2nd May 2016.
Three times in the past decade, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have met in the final of the DFB Pokal. In 2008, Dortmund fell behind 11 minutes into the match but scored in stoppage time to buy themselves another opportunity at the win. The Bavarians pulled ahead in extra time to win their 14th DFB Pokal title.
Dortmund had their revenge four years later, crushing Bayern Munich 5-2 to win their first DFB Pokal since 1989. It was just one feather in the cap of a fabulous season for the Black and Yellows, who would also go on to beat Munich by eight points in the Bundesliga.
The third match-up played a good deal more like the first. In 2014, Dortmund managed to hold Munich to a scoreless stalemate throughout the first 90 minutes of play. In extra time, though, the superior Bayern team outlasted Dortmund, scoring two goals to bring their DFB Pokal title haul to 17.
A Fierce Rivalry
Those three games aren’t even the full extent of the Bayern Munich-Borussia Dortmund rivalry that has flourished in the DFB Pokal in recent years. In the 2012/13 incarnation of the cup, the Black and Yellows were the reigning champions thanks to the 5-2 walloping they gave the Bavarians the year before. Still, when the two teams met again in the quarterfinals, it was nothing but bad news for Dortmund, who were eliminated after losing 0-1. It was a tough break for Dortmund and they haven’t won a DFB Pokal title since.
Of course, the Black and Yellows did pay Bayern Munich back in full last year. In the midst of one of their worst Bundesliga seasons ever, Dortmund looked like easy prey to the Bavarians when the two teams met in the semi-finals. However, BVB equalized late to force extra time, held the score at 1-1 throughout the additional half hour, and won the penalty shootout to clinch a spot in the final. (Wolfsburg went on to win the tournament in a 3-1 championship match.)
Now, as the 2015/16 DFB Pokal barrels into its final round, it looks like we’re poised to get yet another chapter in the endlessly exciting, endlessly brutal Bayern-Dortmund rivalry. All along, it’s looked like a foregone conclusion that these two football clubs would meet in the German Cup final. Now, following Dortmund’s 3-0 win against Hertha Berlin on April 20th and Bayern’s 2-0 victory over Werder Bremen,
the match-up is finally official.
By all accounts, this conclusion was the only logical one for the 2015/16 DFB Pokal. Bayern Munich haven’t conceded a goal in the tournament since the round of 32 when they met Wolfsburg’s team of reigning champions. They still won that game by a comfortable 3-1 margin. Add the one goal the Bavarians gave up in the first round of the tournament (in a 3-1 game against FC Nottingen) and the Bavarians have scored 12 goals in their five Pokal matches while only giving up two.
Borussia Dortmund’s numbers are just as impressive. The Black and Yellows have also conceded two goals across their five matches (one to Stuttgart in the quarterfinals and one to SC Paderborn in the round of 32). However, they won that Paderborn match 7-1 and have won every match by at least two points, giving them a goal total of 17 for the tournament so far.
A Tournament with No Frontrunner
With statistics like those, it’s tough to label either of these teams the clear frontrunner to win the DFB Pokal title this spring. On one hand, Bayern Munich have way more titles than everyone else and have won two of their three skirmishes with Dortmund in the German Cup final. The Bavarians are also leading the way in the 2015/16 Bundesliga and scored a decisive 5-1 victory over Thomas Tuchel’s Black and Yellows back in October.
On the other hand, Dortmund have scored more goals in the DFB Pokal this season and managed to knock Bayern off their game a year ago, the last time the two teams met in this tournament. BVB have also made decent strides toward closing the Bundesliga gap in recent months and even managed a scoreless draw against Bayern in March—a huge improvement over that four-point loss from last fall.
Bottom line, there is no frontrunner here. Both teams are exceptionally strong, with a wealth of talented players. Whether the match comes down to a battle between offenses, a skirmish of defensive power, or a contest between which team is hungrier for the title, it doesn’t matter: there’s no easy way to give either team the edge. Here’s why:
The Offense: The last time Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in a DFB Pokal final, with their decisive 5-2 victory in 2012, they did so largely on the strength of a 24-year-old Polish forward. Robert Lewandowski scored Dortmund’s last three goals in that match, single-handedly giving the soccer team an advantage that even the great Bayern Munich couldn’t hope to break. Now, Lewandowski has switched sides and is playing for the Bavarians—playing so well that he’s the Bundesliga’s top scorer at the moment. He’s only notched three goals so far in the DFB Pokal, though, compared to seven for Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Bayern’s Thomas Muller has four while BVB’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gonzalo Castro have four apiece. Needless to say, both clubs have considerable scoring talent onboard, and either lineup could come out on top.
The Defense: We’re looking at two teams that only conceded two goals each in their five 2015/16 DFB Pokal games. Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki is tops in terms of clean sheets, with five. Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer only has four, but that’s because he didn’t play in one of the games where the Bavarians nabbed a shutout victory. Judging by goal difference totals in the Bundesliga, Bayern are the stronger team defensively, and it’s not really tough to see why when you look at the people they have in their midfield or back around the box. Still, the Black and Yellows showed in March that they can hold Bayern Munich’s deep offensive side scoreless for a whole match—a fact that absolutely cannot be ignored heading into the final.
Hunger: With two skilled football clubs with a ton of wind in their sails, it’s possible that the 2015/16 DFB Pokal will just come down to whichever team wants it more. Even in that race, though, it’s tough to declare a winner. Borussia Dortmund haven’t won this title since 2012 and they’re playing in their third consecutive final. A win would also mark Thomas Tuchel’s first season in charge a success. No one is really calling into question Tuchel’s performance at this point, but Dortmund did lose a heartbreaker to Liverpool in the Europa League quarterfinals. They are also far enough behind in the Bundesliga at this point that their odds of winning that title are probably still long. Bottom line, if the Black and Yellows are going to mark Tuchel’s first year with some silverware, the DFB Pokal is their best bet.
On paper, it seems like Bayern Munich’s hunger to win the German Cup should be less pronounced. After all, the football club just won this title two years ago and have raised the cup 17 times over the years. What would another victory really mean at this point?
The factor that could push the Bavarians to fight that much harder for the 2015/16 DFB Pokal is the impending departure of Pep Guardiola. The world-renowned Spanish manager will move on to Manchester City at the end of the season, after three seasons in charge. Despite some very solid work at Bayern, though, Guardiola has not yet won a treble in Germany. This year, with Munich still alive and well in the DFB Pokal, the Bundesliga, and the Champions League, the hopes of the team winning a treble to send their coach on his way are still alive and well. Could that fact propel Bayern Munich to a peak performance in the German Cup final?
In any case, all eyes will surely by on Olympiastadion Berlin on May 21st as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund square off once again for the DFB Pokal championship match. Which team do you think has the edge? Share your predictions on one of Soccer Box’s social media pages, we are active on multiple platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.