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Louis van Gaal, Bayern’s former manager and, in my opinion, the best manager they have ever had, used to say “Death or Gladioli” before the crucial games of the season. Usually in the Champions League but also sometimes in the Bundesliga and the German cup. Bayern actually won most of those games because these 3 words perfectly describe the other well-known proverb “Do or Die”. Tomorrow, Bayern plays another especially crucial game, the one against Borussia Dortmund.
Uli Hoeneß, and before him none other than the owner of this amazing blog, have already said that, if Bayern wins in Dortmund, they will win everything. Just like already said: Death or Gladioli. I go even further and say that, if Bayern wins this tomorrow, they will win everything (and with everything I do mean everything aka the treble) but if they lose, they will definitely lose everything. Death or Gladioli, Do or Die, it’s the same.
The starting situation is clear: Bayern has to win to close the 3-points-gap to Dortmund. In case of a win, Bayern would take the top spot thanks to a better goal difference. The BVB has conquered the top spot since the 20th match day after their 2-0 win over Nuremberg. Bayern lost it on that match day due to a 0-1 defeat in Hamburg. Before the Bavarians were dominating the Bundesliga for 15 match days (not in a row though).
Dortmund against Bayern will undoubtedly the greatest match of the Bundesliga season. Both teams have amazing runs, while Dortmund’s is among the most impressive in Europe: 23 games in a row without losing. Bayern needn’t hide: they have won their last 9 matches in a row with 29:3 goals what means 3.2 goals per game. Dortmund have won their last 9 matches with 21:8 goals, ergo 2.3 successful shots on target a game. Not to forget, though, that Dortmund only played opponents who aren’t at eye level with them (no Champions League). If you consider that, Bayern’s balance is even more impressive.
Nevertheless, Dortmund is still an utterly huge challenge for Bayern. I can’t repeat it enough: “Death or Gladioli”. Dortmund’s way of playing is very impressive and has made them famous in whole Europe. Bayern can’t and won’t underestimate them because they are brutally dangerous, as their sometimes hyperactive coach Jürgen Klopp would say.
Fact is that both teams’ recent performances are quite similar in my opinion. Bayern as well as Dortmund have won their games but not always that sovereign as the result might tell us. They have both made unconcentrated mistakes in the defense and were vulnerable every once in a while. Especially Bayern’s defense was playing pretty awfully on the last match day against Augsburg and did cause me some cold sweat, as you could read on my Twitter. Dortmund conceded 4 times at home against Stuttgart two weeks ago – after a 2-0 lead.
As you can see, these two rivals are on the same level but if you consider some stats, you notice that Bayern is even a bit superior to Dortmund.
In the defense, Bayern have only conceded 19 goals yet. Dortmund have conceded 3 more because they concede more than one shot on target more per game than Bayern (9.8 compared to 8.2). They actually make much more tackles a game (26.7 as to 19.9 by Bayern) but as you can see on the number of conceded goals, that doesn’t really make any difference. Bayern makes more interceptions a game (19.6 compared to 19.2), thanks to their defensive midfielders Luiz Gustavo and Anatolyi Tymoshchuk who are pretty good at this. However, Bayern is slightly more brutal than Dortmund: 14.4 fouls a game are worse than 13.5 fouls a game, especially if you consider that Holger Badstuber sometimes rushes uncontrolledly into his opponents. Consequently BVB will get set-pieces around the box, what is always dangerous.
In the offense, though, Bayern is the better team. They have only scored 3 more goals than Dortmund (69) but most of their stats are by far superior. Dortmund have actually more shots a game (16.8 compared to 16.2) but their well-known bad use of chances consequently leads to less shots on target: Bayern’s forward line shoots 6.5 times a game on target while Lewandowski, Kagawa and Co. “only” manage to threaten the opponent’s keeper 6.2 times per match. 40.4% of Bayern’s shot are on target compared to only 37.5% of Dortmund’s. Also, Robbery are dribbling more successfully than BVB’s forward line: 15.8 successful dribbles are surely more precious than 14.2. Consequently Bayern concedes more fouls a game (15.9) than Dortmund (14.3). On Wednesday will also be a duel between the offside prones (Lewandowski and Gomez) of the Bundesliga: Dortmund is 3.8 times a game offside while Gomez and Co. have improved and are 0.7 times less offside.
I actually have neglected the possession of ball (Bayern 64% a game and Dortmund 54%) and the passing accuracy (Bayern 86%, Dortmund 78%) due to their different ways of playing football. Considering the other stats, though, Bayern Munich is actually slightly better compared to their nemesis.
Stats won’t decide that classic though. The tactics will. Even though both teams are playing in the same formation (4-2-3-1), they are interpreting it differently. While Bayern, as preached by Louis van Gaal, loves to dominate their opponent with their longanimous possession of ball before using the gaps created thanks to their position play, Jürgen Klopp also prefers the beautiful game but more “brutal” with a lot of pressing and faster and riskier plays.
Bayern’s most dangerous weapon are Ribéry and Robben who, however, were amazingly well covered by Dortmund’s wingers in the first leg of the season. By now, though, Heynckes has finally had the amazing idea of letting his forward line rotate so that there are very often two wingers (Ribéry and Müller/Robben or Robben and Müller) on one wing, while the third offensive midfielder is occupying the other wing. That has always worked amazingly yet, especially with Robben and Ribéry on the left wing. I really love that and furthermore it’s very effective since the Dutchman actually was a left winger before signing in Munich. Together with the young and amazingly gifted David Alaba as left full-back, Robbery could decide that match because it’s really difficult to defend them in such situations. Dortmund could actually avoid this in marking individually but that would be way too tiring…
There’s one problem though that is threatening this beautiful plan: Dortmund’s impressive pressing. Their pressing in the midfield is “brutal” (I adore quoting ludicrous “Kloppo” like this) and already troubled Bayern’s build-up play in the first game that was won 0-1 by the BVB…
But of course I have found a solution for this as well: The central-backs must play deeply to create a lot of space between them and the midfield where Schweinsteiger can build up. But that’s not the whole solution because of course Dortmund’s forward line will still be putting pressure on Schweinsteiger to force him to turnovers.
As for that, I have worked out two solutions: The first, and most probable in my opinion, is that Kroos joins Schweinsteiger in the defensive midfield (remember this day, I would never have thought I’d once write that) so that Bayern has two playfully powerful players to build up. The second solution would mix up Bayern’s offensive game: Even though Luiz Gustavo is Brazilian, he can’t build up as well as Kroos or Schweinsteiger, I’d play with Toni Kroos in the offensive midfield instead of Müller. Kroos would drop deep and create a 4-3-3 together with Schweinsteiger and Gustavo. That would be very effective in my opinion, if (!) Bayern was used to play in a 4-3-3. Unfortunately they aren’t.
So I expect Heynckes to play with Schweinsteiger and Kroos in the defensive midfield and a rotating forward line composed of Müller, Ribéry and Robben. If he would really play Gustavo next to Schweinsteiger, Gomez would have to rotate with Robbery as well until Bayern is in Dortmund’s half. Then they could go back to their favorite formation (4-2-3-1) with Kroos behind Gomez and play just like always.
Bayern must be fully concentrated from the start because Dortmund will, as always, be pushing forward “brutally” in the first 10/15 minutes. The Bavarians have to be aware of Kagawa and Lewandowski who are always running a lot what could especially disturb the central backs who are used to forwards who are rather waiting for the passes instead of dropping deep to play passes. This will be another crucial duel, besides the defensive midfield against Kagawa.
Bayern has to win and that’s why Bayern will win. They have always been there when necessary and after all they have much more experience than Dortmund. The Bundesliga will surely see one of the best games for years. Two teams at eye level are facing each other in a, probably, championship-deciding match in which both teams can win but also lose everything. Or like Louis van Gaal would explain it: “Death or Gladioli”
Thank you very much for reading my preview of this big match! Please rate and share it! 🙂