With two of the teams I sympathise with making it to the Uefa Champions League semi-finals, I was hopeful of a dream final once the draw was made. Although I felt Bayern Munich were the better team, I expected Barcelona to go through and meet Borussia Dortmund in the final. That is the kind of final I would not lose because a win for either of them would have thoroughly pleased me.
Just to put my position in context, Barca are my pick in the Spanish Primera Liga while in Germany I always sympathise with whoever is rivalling Bayern Munich because the situation there is very fluid and the Bavarians are the only constant factor in the hunt for honours in the Bundesliga. To me, that is what makes this league exciting — you can be champions this season and flirt with relegation the next.
In the last 10 years we have seen the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg, Schalke 04, Wolfsburg and now Dortmund all coming to the party. You do not normally have a top four as we saw in England a few years ago or a two-horse race as is the case in Spain at the moment. What you have is Bayern, who are very rich, and the rest who take turns in competing with the perennial giant.
I have, therefore, made a habit of picking the team that emerges to offer competition to the four-time European champions. For now that team is Dortmund, who have won the Bundesliga in the last two seasons but have now surrendered it to Bayern in record time. The story of their ascendance to their current status is another factor in my admiration and they know how to play the game, don’t they?
With a 20-point gap separating them, the two German giants meet in the league later today at the BVB Arena with the champions looking to widen that gap further and the hosts looking to make a statement that they are not going to give up the title with a whimper. Matches between the two sides are always entertaining and today’s game offers us a sneak preview into the Champions League final.
Because of Bayern’s demolition job over Barcelona, there are those that feel the result at the Wembley Stadium on May 25 is foregone, that the Bavarian side will just roll over their rivals. Nothing could be more simplistic. These teams know each other so well it would be foolhardy to expect a straight-forward result either way. What is not in doubt is that we are going to watch an entertaining match.
I have said before that I am not the excitable type and I refuse to read too much into a situation. The aggregate 7-0 thrashing that Barcelona got in the Champions League semi-finals is phenomenal by all standards but any suggestions that this marks the beginning of the end of an era seems premature to me, at least not until we know how the team will conduct its transfer business in the summer.
This result happened in a context and while the margin shocked me, the result did not. Indeed it is a mark of disrespect for Bayern’s prowess to link their deserved success to any apparent decline of Barca as a footballing force. Bayern have been in and around the business end of the Champions League for the last few years. They must get their credit without declaring disaster in Catalunya. The epitaphs can wait.