European football expert Graham Hunter has three bets out of left field for the neutral in the all-German Champions League Final on Saturday night at Wembley.
If you’d blindfolded David, tied one arm behind his back and replaced the stone in his sling with cotton wool you’d STILL have a bigger crowd of backers on him to win his one-on-one with Goliath than those favouring Borussia Dortmund on Saturday night.
Even though we saw Manchester United beat Bayern Munich without Paul Scholes and Roy Keane in 1999, Barcelona beat United in 2009 without Eric Abidal, Rafa Marquez and Dani Alves, Chelsea beat Bayern without John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles – the absence of Mario Gotze seems to have been taken as the end of Dortmund’s hopes.
Lukasz Piszczek needs a hip operation post final because he’s in persistent pain. And if Mats Hummels starts then the spotlight will be trained right on him because of the ankle problem which he suffered in defeat against Hoffenheim last weekend.
The theory is that Gotze is so outstanding, such an important gateway for Dortmund’s high energy, vertical playing philosophy – that his absence is disastrous.
Bayern are football’s Terminators.
In summary they’ve scored a million goals this season, teams are petrified to score against them in case they get a knuckle sandwich, everyone’s in perfect form, each of their players is quicker, taller, stronger than their rivals. As they’d say in Goodfellas: ‘Forget about it’.
And all joking aside, Jupp Heynckes’ side are tremendous to watch and a real swine (or Schweini) to play against.
Having dominated Dortmund domestically this season, Supercup, German Cup, Bundesliga, it really would be a massive setback for Bayern not to complete the set with the Champions League trophy which their butter-fingers let slip 12 months ago against Chelsea.
And if you want to put your sterling, your Euros or even the odd Deutschmark from down the back of the sofa on Bayern the evidence keeps on mounting to say you’re spot on.
Dortmund’s key player, Robert Lewandowski, is off to Bayern once the final is over so who knows how he’ll handle the pressure of leading the line against his new employers?
Ripped out fingernails
Bayern romped to Wembley against Juventus and Barcelona on an 11-0 aggregate scoreline while Dortmund ripped out all their fingernails while clinging on for wins against Malaga and Real Madrid.
An open and shut case – right?
Possibly so. However it’s a fact that in the last 10 matches between the sides, in all competitions, Dortmund have won five and drawn two – not a bad record.
Equally, it’s just a year since Jurgen Klopp’s side won the German Cup final 5-2 against a Bayern XI which, barring the injuries to Holger Badstuber and Toni Kroos, could feasibly start on Saturday night.
Whether or not you fancy Bayern to ultimately do the logical thing and win there may be one or two factors worth taking into account.
- In seven of those last 10 matches between the sides Dortmund have scored the first goal.
- Of the three previous European Cup finals between teams from the same country familiarity hasn’t bred contempt – but penalty shoot-outs instead
AC Milan beat Juve on spot-kicks in 2003, Manchester United did the same to Chelsea in 2008 and if you consider that of the four matches between Bayern and Dortmund this season there have been two draws and two single-goal wins for the Bundesliga champions then perhaps extra time and penalties aren’t wildly fanciful.
Then there is the theme which the bashful, inarticulate, wallflower Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp himself introduced.
Ahead of the final he said:
Bayern want the Bundesliga to be a one- team league. It’s like James Bond but they aren’t Bond, they are the other guy. They want to dominate Europe and Germany for a decade.
Klopp also admits that when he heard that Gotze had been bought out of his contract by Bayern Munich it devastated him for a night – enough to make him miss his friend starring in a movie Premier and the red carpet, Rolls Royce evening which was in store for Herr and Frau Klopp by association.
In one fell swoop with his Bond-villain quotes he managed to make this a grudge match and to invoke ‘underdog’ sympathy for his side.
This isn’t a tie which generally produces a flood of red cards, although Rafinha was sent off during the recent Bundesliga draw, and there have only been two red cards in European Cup finals – Arsenal ‘keeper Jens Lehmann and Didier Drogba in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
Good luck to Italian ref Nicola Rizzoli who has issued only four red cards in 39 Uefa club matches. Perhaps, just perhaps, he’ll augment that total.
Now, given that it’s the last vital club game of my working season I’m going to indulge on that sixth-sense ‘instinct’ call. Only two players, Samel Eto’o and Raul Gonzalez, have scored in two Champions League finals and Thomas Muller, is a punt of mine to score in two consecutively.
It’s hard to envisage Dortmund having a chance unless Lewandowski provides them with a goal but Nuri Sahin is a massive favourite of Klopp’s and it’s feasible that a weight of responsibility will fall on his shoulders now that Gotze is out. A surprise goal or man of the match?
It could easily be hostile, it’ll be passionate, noisy and intense. Get your bets on, get the beers in sit back and enjoy a cracker.
Graham’s best bets for the Champions League final:
- Muller time: Thomas to score for Bayern in consecutive finals
- Early bath: What are the odds on a red card being shown?
- Too close to call: See our extra-time and penalties market
- Sahin surprise: What price the man of the match award