What: German Cup final
Who: Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart
When: Saturday, 1st June, 2013, at 19:00 UK Time
Where: Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
Bayern Munich Aiming For Immortality
Jupp Heynckes will not go down in history among the most notable coaches of all-time, but few if any will have gone out in quite the style he will if Bayern Munich complete the treble that CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said will make them “immortal.”
Victory last weekend in the Champions League earned Bayern Munich redemption for two previous defeats in the final of that competition in 2010 and 2012 respectively, and this is a chance to fully banish previous ghosts. Twice before, in 1999 and last season, Bayern Munich have gone into the final weeks of the season on course for the treble. Finally they appear to have it in their sights. As Rummenigge noted, not even the side of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Mueller won the treble.
A record 91-point haul in the Bundesliga, three defeats in all competitions this season, winning the title in record time and finishing 25 points clear of Borussia Dortmund, who they beat in the Champions League final, underline Bayern Munich’s domestic and international dominance this season. The most number of wins in a season, the greatest number of away wins, fewest goals conceded and biggest goal difference ram home the message. With just Stuttgart, who finished 12th in the Bundesliga, left in their path, surely nothing can stop the Bavarians becoming immortal? Apart from perhaps Brazil and Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has called up Luiz Gustavo and Dante to the country’s Confederations Cup squad, and demanded their attendance before the weekend. Their absence gives perhaps a glimmer of hope to Stuttgart.
The Impossible Task Awaits Stuttgart
Coach Bruno Labbadia has told his team to believe ahead of what seems an insurmountable task against Bayern Munich. His team finished twelfth in the league following a disappointing campaign and have already conceded six in one game against Bayern Munich this season, but they are not alone there – five others have also suffered a similar fate against the European champions.
"Anything is possible in a single game", Labbadia insists. "There are days when a team can win a match despite not having the quality of their opponents. We're hoping for one of those days.” Of course Labbadia is right, as any team can have an off day, although Bayern Munich have fewer than most, but the Stuttgart coach was perhaps erring away from realism when he suggested that “two titles in a season is enough."
The task seems even more insurmountable for Stuttgart with captain Sedar Tasci struggling for fitness and considering a dismal 2013 so far in which they took just 18 points during the second half of the league season. Having faced just one Bundesliga side on their way to the final, there is plenty of reason to doubt their credentials. Football never ceases to throw up the improbable though and on any given day anyone can be shocked. This has been a year of cup upsets, with giants humbled in Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and England by unfashionable opposition. A one-off final represents an opportunity to turn logic on its head and achieve an unlikely triumph. The problem with that though, is that Bayern Munich, vanquished at home by Chelsea in the Champions League final last year, know this better than anyone.
Bayern Munich 3-0 Augsburg (11/05; Bundesliga)
Borussia Monchengladbach 3-4 Bayern Munich (18/05; Bundesliga)
Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich (25/05; Champions League)
Schalke 04 1-2 Stuttgart (11/05; Bundesliga)
Stuttgart 2-2 Mainz (18/05; Bundesliga)
Stuttgart 10-0 SSV Reutlingen (25/05; Friendly)
Bayern Munich: Holger Badstuber; Toni Kroos; Dante; Luiz Gustavo
Stuttgart: Felipe (doubt); Tamas Hajnal (doubt); Serdar Tasci (doubt); Daniel Didavi
Players to watch
Bayern Munich – Arjen Robben: It will be fascinating to see Robben’s personal reaction to last week’s epochal triumph against Borussia Dortmund. More than anyone Robben had been afflicted with the tag of a big game choker, having missed crucial chances in the World Cup final in 2010 and the Champions League final last year. He personified Bayern Munich’s relentless will to right the wrongs of previous campaigns, contributing defensively and driving forward mercilessly at helpless defences. He missed one, two and three chances at Wembley, but eventually set up Mario Mandzukic before his late, late winner. Having redeemed himself and Bayern Munich, will it be more of the new Robben with added freedom, or will he revert to his old ways having removed that massive weight from his shoulders?
Stuttgart – Vedad Ibisevic: With 15 goals this season Ibisevic has been the man doing most to keep Stuttgart going. The Bosnian is an excellent finisher and good in the air, and that makes him the man to watch for Labbadia’s side. Ibisevic netted the very first goal of the Bundesliga season in its opening minute and the question is whether he will get a chance to have the last say in German football this campaign. Unlikely maybe, but stranger things have happened.
It is hard to put up an argument based on logic rather than romance for Stuttgart here. Bayern Munich have beaten them in their last six games, by a combined margin of 16 goals. Stuttgart warmed up for this game with a 10-0 friendly win over fifth tier Reutlingen, but they will need to pull off something remarkable to lift their first trophy since winning the Bundesliga in 2007, coincidentally also the year they were last in the cup final, when they lost to Nurnberg.
Most of their hopes will rest on getting Ibisevic into positions where he can hurt Bayern Munich, and to do that they will need Martin Harnik and Ibrahima Traore to get plenty of the ball. Ibisevic may just have a bit more joy than usual, with Dante out, and the Brazilian has been so important to Bayern Munich’s improvements this season. But Stuttgart’s two wingers will have their hands full coping with the surges from deep of Philipp Lahm and David Alaba.
A key aspect of Bayern Munich’s two trophies won already this season has been the superb form of Javi Martinez, whose composed passing and relentless pressing is so vital in midfield. His partnership with Bastian Schweinsteiger has overwhelmed many a team and Stuttgart seem ill-equipped to deal with Bayern Munich, even if the Bavarians are not quite at their best. Bayern Munich 4-1 Stuttgart.
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