They have already met four times this season so the UEFA Champions League final should hold few surprises for Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München – yet there is little danger of familiarity blunting the edge at Wembley.
Ahead of Saturday's first all-German European Cup final, both teams were keen to emphasise how much victory would mean. Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes described the possibility of coming out on top against domestic rivals as "the crowning glory" while Dortmund counterpart Jürgen Klopp called the occasion "absolutely special". Neither, however, will settle for second best in the seventh final to be played in north London.
Following his 1998 success with Real Madrid CF, Heynckes could become the 16th coach to lift the trophy twice, and only the fourth to do so with different clubs. The 68-year-old is certainly drawing on all his years of experience. "I've been involved in some pretty big matches, we've had victories and titles, but as a sportsman you have failures as well. This will be a special game for my players and my club. For our players who are 28, 29 and 30, winning against a German team would be the crowning glory of their careers, and for me as well – but perhaps with a little more detachment because I've experienced this before. For Bayern it would be really important, for me it's just another match."
Bayern, in their third final in four campaigns, finished 25 points clear in the Bundesliga to deny Dortmund, a distant second, a hat-trick of titles – and their coach is looking to continue that imperious form at Wembley. "This season we've achieved extraordinary things," said Heynckes. "It's been the best season any team has had in 50 years of the Bundesliga. In recent weeks we've had one draw and won all our other games – and of course we have the aspiration to carry that on."
While Bayern have prevailed in all but one of their last 14 fixtures – the exception the 1-1 draw in Dortmund on 4 May – Klopp's charges are without a victory in four matches. The coach, however, was unperturbed as he plotted the path to European glory, saying: "You can win with the right decision at the right moment. Both teams are very strong; that's why we're here. Small things can decide the game, but to be prepared for those you have to do the big things right."
Bayern are unbeaten against Dortmund this term – although prior to the current campaign Dortmund had won five in a row against their Munich rivals – and Heynckes believes that, if his side perform as they can, it will be another favourable outcome. "I've always tried to think positively – I know what my team can achieve. I said the same before Juventus [in the quarter-finals] and before Barcelona [in the semis], when we weren't the favourites. I've always thought we could win this competition. We have an extraordinary team and they play as a unit. If we can draw on that, we're going to win."
Klopp agreed Dortmund are "outsiders", but the charismatic trainer is convinced his squad can scale new peaks. "You need to enjoy what you're doing and focus on your task, but be aware that it can go wrong," the 45-year-old explained. "
People have climbed Mount Everest aware they might have to turn back ten metres from the top. They try anyway and so will we."
Beaten in last year's showpiece in their own Fußball Arena München home, Bayern and Heynckes are hoping north London proves a happier hunting ground. "Wembley is a place with tradition in English, European and international football, and that's a particular incentive for players, to be in such a venerable location for a Champions League final," he said. "The atmosphere is going to be unique. Maybe another city will bring us luck. Last year we were the better team and perhaps the football gods will be on our side this time."
Dortmund's Bayern-bound playmaker Mario Götze misses out with a hamstring injury picked up in the semi-final second leg – although centre-back Mats Hummels has overcome an ankle problem – and Klopp had plenty of warning of the likely absence. "I guessed Mario wouldn't have time to recover," he said. "We tried everything but it would have been a surprise if it had worked. We have to play really well, otherwise we don't stand a chance. We have to try our utmost, we only have one chance and we must make the most of it."
While Bayern are in their tenth European Cup final, for Dortmund this is just the second. Munich, the venue where they beat Juventus on their previous showcase appearance in 1997, seems inextricably linked to their fortunes in the competition. "This is an absolutely special game," Klopp added. "Nobody wants to lose. We want to give our all, for however long it takes to win. If this is the only final I get to in my life, it would be perfect – perfect opponents in a perfect venue."
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