With both teams out of Europe, the German Cup has come in to even sharper focus for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The two clash in a semifinal that’s likely to define the success of this season for both.The third meeting of Germany’s big two this term comes less than three weeks after their last match in Munich, when Bayern brushed Dortmund aside 4-1. The Bavarians also beat Thomas Tuchel’s men in last year’s cup final, though they needed penalties to seal the double in Berlin last May.
With the title all-but secured for a fifth successive year, the hosts will inevitably want to send off retiring stalwarts Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso in style at the showpiece event in the Olympic Stadium next month.
“A final like that would, of course, be a very, very nice way to end,” Lahm admitted, ahead of Wednesday’s match.
But the Bayern skipper accepts that Bayern’s domestic dominance is such that, following their Champions League exit to Real Madrid, “a good or very good season” for the club now hinges on the cup.
Although Lahm only has a few games left “now is not the time to be sentimental,” he said, adding: “Now we have the cup semifinal, something to look forward to. They are always top duels with Dortmund.”
Despite their last Munich meeting proving a lopsided affair, Thomas Tuchel sees things differently this time around.
“Two weeks ago we had no chance,” he said on Tuesday. “Now we feel ready for a big performance.”
The Dortmund coach, who said he was “endlessly sad” about the retirements of Alonso and Lahm, was primarily referring to his club’s improving injury situation – though they are still without Nuri Sahin (who extended his contract to 2019 on Tuesday), Marc Bartra, Andre Schürrle and Mario Götze – but the form book also gives Dortmund some hope.
Bayern, who could wrap up the Bundesliga title on Saturday in Wolfsburg, haven’t won any of the four games since they beat Dortmund. But their opponents have responded relatively well to that loss, the Champions League exit to Monaco and the bus attack that blighted the first leg of that tie, winning their last two Bundesliga games since and scoring six in the process.
Tuchel is also relying on his men having learnt the lessons of the previous meeting.
“It’s like going down a black run,” he said. “The probability is high that you do better the second time.”
Carlo Ancelotti’s men will be without Manuel Neuer and David Alaba is doubtful but center backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are likely to start on Wednesday.
A fortnight ago, this game was almost an afterthought – now it’s the match that could define the seasons of Germany’s big two.