History will be made when the draw for the Champions League semi-finals takes place in the Swiss town of Nyon on Friday. For the first time, two German teams will be in the pot, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
And yet Dortmund were just one minute away from being knocked out by Malaga on Tuesday at the Westfalen Stadion. Jurgen Klopp’s men didn’t play well that evening but had arguably been the better side over the two leg. Malaga’s second goal by Eliseu, despite being offside, looked to have ended Dortmund’s European adventure. They had other ideas and sensationally scored two goals in two stoppage time minutes to stun Malaga.
Neven Subotic exclaimed “I’ve never experienced anything like that, only in Hollywood films.” Goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was more critical. “It was crazy at the end but I must say that we didn’t play good football today.It’s possibly our worst match in the Champions League this season but we possessed huge desire and found the will to win the match.”
That never say die spirit has taken Dortmund to their first semi-final in Europe’s premier club competition in 15 years and after staring elimination in the face they’ll now be confident of going all the way.
Bayern’s route to the semi-final was less dramatic but more impressive as they beat Juventus 4-0 on aggregate. Leading 2-0 from the first leg, they were tested in the opening 20 minutes but crucially didn’t concede an early goal thanks to the excellent Manuel Neuer. They killed off Juve hopes when the tireless Mario Mandzukic pounced to head home the opening goal.
Dortmund ignited the Champions League when they won the Group of Death in style. They forced Real Madrid into the runners up spot leaving Ajax third and Manchester City, the world’s richest club, rock bottom.
The pundits were unanimous. Sir Alex Ferguson and Joe Mourinho tipped Dortmund to go all the way to the May final at Wembley. But they haven’t been as impressive in the knockout rounds. Their will to win got them past Malaga but they’ll have to rediscover their early season form if they’re to lift the big trophy.
Bayern were business like as they won their less glamorous group, even losing to outsiders Bate Borisov in Belarus. Like all great champions they have saved their best till the business end of the tournament. They served notice of their brilliance in the last 16 when they gave Arsenal a masterclass at the Emirates in London. And it was more of the same against Juventus. This time they were equally as good both home and away, not conceding a single goal. As a result, it’s now Bayern who are hot favourites to lift the Champions League title in London.
Juventus coach Antonio Conte was impressed. “It’s difficult to play against such a strong skillful team. In both legs, we played against a great team that has shown it’s one of the best in Europe. They have the potential to be one of the best Bayern teams of all time.”
So Bayern and Dortmund are both through to the semi-finals but there remains a fundamental difference between them. In the past few months half of this Dortmund team have been linked to big money transfers, mostly to the English Premier League. Robert Lewandowski is also on Juventus’ radar while Barcelona and Real Madrid want Matts Hummels. In each of the last two seasons Dortmund have lost a big name player, first Nuri Shahin and then Shinji Kagawa. If they’re to at least stay competitive it’s vital they keep hold of Marco Reus and Mario Gotze. But that’s easier said than done as the Lewandowski transfer saga shows. In stark contrast hardly any of Bayern’s big names are the subject of transfer talk. Why ? The answer is simple. The Bavarians can match what the rest of Europe’s big clubs pay.
Antonio Conte is pessimistic about the state of European football. “Today, I see teams like Real Madrid, Bayern, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, as clubs that are economic superpowers, with 450 million euros they arrive at the market, put down their money and pick out the best players.”
This simply makes Dortmund’s achievement even more impressive.
The upshot of both team’s success will be felt by other teams in Germany’s top flight. The Bundesliga will consolidate the fourth place that they won for this season and could overtake the English Premier League. The semi-finals will feature the two best German clubs and the two top Spanish sides of all time. Spanish football is enjoying a golden age and the Liga is well clear at the top of the Uefa co-efficent. But given that football goes around in cycles what short term effect would there be if a German team were to win the Champions League at the end of the season ?
With 6 games to play, Bayern clinched their 22nd Bundesliga title at Frankfurt last Saturday to stay on course for a unique treble. When they knocked Dortmund out of the German Cup in February they finally looked to have got the ‘Black and yellow’ monkey off their back. And now there’s the tantalising prospect of an all-German Champions League final. Arjen Robben says “We’d like to be kept apart from Dortmund in the next round but you don’t have a choice in these things. What comes, comes. They are big games with four great teams.”
Whatever happens in Friday’s draw and the rest of tournament, one thing is certain. The Bundesliga is on the rise.
Eurosport 2 Commentator
We kick off the weekend’s Bundesliga action on Friday with a European summit as Freiburg host Hannover. On Saturday it’s the deposed champions Borussia Dortmund against rock bottom Greuther Furth (15:30). The match of the weekend pits fourth against third as Schalke host Bayer Leverkusen(18:30). On Sunday Stuttgart entertain Borussia Moenchengladbach(15:30) followed by Augsburg against Eintracht Frankfurt (1730) two teams with contrasting goals.