Losing a UEFA Champions League final hurts. Fans and players of FC Bayern München have had to suffer this painful experience not once but twice in the last three years. It is inconceivable that defeat by Borussia Dortmund at Wembley would inflict wounds as deep as Munich 2012, yet to avoid the soul-crushing scenario of losing to their Bundesliga rivals, there are lessons to be learned from the finals against FC Internazionale Milano and Chelsea FC.
The biggest factor – and one that Bayern moved to address last summer – has been enhancing the depth of the squad. Against Inter and Chelsea, Bayern had limited options on the bench. This time coach Jupp Heynckes will have alternatives like Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro and Mario Gomez. Should he require extra protection he could turn to Luiz Gustavo, who would have started the final last term but for suspension. The midfielder's performances have not dropped off, yet the increase in the quality and extent of Bayern's squad means Gustavo is now only second choice.
In terms of tactics, there is a great deal to be taken from the 2010 decider. Bayern seized the initiative against Inter, but lacked efficiency and twice conceded on the counterattack. The danger Dortmund pose on the break certainly cannot be ignored and, just as Bayern could not control Diego Milito for 90 minutes in Madrid three years ago, they will surely be unable to silence Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski for an entire match. That said, Heynckes' side is much more flexible, more unpredictable and more determined than in 2010. If they fall behind, they should cope with the situation better.
Otherwise the lessons learned from the Santiago Bernabéu showpiece pale in comparison with the failed attempt to keep the trophy in Munich last season. When Bayern supporters think of 19 May 2012, it sends shivers down their spines. The players, though, to some extent, have processed their emotions. "Of course you still think about that day, especially as it was a home match," admits Bastian Schweinsteiger, before adding the defining comment: "It has given us tremendous motivation for this Champions League campaign." The intricacies are worthy of analysis, yet Schweinsteiger's quote is straight to the point. If Bayern have gained anything from that traumatic evening against Chelsea, it is the huge incentive to give it another go.
Ahead of their biggest game of the year, there are more reasons for Bayern to be hungry for success. Last season's German Cup final is perhaps the best reference point for the encounter in London because Dortmund's remarkable 5-2 victory remains fresh in the memory. That match – like the upcoming Wembley final – was played on neutral ground and, knowing how thorough Heynckes is in his preparations, it is quite possible he will examine the mistakes his team made in Berlin. The understanding of Dortmund's game, especially their ability to quickly convert defence to attack, has matured to the point where Bayern are far less likely to walk into a trap.
As heartbreaking as those losses were for Bayern, missing out in 2010 and 2012 could, psychologically, work to their advantage. Small details often decide who triumphs in a match such as this and how the occasion – the noise and tension – is handled could be key. Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and company have dealt with these variables before, whereas for the likes of İlkay Gündoğan and Marco Reus the build-up to the showcase will represent a new experience.
Bayern, though, could overanalyse the situation, with Dortmund being free of mental baggage. However, all eventualities and theories, like the ghosts of 2010 and 2012, should be trivial once the match starts at 20.45CET on 25 May.
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