Bayern Munich are out to exorcise the ghosts of losing last season’s UEFA Champions League final at home to Chelsea when they take on Borussia Dortmund on Saturday at Wembley in London for the European title.
It will be Bayern’s third European final in four years after the 2-0 defeat in 2009-2010 to Jose Mourinho’s Inter in Madrid, then the acute disappointment of losing last May’s penalty shootout in Munich.
Ever since it was announced in January 2010 that last season’s final would be held at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, the Bavarians had targeted lifting the cup dahoam — “at home” in the local dialect.
Having beaten Basel, Olympique de Marseille and Real Madrid to reach the final, Germany star Thomas Mueller gave the hosts an 83rd-minute lead, putting Bayern on course for their fifth European title, until Chelsea ruined Munich’s party.
Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba — on his last appearance in a Blues shirt — equalized from his team’s only corner of the game on 88 minutes, then converted the final penalty as the Londoners won the shootout 4-3 to break Bayern hearts.
“I experienced the 1999 final, when we lost so dramatically to Manchester United in Barcelona,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in the wake of the Chelsea defeat. “That was also unbelievably brutal, but I have the impression that this is even more bitter, brutal and has superseded that.”
The Bavarians came back stronger, adding centerback Dante and striker Mario Mandzukic to their squad, and brushed aside all-comers to win this season’s Bundesliga with a 25-point margin.
They claimed more than two dozen records, including most points (91), most wins (29 of 34 games), biggest goal-difference (+80) and fewest goals conceded (18).
They are bidding to become the first German team to win the treble of European, Budesliga and DFB Pokal crowns, but insist last season’s final disappointment is just a distant memory.
“This is an incredibly stable squad, in its mentality and psychologically,” said coach Jupp Heynckes, who will bow out to be replaced by Pep Guardiola after the DFB Pokal final on June 1 against VfB Stuttgart. “We don’t let anything upset us and we have a very clear goal to win the European Cup. Nothing will dissuade us from that. I have never experienced such a focused team, as a coach or as a player. After last season, after such a disappointment, when we were the better team over the 90 minutes, games like that carve out exceptional people and that is what my players are.”
Heynckes said losing a second consecutive Champions League final has not entered his head, while Thomas Mueller said dealing with pressure is just part of being a Bayern player.
“The pressure is always there at FC Bayern, regardless of which game, except maybe for our second leg at Barcelona,” Mueller said after Bayern won the return semi-final 3-0 in Spain, after their 4-0 first-leg victory. “Last season, we seldom turned things around when we went behind, but on the few occasions it has happened this year, we have reacted well.”
Bayern showed their mettle last Saturday when they ran out 4-3 winners having found themselves 3-1 down at Borussia Moenchengladbach in the first 10 minutes.
Likewise, two goals in the last 17 minutes at home to Fortuna Duesseldorf in March rescued a 3-2 league victory.
Midfield star Bastian Schweinsteiger, who hit the post with Bayern’s fifth and final penalty in last seasons’ final, said strength in depth is the key difference this time around.
What if he should he be called up to take another penalty in a possible shootout?
“If the coach wants me to, I’ll take one,” said the 28-year-old, who Heynckes has described as the “best midfielder in the world.”
“It’s always difficult talking about it, and we want to decide the game over 90 minutes and carry out our plan as well as possible, but if it comes to it, I’m ready,” Schweinsteiger said.