Why Bayern has to win
Munich’s airport lifted its ban on late-night flights to send Chelsea FC fans back to London after last year’s Champions League Final against FC Bayern München.
Some Chelsea supporters stayed the night, wearing smiles while roaming Munich’s streets after their club shocked FC Bayern, which, in the 83rd minute, took a 1-0 lead and was minutes away from becoming the first team to win Europe’s premier club tournament in its own stadium.
Five minutes later, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba scored on Chelsea’s lone penalty kick – Bayern had 20 – forcing overtime and then penalty kicks. After Bastian Schweinsteiger missed Bayern’s final kick, Drogba kicked his in, clinching the trophy that belonged to Bayern, who dominated but just couldn’t convert on multiple scoring chances. Worse, it left Bayern, the New York Yankees of German soccer, without a single trophy for the second straight season.
Chelsea’s fans, knowing what was good for them, postponed their real celebration while roaming the streets near Munich’s central train station after the game. Any cheering would have stood out, as the locals walked silently with their heads down. I was there, and I remember sitting on a curb with friends and eating a kebab across from a bar, where a group of Bayern fans who had come from a rural part of the state fought, almost literally, over who was supposed to pick up the tab. A few days later, a friend of mine who doesn’t care much for soccer told me he was a little depressed about the whole thing. The city slumped into a soccer hangover, and it had nothing to do with its delicious beer.
Wanna know what? There’s a worse hangover, and it’s one loss away.
Why Bayern has to win, Part 2
When your roster lists half the German national team, plus stars like Franck Ribery (France) and Arjen Robben (Netherlands), rebounding from such a bad loss is easier than it would be for most teams.
Bayern was so good during its domestic season this year that it clinched the Bundesliga earlier than any team in the league’s history – with six games still to play. The club set league records for points, biggest lead over the second-place team, wins, fewest goals allowed and about 2,000 other categories. In 34 games, Jupp Heynckes’ team scored 80 more goals than it allowed, breaking its own 1972-73 record by 16 goals.
None of it, though, will console the club’s demanding, egocentric management if Bayern loses to Dortmund on Saturday.
Bayern has matched its Bundesliga season in the Champions League, beating Barcelona 7-0 in the semifinal series to advance to the final. It will be Bayern’s third Champions League final in four years. If it doesn’t win, it will be Bayern’s third Champions League final loss in four years.
If Bayern doesn’t win, it will lose a chance to claim the club’s first triple (a sweep of the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal, Germany’s single-elimination cup), which, with a win Saturday, would be a near certainty considering mediocre VfB Stuttgart awaits in the DFB -Pokal final.
If Bayern doesn’t win, it will again be on the losing side of Champions League history.
If Bayern doesn’t win, Dortmund will claim the season in which it finished 25 points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga.
If Bayern doesn’t win, Dortmund, having won the Bundesliga each of the past two years before this season, will have stumped the kings of German soccer in three straight seasons.
If Bayern doesn’t win … You see, Bayern has to win.
Why Bayern has to win, period.
It’s hard to imagine more pressure on a team that has already accomplished so much. Losing in London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday would be heartbreaking enough if the opponent were, say, Manchester United, or Real Madrid, or AC Milan. But no, its Jürgen Klopp-led Dortmund, the bumble-bee-clad squad from Germany’s industrial center that will fight to stake its claim as one of Europe’s top teams while it still can.
Out for the game with a hamstring injury is Mario Götze, Dortmund’s quick and clever midfielder who is transferring to Bayern after the season. In addition to Götze, Dortmund likely will lose Polish striker Robert Lewandowski in the offseason. It’s doubtful, then, that the club will be able to challenge Bayern, who are adding the same Götze and replacing the retiring Heynckes with Pep Guardiola, who led Barcelona to 14 trophies in four seasons. Dortmund’s only chance figures to be if Bayern adjusts poorly to Guardiola, who will institute a different style than the one Bayern has played under Heynckes.
Dortmund, then, is playing for almost as much as Bayern. Klopp, who wears long hair, a thick 5 o’clock shadow and his emotions on his (short) sleeve, would love nothing more than to make imperial Bayern, which always travels in matching gray suits, suffer yet again.
Dortmund, by the way, usually travels in sweats. So just relax, Bayern. It’s not like this game’s important.