

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:08 AM EDT

    File photo of Manchester United's manager David Moyes listening to a question during a news conference in Manchester Reuters

    Where, exactly, Moyes’ future lies next is a topic of some debate.

  17. Cruz Azul defeats Toluca, claims record sixth CONCACAF crown

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:36 AM EDT

    cruz_azul Getty Images

    Mariano Pavone’s first half goal in Toluca delivered La Maquina a record-breaking title.

  18. Hat trick from Wright-Phillips gives New York two wins in a row

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT

    bradley_wright_philllips AP

    The Red Bulls’ slow start is quickly becoming a distant memory as New York posted a 4-0 win over visiting Houston.

  19. NWSL Digest: Feeling the Spirit as we move past Week 2

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT

    NWSL logo

    A future star makes a quick impact as Washington puts week one behind them.

  20. Five moments that mattered in Bayern Munich’s trip to Real Madrid

    Apr 23, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo Getty Images

    Ronaldo pronounced fit; Benzema breaks through, and Casillas stones Götze.

Featured video

PST Extra: What next for Man United?