Ahead of one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the decade, Jonathan Allott looks at the head-to-head battles for the UEFA Champions League final clash between FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund.
Manuel Neuer v Roman Weidenfeller
Germany's undisputed Number One against a keeper who cannot get a look-in for the Nationalmannschaft. Weidenfeller put in a towering performance in the second-leg of the semi-final in Madrid to drag Dortmund over the line. He will probably captain the team at Wembley.
Neuer's concentration has been called into question at times this season after his gaffes led to goals against both Bayern and Germany this season, albeit never at too great a cost. He hasn't helped by commenting that sometimes after games he has hardly needed a shower. Nonetheless, he is a big game-player, as he has shown in the Champions League this season when required. In terms of psychological warfare, it is also worth noting he saved a penalty against Robert Lewandowski in the league dead-rubber a few weeks ago.
Philipp Lahm v Kevin Grosskreutz
Possibly the most intriguing head-to-head contest. Lahm spent most of his career as a right-footed left-back, cutting in to score some glorious goals, most notably the opener for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He has since been switched to the right and has arguably established himself as the best full-back in the world. Captain for club and country, nobody has a better engine. His propensity to attack could, however, expose the rest of his defence.
Grosskreutz will not have banked on a Champions League final but Mario Götze's injury means he is the most likely replacement, allowing Marco Reus to move centrally. Grosskreutz is a Dortmund player through and through but will be limited in terms of an attacking threat, despite scoring in the league encounter between the two sides recently. This may be a blessing in disguise though, as his hard work in defence may stem a seemingly potent Lahm. Big boots to fill but will certainly give his all to make it happen.
David Alaba v Jakub Blaszczykowski
The young Austrian spent much of his time alternating between left-back and holding midfield but has since made the former position his own. Offering attacking support in addition to defensive stability, he has been one of Bayern's unsung heroes this season. He will be looking to make up for the disappointment of missing last season's final due to suspension.
Blaszczykowski has had a fantastic season, contributing eleven Bundesliga goals and offering significant penetration from a very wide position on the right. He has a great engine but may well be one of the first to be tactically substituted depending on the balance of the game.
Dante & Jerome Boateng v Robert Lewandowski & Marco Reus
With Mario Götze cruelly ruled out of the final with injury, Marco Reus seems the most likely to play in the central playmaking position. Reus is the archetypal Dortmund player and the best exponent of Dortmund's quick Umschaltspiel (transition play), the name given to the quick change from defending to devastating counter-attacking. Electing to leave his home-town club as a teenager in search of first-team football, Reus has excelled on his return, not least due to his seemingly telepathic understanding with Mario Götze. With no room for the latter to impress with Reus, it will fall on Dortmund's newest light to take up the mantle for both this final and the years to come.
Rumours that Lewandowski will follow Götze to Bayern have been on the increase since his four-goal destruction of Real Madrid in the semi-final. Nothing false about this number nine, the Pole offers everything that is required of a modern day striker: pace, an excellent first-touch, intelligent movement, good finishing with both feet and his head. His ten goals in the Champions League this season leave him two behind top-scorer Ronaldo.
Dante has probably exceeded expectations since arriving last summer from Borussia Mönchengladbach. He now leads the Bayern back-line with aplomb, combining strong defending, in particular his reading of the game, with the ability to launch attacks, particularly with his favoured diagonal pass out to the right-wing. Boateng, having been seen very much as the 'utility man' at the back, has been the individual to most profit from Holger Badstuber's unfortunate, long-term injury. Offering more mobility and pace than Daniel van Buyten, the former Manchester City player has improved his positional sense and concentration, which previously made him the weak link in the side.
Javier Martinez & Bastian Schweinsteiger v Sven Bender & Ilkay Gündogan
The role of Gündogan depends greatly on whether Mario Götze is fit to play. Assuming he is, it is likely Gündogan will line up alongside Bender in the heart of midfield. Labelled 'technically outstanding' by his own coach Jürgen Klopp this season, he controlled much of the semi-finals against Madrid. Bender is a tireless midfielder but perhaps without the same technical expertise as his more illustrious teammates. With Bender's stamina and Gündogan's technical ability, they are the heart of Dortmund's Umschaltspiel and Bayern will need to close them down regularly if they are to stop Klopp's men.
Martinez, the most expensive player in Bundesliga history at EUR40m, has matched all expectations of him by doing the simple things extremely well. Capable of breaking up play and antagonising opponents, as proven against Barcelona in the semi-finals, he has teamed up superbly with Schweinsteiger. Consequently, Bayern have also been able to attack down the flanks with the full-backs pushing on due to the assured protection Martinez provides. A neat and tidy passer who often starts the play from deep, and at 6''3' he is also useful in the air. Schweinsteiger perhaps embodies the spirit of FC Bayern more than any other player. Seemingly around for ever but still only 28, he is the heart beat of the team. One of few examples of a classic box-to-box midfielder, he is as likely to be found clearing off his own line as scoring at the other end. Scarred by last year - it was his saved penalty that cost Bayern the trophy - he will be eager to make amends this time round.
Arjen Robben v Marcel Schmelzer
Schmelzer is the established first-choice German international left-back, combining the modern attributes of getting forward and overlapping his winger with solid defensive responsibility. A good crosser of the ball, he offers boundless energy and is often found forward supporting Dortmund's quick counter-attacks. He has had moments of weakness though, that have left a number of Bayern supporters believing he is the weakest link.
Arjen Robben will always have that selfish streak coming forwards towards goal. What he has undoubtedly added this year, however, is a voracious desire to track back and help his full-back out. He had been used mostly as a substitute until the injury to Toni Kroos but has since staked his claim for a starting birth, delivering in both legs against Barcelona. Keen to avenge last season's final when his weak penalty in extra-time handed Chelsea the initiative, he always offers goal threat.
Franck Ribery v Lukasz Piszczek
The third of Dortmund's Polish triumvirate. More defensively minded than Schmelzer, Piszczek offers balance to the team on the right-hand side behind his compatriot Blaszczykowski. Concerns over his fitness though do make things worrying for Dortmund. The Pole will be playing the Champions League final with a hip problem that will see him out for five months afterwards.
Ribery will be looking to atone for previous years. He missed the 2010 final due to suspension and was subbed off last year after a below par contribution. Like Robben, the mercurial Frenchman has added defensive discipline to his abundance of tricks. Tormented Barcelona in the semi-finals and will be looking to contribute decisively to this final.
Thomas Müller & Mario Mandzukic v Mats Hummels & Neven Subotic
The Dortmund defensive duo have been excellent in tandem this season. However, Dortmund suffered significantly during Hummels' injury and have further concern about how fit he is coming into this game after picking up a knock to his ankle against Hoffenheim last weekend. Hummels, linked with Barcelona, will be playing against the team which discarded him to Dortmund, first on loan in 2008 and then permanently in 2009. He is assured on the ball and controls the back-line well, in addition to adding a goal-threat from corners. Subotic is slightly more old-school, offering defensive protection if not the same self-assuredness in possession. Back together, they form a formidable partnership.
Müller, the great exploiter of space, has arguably been Bayern's top performer this season. Always in the right place at the right time, he has weighed in with eight Champions League goals to add to 13 in the Bundesliga. Barcelona will be able to testify how much of a threat he is. Mandzukic has performed better than expected in his first season at Bayern. Defending from the front, he is also a classic centre-forward, constantly tormenting opponents with his physical presence. The added defensive duties have seen him maintain number one spot in the pecking order ahead of Mario Gomez, the man who was supposed to have "lost Bayern the Champions League final," last year.
Jupp Heynckes v Jürgen Klopp
Klopp is the archetypal tracksuit coach. Unkempt and prone to outbursts of passion both pitch side and in press conferences, Klopp has proven his astute tactical knowledge in leading Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga titles in addition to this final. His high pressing game has been unanimously praised and he out-thought Jose Mourinho in the semi-finals. His tactics were supposedly the inspiration behind Bayern's this season.
Ousted for Pep Guardiola, Heynckes has produced potentially the best German club side of all time. After finishing second in everything last year, the 68 year-old coach brought in a succession of signings who have all proven successful. He previously won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998, a fact which seems to be overlooked by everyone but himself, much to his chagrin. He is more than happy to let his football do the talking and leave director of football Matthias Sammer to sort out any touchline disputes with Klopp, as witnessed in the recent league game.
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