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It's cool hipsters vs. Bayern bankers

Der Klassiker pits style against money

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Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger (far left) is a brilliant playmaker.

FRANK AUGSTEIN / THE ASSOCAITED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger (far left) is a brilliant playmaker.

Forget El Clasico. Der Klassiker is the match everyone wants to see these days -- a showdown between hipster-cool Borussia Dortmund and a Bayern Munich outfit that embodies the growing clout, both competitive and financial, of the German club game.

One is about skinny ties, thick-rimmed glasses and some of the trendiest soccer being played in Europe; the other is an expression of the shifting power balance that became apparent with their 7-0 aggregate trouncing of Barcelona some weeks ago.

If you put on plaid this morning, chances are you'll be rooting for Dortmund when the Champions League Final kicks off at Wembley Stadium (1 p.m., Sportsnet). But if your first thought after brushing your teeth was to check your bank balance, Bayern is likely the team for you.

In any event, today's clash comes as a fitting end to a thrilling Champions League campaign that just happened to produce the best final available. And following is what you need to know about it.

Borussia Dortmund

THEIR 4-1 win over Real Madrid at the Westfalenstadion last month put them on course for a first Champions League final since 1997, and they overcame both Malaga and Shakhtar Donetsk in the earlier rounds after topping a group that included Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City.

Go-to goalscorer: Robert Lewandowski. He scored all four goals that night against Madrid and is the top scorer remaining in the competition with 10 tallies.

Key playmaker: Ilkay Gundogan. One of the breakout players of the season, the 22-year-old has attempted 48.7 passes per match in Champions League play, completing nearly 87 per cent of them.

Midfield stopper: Sven Bender. Operating alongside Gundogan, he sets himself about disrupting the opposition attack and can play a decent through-ball as well.

Case for the defence: Mats Hummels. Barcelona was laughed out of town when they asked about signing him, and it's not hard to see why. The 24-year-old, while prone to the odd gaffe, is positionally sound and averages more than 10 clearances per game.

Between the sticks: Roman Weidenfeller. The 32-year-old has faced considerably more shots than his Bayern counterpart but has so far managed to save 89 per cent of them. He has kept four clean sheets in Champions League play.

Ace up the sleeve: Marco Reus. He picked up right where he left off at Borussia Monchengladbach last season and will play just behind Lewandowski on Saturday. He finished fifth in the Bundesliga assist table this season.

Bayern Munich

IN the Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals they defeated the league winners of Italy (Juventus) and Spain (Barcelona) by a combined score of 11-0. They triumphed over Arsenal in the Round of 16 and won a group that included Valencia, BATE Borisov and Lille.

Go-to goalscorer: Mario Mandzukic. He has scored only twice in the Champions League but bagged 15 Bundesliga goals in his first season with Bayern Munich. He'll be his side's primary aerial threat at Wembley.

Key playmaker: Bastian Schweinsteiger. The 28-year-old is to Bayern what Andrea Pirlo is to Juventus and Xavi is to Barcelona. He has averaged just over 60 passes per match in the Champions League, completing more than 87 per cent of them.

Midfield stopper: Javi Martinez. German soccer's record signing, the Spain international is adept at crowding out the opposing playmaker and is one of Europe's best at intercepting a pass.

Case for the defence: Dante. Perhaps the most-improved player in Germany this season, the Brazilian rarely loses a battle in the air and is never, ever dribbled past by an opposing striker. The job he did on Lionel Messi in the last round was textbook.

Between the sticks: Manuel Neuer. The Germany number one has a save percentage of 87 and hasn't allowed a Champions League goal since the Round of 16 against Arsenal.

Ace up the sleeve: Thomas Muller. He has rebounded incredibly from the disappointment of last season, finishing among the Bundesliga leaders in both goals and assists and finding the back of the net in four of six Champions League knockout matches.

Prediction

SCHWEINSTEIGER and Martinez should be given a slight edge over Gundogan and Bender in the centre of the park, and with their ability to spring such quality scoring chances on the counter-attack Bayern should find themselves with slightly more opportunities than their opponents.

Muller will be man of the match in a 2-1 win for Bayern Munich.

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @jerradpeters

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 C5

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