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May 15, 2014

50-50 Challenge: Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund

The latest in our 50-50 Challenge series looks ahead to this weekend's DFB-Pokal final as Bayern blogger Susie Schaaf and Dortmund blogger Stefan Buczko face off before the teams play for the German Cup on Saturday.

Match memories

Susie Schaaf: I wasn't alive just yet, but I have often watched the highlights of the 11-1 thrashing Bayern put on Dortmund in the 1971-72 season. Gerd Mueller scored four, hearkening the beginning of Bayern's most dominant side to date -- winning three consecutive European cups (1974-76), and three Bundesliga titles (1972-74).  It would be the opposite end of the spectrum for BVB -- sent down at the end of the season and spending four years in the second division.

If you're a fan of goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and his passionate, irascible antics, his "kung fu" match against Dortmund in 1998-99's Rueckrunde has got to top your list.  Was it his leaping high kick at Stephane Chapuisait, the kick-out penalty save of Lars Ricken or did Luis Suarez learn his chomping moves from Kahn's attempt to get a morsel out of Heiko Herrlich? Take your pick in a match that also, typically for these sides, included two red cards.

But the be all, end all for me is 2013's Champions League final. Quite possibly the best day of my life up until now -- the euphoria, the redemption for 2012 and for Arjen Robben, the release of so many pent-up feelings -- there was not a dry eye in the Bayern section of Wembley Stadium when the final whistle blew.

Stefan Buczko: Oh, where do I begin? Ah yeah, something light to warm up. About 2002, though Dortmund lost that game 2-1, I still have a chuckle remembering it. Thorsten Frings and Jens Lehmann were both sent off, so striker Jan Koller was in goal. BVB nearly equalised with nine men while Koller kept his goal tidy. Still hilarious.

But since this is cup themed, let's go to 2008 -- DFB-Pokal final. I still make the same face -- like a baby biting wholeheartedly into a lemon for the first time -- thinking about it. These were the darker times under Thomas Doll, but nevertheless. Dortmund put up a good fight and scored a dramatic equaliser in stoppage time to only go out in extra time by a Luca Toni goal. At least he didn't use his annoying light-bulb-in-ear-screw celebration.

Much better was the 5-2 victory in 2012. I will never forget angry, red-faced Uli Hoeness pushing his lips together while BVB picked the Bavarians apart to win the double. Good times. How about a repeat? Bayern won the last final; now it's our turn. That is how it works, right? The rivalry

Schaaf: It's not a true year-in, year-out rivalry, but FCB and BVB have had their moments of time throughout the course of German footballing history. The "Klassiker" moniker, a convenient invention by football writers, has really only existed in the past few seasons, during which the two teams have mixed it up on increasingly larger stages. Dortmund's domestic title wins in 2011 and 2012, plus their humiliating Cup final victory over Bayern in 2012, showed a lot of people that the Bundesliga wasn't necessarily a one-team league. Although Bayern have recently reasserted dominance with 2013's treble and 2014's March title, a win for Borussia in Berlin on Saturday would end the "one-team" talk.

Buczko: Nobody likes Bayern anyway (apart from Bayern fans, of course), but if you tease them long enough, they will turn their heads and give you the same resentment. All of the sudden, it's called a rivalry. The recent years have done exactly that, as the black and yellows established themselves as the second force in the Bundesliga again. The poaching of Mario Goetze hasn't helped matters, and, afterward, several petty back-and-forths between club officials resulted in an "ice age." To summarise: We don't like each other. If things continue like they are, this rivalry will just go up and up the hate-spiral -- but whatever you do, don't call it the "German Clasico."

Fear factor

Schaaf: The obvious answer is Robert Lewandowski. Though he'll be in red and white after this match, he's still got one last game to fulfil in black and yellow. Winner of this year's Torjaegerkanone with 20 goals, he'd sign off his last league game for BVB scoring a brace against Hertha Berlin, including a 25-yard stunner of a free kick. Diabolically clever in and around the box, I don't expect his form to dip on Saturday, as Poland won't be in Brazil. Instead, Bayern support will be lucky to have a rested striker when training starts for the 2015 season.

Marco Reus -- probably the Bundesliga player of the year -- on left wing will have a go at Rafinha if Pep Guardiola chooses to start the temperamental Brazilian at right-back instead of the calming presence of captain Philipp Lahm.

Buczko: Robben -- fear is the wrong word, but he is the player I least want to see score against Dortmund. This has less to do with his goal in the Champions League final and more so with his petulance and power to influence gravity in the penalty area. The player I'm actually most afraid of is Javi Martinez -- as a defensive midfielder, not as a centre-back -- because his presence makes a big difference for Bayern in their midfield. He is the best one to shut down Dortmund's quick counter-attacks. Without his cover, they are often easily exposed.

X factor

Schaaf: Should Martinez start in holding midfield (and he should!), he'll create problems for Dortmund's quick counter-attacks -- holding down the midfield as a buffer in front of Bayern's very high defensive line, surely a problem all season long for Guardiola's side. It's something that hasn't been accomplished of late with lingering injuries for Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the vice captain didn't make the squad.

Bayern's attacking midfield trio of Goetze, Thomas Mueller and Robben are also sure to cause issues for the black and yellow's back four -- that is, if they can manage to be more direct in their play. With Mario Mandzukic also unavailable Saturday, they'll be helped by likely forward Peruvian veteran Claudio Pizarro. He's become a smarter footballer as he has aged, providing some killer slide-rule passes. And, producing a goal every 69 minutes of Bundesliga play this season, you can't count him out.

Buczko: Lewandowski -- yes, I picked the obvious. But Lewandowski has unlimited motivation to have a last successful game with Borussia Dortmund. The outstanding farewell has given the Pole an extra boost (and somewhat increased his emotional attachment to BVB. Bad timing, I know). He will take his last chance to show Borussia Dortmund fans what they will be missing next season. Bayern fans can look forward to him, starting Sunday.

Prediction

Schaaf: I will engage here in Bayern Munich fans' brand of "strategic pessimism" and say that Borussia Dortmund win the match 3-2. Recent dull form from Bayern since winning their title in March, combined with a Dortmund side that's playing inspired football, leads me to this conclusion. Dortmund even looked great against Real Madrid despite losing, while Bayern -- not so much.

A brace by Lewandowski to emphatically end his career at the club, and a shock Kevin Grosskreutz goal are my picks for Dortmund, while Mueller knocks in another awkward strike with some other body part besides head or foot and Robben pulls a "Robben" for Bayern.

Buczko: Dortmund win -- why not? FCB haven't managed to impress anyone ever since they won the league, and I don't see them flicking the switch back on. BVB, on the other hand, have been in great form for weeks now and kept the tension up. They aren't clear favourites but will hopefully just edge it 2-1.

Stefan also joined Susie on her Rekordmeister podcast for a preview of this Pokal final. You can listen to it here. It's mostly about Saturday's match, with a small section on mayonnaise. Note: podcast is not affiliated with ESPN.