Miasanrot Roundtable: Four questions ahead of the match against Dortmund

The last game of the season will also be Pep Guardiola’s final game on the Bayern bench. We follow up our series about Bayern’s DFB cup history against Borussia Dortmund (part one, two, three) with our first “original production” roundtable.

We are proud to have four Miasanrot.com authors at the table with the seasoned “war horse” Tobi, the Norwegian “newbie” Gard, the Hungarian “video wizard” Istvan and “Micho” Michael.

Which team (and coach) is under more pressure ahead of the final? Can BVB’s first season under Tuchel be called “unfinished” after being the “best runner-up in league history” and their memorable exit in the EL at Anfield, if they lose the final? Will winning (or losing) the cup final have any impact on the perception of Guardiola’s tenure in Munich?

Istvan: Basically every time Guardiola plays a final, he is being pressured more, than the other coach, because of his mostly successful past. After losing to Atletico I don’t think this game will affect the perception about his time at Munich too much. BVB’s season was a perfect first season for Tuchel, he has given a new style and impulse to his team, and have a 73% winning rate, which is an unbelievable performance. He made BVB a top 5 team – in the world.

Michael: If Dortmund doesn’t win, I doubt anyone would call their season unfinished. Obviously they might not get any silverware but they’ve made a huge step forward this season. Media and some fans have always measured Guardiola by how well he did in the Champions League, so I doubt losing the cup final would change people’s opinion on his time at Bayern.

Gard: In Tuchel’s case: I don’t think so, but certainly, it’d help to wash their mouths of the one that “got away”. BVB were clear favourites for the EL-title going into the Ro16/Quarter finals, but they blew it in extraordinary fashion. I think BVB fans are cognizant of where it started, though. A gigantic flop in 2014/15, where they barely saved an EL-place at the end, having been dead last for a few games, close to mid-season. They were also down 3-0 to a Norwegian team called “Odd” at one point, qualifying to the EL.

I think Tuchel’s plight actually resembles Pep a bit: Noone could have expected them to do as well as they have in the league this year, but that success has translated to heightened expectations across the board. And as every Bayern fan knows by now – though not half as well as Pep – a cup run is much more dependant on matchday form and small details than a league campaign is.

Also, for Tuchel’s part, proving straight away he can win titles would be a good thing. Many managers that overachieve with smaller clubs can’t make the step up to actually win big things with the big clubs. Most connoiseurs of German football won’t doubt Tuchel is one to make it all the way, but it’d be nice for him to actually prove it straight away – as Klopp just lost his 6th of 7 finals.

For Pep: In some way yes. Quite a faux one, in my opinion, but there all the same. If he goes out having lost to BVB – the way he began (even if no one in Germany really cares about the Supercup) – then it’ll just cement his status as a “failure” to the minds of some of the fandom. Some won’t care even if he wins, but it’ll just be an easy talking point. “Look, he even left a loser” etc.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’ll matter too much, but it’s easier for the more reasonable among fans to point to three BL-titles and two DFB cup wins in three years, as what would be to any reasonable standard quite a good Bayern-period. (Outstanding by all objective measurements before the Treble. Which I think we should still use.)

Tobi: If there’s any pressure, it’s on Bayern. Dortmund aren’t expected to win titles, their season is not (yet?) judged based on silverware. A BVB loss in the final will be seen as natural, an FCB loss as another small step towards vulnerability. That being said, it doesn’t really matter for either coach. The season reviews have been written already.

Thomas Tuchel against Pep Guardiola. Each match-up of these two coaches has been a highlight, not only for the tactical analysts. Which coach will pull a white rabbit out of his hat in the final, or rather how many rabbits will jump out of each hat?

Michael: I definitely expect a thrilling game of football, but I don’t think one of the two managers will experiment in such a big game. I could see Bayern play a back three with Kimmich moving in as third centre back and Alaba and Lahm as wing-backs. For Dortmund I’d expect the same formation which they used against Cologne with Mkhitaryan back in the starting eleven. Durm could make somewhat of a surprise appearance for Bender, who I simply don’t fancy against the likes of Ribéry or Costa.

Istvan: Two of the greatest tactical minds at the present, I expect BVB to play the same 3-4-3 they have used the last time. Guardiola still struggles against teams with five defenders at the back, so that should be a great way to neutralize Bayern’s positional play. Although if Bayern is able to invite BVB to press high up the pitch, it could open up space for the wingers and midfielders – as they have successfully used this principle back in October, when they’ve won 5-1.

Tobi: Easter is over, the rabbits are gone. Tuchel has tried a lot lately and his team didn’t always perform the way he would’ve imagined, Guardiola stopped experimenting months ago. Maybe there’s a back-three, maybe two – that’s the only minor secret there is.

Gard: I don’t think this will be a “playing Javi Martinez as a destructive nr. 10 and then substitute Götze and Thiago on after 60 mins” thing. It’s Pep’s last game, he doesn’t need anymore of his reputation for being hard to read for the next game – there won’t be any. I think he’ll field something close to what you’d expect this time around. I think Tuchel might spring a surprise though, something akin to the way Klopp outfoxed Jupp in the first 30 mins of the CL final.

Robben, the player who decided the last final between these two teams, will miss this game. Martinez and Alonso are questionable. Dortmund will have to play without Gundogan. Which team will have more problems compensating the injuries and which players do you expect to be decisive?

Istvan: I think Gundogan will be missed more, than Robben. Gundogan is BVB’s best midfielder, plus his passing quality changes BVB’s positional play fundamentally. Weigl is also exceptional, but he alone is not enough. On the other side Alonso’s and Martinez’s absence could hurt Bayern more, than Robben’s. Coman or Costa had replaced him well this season, and both Martinez and Alonso take a huge part in Bayern’s defensive organisation, without them their stability might be hurt.

Michael: Bayern have missed the firepower and presence of Robben. That little spark, that fire went missing in several games in the second half of the season. Bayern have the quality to nearly compensate such a loss and players like Coman have benefited from it, as bad as that might sound. Martinez and Alonso, especially the latter, have been in fine form as of late, which could definitely hurt Munich’s chances. Gundogan’s injury is a big blow for BVB. Luckily for them, Gonzalo Castro had some excellent displays recently and will look to replace a superb Gundogan as best as he can.

Tobi: Both are important, possibly the most important players of their respective team. Bayern are facing a disadvantage: their entire system is built on players like Robben and all replacements are struggling. The theoretical depth is there, for both teams. As to who’s decisive: I have no idea as I’m not a fortune teller. Because of that, it would be wrong not to make the dumb and outrageous choice, Mario Götze!

Gard: Bayern have the better capacity to compensate for players missing still even if BVB have taken great strides in squad depth, and missing Gundogan is a bit like missing the players Bayern can’t replace: Neuer, Lewandowski or Boateng. But it’s fair to say that none of the other wingers, other than perhaps Ribéry, are currently at the level they’ve already shown themselves capable of playing at, so Robben could’ve been crucial.

I still think Gundogan is the bigger one, though. Hard to say (obviously). I just hope there’ll be no headline-grabbing Hummels own goal winner or something of the like. Perhaps Weidenfeller, for better or worse? He’s had the best games of his career against Bayern and had some performances way over his usual level in those games, but he’s not been top notch in the last few seasons. Perhaps a howler instead of saving goals with every body part, including his face, like before.

Where and how will you watch the game?

Tobi: At a concert hall. As in, I won’t watch. If the result is right, I might watch a replay. If not, so be it. I have a feeling I won’t be missing too much.

Gard: I don’t miss too many Bayern games during a season, but this weekend is a big get together for family, with the farthest travelers all the way from Denver, Colorado, so I’ll probably have to sneak in 5 mins of streaming on my phone here and there, unfortunately. If it’s still tight after 75 mins, I’ll try to watch all that remains.

Istvan: I will probably watch it at home, I prefer to watch Guardiola’s games alone. This way I can concentrate much better on the tactical aspects of the game.

Michael: I’ll watch it at home with friends and have a barbecue before the game. I’m very much looking forward to this game as both teams have played some magnificent football. Both encounters this season have been great performances and I’m expecting more of the same. Hopefully, with Bayern winning the cup and giving Pep one last title to celebrate before he leaves.

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