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. FIFA ethics committee bans 11 current, former officials from all football-related activities

    May 27, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter & Jeffrey Webb, FIFA Sepp Blatter & Jeffrey Webb, FIFA

    11 current and former officials from around the world have been provisionally banned from all football-related activities.

  2. Men in Blazers podcast: Mourning the end of the season with The True Geordie

    May 27, 2015, 5:23 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo relive the Premier League’s season finale, including squeaky bum time at the bottom of the table.

  3. Sevilla defeat Dnipro, 3-2, to win back-to-back Europa League titles, Champions League place

    May 27, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT

    Carlos Bacca, FC Sevilla Getty Images

    It was a thrilling Europa League final. Sevilla are back-to-back Europa League champions, and into next year’s Champions League.

  4. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten forwards

    May 27, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Sergio Aguero was the Premier League’s top goalscorer this season, but was he the best attacker in the league? He has plenty of competition.

  5. Dick Advocaat will not return to Sunderland next season

    May 27, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    After leading the Black Cats to Premier League safety, “The Little General” has announced he won’t return to the Stadium of Light next season.

  6. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten midfielders

    May 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea FC Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea FC

    Goal scorers, goal creators, ball winners, possession destroyers — the list of top-10 midfielders has a little bit of everything.

  7. UEFA calls for postponement of FIFA presidential election, threatens to boycott congress

    May 27, 2015, 2:43 PM EDT

    Michel Platini Michel Platini

    “Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole. “

  8. FIFA president Sepp Blatter releases first statement since overnight arrests

    May 27, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT

    ISRAEL-FBL-UEFA-EUR-SPORT ISRAEL-FBL-UEFA-EUR-SPORT

    The most controversial figure in world soccer has broken his silence.

  9. Ashley Westwood says Arsenal will have “sleepless nights” over Christian Benteke

    May 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Everton- Premier League Aston Villa v Everton- Premier League

    If Aston Villa wants any shot at beating Arsenal in the FA Cup final this Saturday, Christian Benteke must come up big.

  10. Three things we learned from the US Department of Justice news conference on the FIFA investigation

    May 27, 2015, 1:06 PM EDT

    Loretta Lynch Loretta Lynch

    “This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card.”

  11. QPR is cleaning house: Barton, Ferdinand, Zamora all out at Loftus Road

    May 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    With the Hoops heading down to the Championship, Queens Park Rangers will have a completely new look next season.

  12. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten defenders

    May 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    150527-John-Terry Getty Images

    They say defense wins championships, so expect to see quite a bit of Chelsea blue on this list.

  13. Report: Chelsea’s Christian Atsu to join Bournemouth on season-long loan

    May 27, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2014-GHA-PRESSER FBL-WC-2014-GHA-PRESSER

    Atsu spent this season on loan at Everton, and it looks like the Ghanaian will be headed south to the Premier League’s newest club.

  14. FIFA presidential elections will go on Friday despite arrests

    May 27, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-FIFA-BLATTER FBL-FIFA-BLATTER

    Sepp Blatter has served as president for 17 years and is expected to easily win reelection.

  15. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten goalkeepers

    May 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 20:  (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) David de Gea of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on March 20, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Let’s take a walk through the six yard box with the Premier League’s 10 best ‘keepers for 2014-15.

  16. FIFA releases statement regarding arrests, says it is “fully cooperating” with investigations

    May 27, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    FIFA Getty Images

    A press conference is scheduled to be held at 10:30 a.m. ET from the U.S. Department of Justice.

  17. Manchester City friendly vs. Houston Dynamo in doubt following deadly floods

    May 27, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT

    US-WEATHER-FLOOD US-WEATHER-FLOOD

    Texas has been hit with massive flooding that has left at least 19 dead, as soccer takes a backseat.

  18. FBI, US Department of Justice issues damning statement on FIFA, details corruption investigation

    May 27, 2015, 6:55 AM EDT

    Loretta Lynch, Vanita Gupta, Ron Davis Loretta Lynch, Vanita Gupta, Ron Davis

    Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch speaks about the FBI’s investigation into widespread allegations of corruption at FIFA.

  19. Nine FIFA officials, including CONCACAF president, arrested in Switzerland during dawn raids

    May 27, 2015, 5:20 AM EDT

    CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb was arrested in Switzerland. Getty Images

    FIFA officials from CONCACAF region and South America dominate the FBI’s wanted list.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy