Mats Hummels in spotlight as Bayern Munich face Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund face off this Saturday to decide the German Cup. Mark Lovell (Bayern) and Stefan Buczko (Dortmund) preview the showdown in the DFB Pokal final, with Mats Hummels among the many intriguing subplots.
Make a case for why you'll win this one
Mark Lovell: The Bavarians cruised to their fourth league title in a row and will be confident of success against a Dortmund side who are clearly struggling to come to terms with Mats Hummels' imminent departure to their big rivals. BVB failed to win their final two league games against average sides (Eintracht Frankfurt, a 1-0 loss; FC Koln, a 2-2 draw), while Bayern took the opportunity to stretch the chasm at the top to 10 points, despite falling once again in the Champions League semifinals.
Victory in the cup final would provide a happy end for Pep Guardiola's reign in his final game in charge, sending the departing Catalan off into the Manchester sunset with his second domestic double in three seasons and the 11th in the club's illustrious history.
Stefan Buczko: Dortmund will arrive in Berlin full of energy after taking it slow in their last two matches. But, in all seriousness, going by the last two matchdays, there isn't much to suggest that Dortmund will be at their best on Saturday.
Thomas Tuchel was angry about his team's performance on the final Bundesliga matchday -- "it's much easier to keep your form than to regain it" -- but the good news is that, apart from Ilkay Gundogan (whose pressing resistance and precise passing will be dearly missed), no key player will be out for the match. Perhaps the emotional Pep farewell could throw Bayern off, but that's probably clutching at straws a bit.
Who deserves cup success more?
ML: Clearly, three straight Champions League semifinals losses weigh heavily in the end. Bundesliga success is a given at Bayern so, despite four easy league titles on the spin, defeat against Dortmund in the final would mean Bayern fall way below expectations for a second consecutive campaign -- with just a single trophy to show for their efforts. Cup success would be a fitting end to Guardiola's high-profile stay in Bavaria, enabling him to leave with his head held high, basking in a second domestic double in three seasons.
SB: Just like FC Bayern, Borussia Dortmund could use a cup win to console themselves from losses on the European stage. While Bayern have collected their umpteenth trophy in recent times, the Black and Yellows failed again and have now not picked up any major silverware since their famous 5-2 cup win over Bayern in 2012. It means that Marco Reus (who signed that summer) is yet to win a trophy in Dortmund and, after three consecutive losses in the Champions League and DFB cup finals in the past three years, the club have to prove they will not always be bridesmaids.
How will the fans react to Mats Hummels?
ML: Incredibly, Hummels faces the prospect of flak from both sets of supporters as the two German heavyweights go toe-to-toe. He can expect a few whistles from Bayern fans as captain of the opposition, having spent over eight years as an enemy of the Bavarian state. And, following his acrimonious exit to their arch rivals, Dortmund fans may turn on him too, especially if their side are trailing in the capital.
SB: I'm sure Bayern fans will try to antagonize BVB supporters with "Mats Hummels" chants. Though there isn't much of a reaction to be expected from the yellow half of the Olympiastadion. BVB fans got the anger out of their system in the home match against VfL Wolfsburg which followed the ad-hoc announcement, so there may be nothing left in the tank.
ML: Robert Lewandowski vs. Mats Hummels
Hummels has made his decision to leave and re-join Bayern under a significant cloud and, to put it mildly, has a lot on his mind in his final outing for Dortmund before "returning home." It's hardly a coincidence that the club have failed to win their final two league games since Hummels' intentions became common knowledge. On top of all this, he's up against Lewandowski, himself a former Dortmund goal machine, but who made the same move with his reputation in tact back in 2014. Lewandowski topped the league's scoring charts with 30 goals in 29 starts this season and has made a habit of scoring against his former side in the past two seasons.
SB: Gonzalo Castro vs. Arturo Vidal
With Gundogan injured, a lot will hinge on Castro's form for Dortmund. It will be very much down to him to retain possession and give his team a break from Bayern's pressure. In the Champions League, Atletico Madrid showed that Bayern are vulnerable when midfielders keep their cool against Bayern's pressing and don't make hasty decisions. With a good game against Vidal and Xabi Alonso, Castro could make all the difference for BVB.
An early marker for next season?
ML: With a new TV rights deal imminent, few people, apart from die-hard Bayern fans, want to see the club romp away with the title once again, but that's the way it's looking even before the new season has started. With all due respect to the rest of the Bundesliga, it seems that all Bayern have to do is finish above a Dortmund side shorn of the services of their captain and leader. There have been 25, 19, 33 and 10 point margins between the two German heavyweights in the past four seasons so, barring a spectacular collapse, Bayern should seal their fifth straight league title in Carlo Ancelotti's debut season.
SB: The 0-0 draw in March showed that Borussia Dortmund can play on a level with Bayern in a single match. If Dortmund can defend well right from the start of the season, they might give Bayern a chase, which will very much depend on BVB's transfer dealings (replacing Hummels and Gundogan). Overall the club should profit from their development under Tuchel and should keep it close, but in the end there will only be a tense title race in the Bundesliga if Bayern struggle. Ancelotti doesn't have the best domestic record, does he?
ML: Dortmund 1-3 Bayern. The Bavarians will seal their 18th German Cup success with Lewandowski on the scoresheet.
SB: Dortmund 1-3 Bayern. Strategic pessimism is all I have left.