LONDON — Bayern Munich is trying to playing things down as the title favorite, while outsider Borussia Dortmund is eager to play up its chances.
Even before a ball is kicked in today’s Champions League Final, the German rivals are at odds in their approach to the biggest game in club football.
Bayern is approaching its third final in four years with the self-assured calm of a team fully in control after a season of dominance, while Dortmund is enjoying the role of underdog with everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Bayern winger Thomas Mueller summed up his team’s mood Friday, saying that the showdown is just “a normal Champion League game.”
“Of course you get goose bumps when you’re on the pitch and we know what’s at stake. We won’t let it drive us crazy though,” the 23-year-old said.
There was a similar sense of focus from Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, who sees victory for his side as a matter of progression ahead.
“The players are the right age now, the right character. There’s nothing against us winning tomorrow,” said Lahm, who added that he wouldn’t be surprised if Bayern was to play a fourth final in five years next season.
Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp is happy with one.
“If this is the only final in my life, this is the perfect place for it, and this is the perfect opponent,” said Klopp, who spoke of the honor of playing at Wembley Stadium.
Klopp said it was clear his side was the rank outsider, but he added that his players were determined to make the most of their opportunity.
“We will approach the game with unbridled enthusiasm, with huge motivation for the task, and with the knowledge it can all go to pieces,” Klopp said. “But people have climbed Mt. Everest knowing that they could fall three meters from the top and yet they still tried it. And that’s why we’re going to try too, and hope for good weather.”
While Klopp was speaking metaphorically, London greeted both teams with traditional British weather, and the unrelenting drizzle helped contribute to traffic problems that delayed both sides’ arrival for their run outs on the pitch.
Klopp said the team received a police escort from the airport and “if we’re to make it on time for the game tomorrow we’ll need another. So if someone knows a policeman, please ask.”
The build-up to the 101st competitive meeting between the two rivals has been overshadowed by Mario Goetze’s decision to leave Dortmund for Bayern and reports that Polish striker Robert Lewandowski is planning to follow suit.
For Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, the prospect of the club winning a second Champions League title - after its triumph in 1997 - was motivation enough.
“It would be great to show the players who may be going that our team can achieve great things too,” he said.
Goetze is out of what would have been his last Dortmund game with a hamstring injury, sustained after just 12 minutes of the second leg of his team’s semifinal at Real Madrid. Otherwise, Klopp has no injury concerns.
Hummels, who failed to establish himself at Bayern after coming through its youth teams, declared himself fit after recovering from an ankle injury.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes declared all his players were fit, too, after completing what he called “the best season in 50 years of the Bundesliga.”
Bayern wrapped up the title with six weeks to spare and finished 25 points ahead of Dortmund <0x2014> both records in a season of many.
Heynckes said that the final would probably be his last chance to lift the trophy he won in 1998 as coach of Real Madrid.
The 68-year-old is making way for former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and has hinted strongly that he’s retiring.
“This is special for Bayern and for the team,” Heynckes said. “You have players who are a little bit older and for them it would be the crowning achievement of their careers. For me too, but I’m a little more relaxed about it. There’s a little more distance because I won it before.”
Bayern is driven by the pain of losing last year’s final to Chelsea on penalties – in Munich.
“We hope of course that Wembley is better and that the stadium brings us luck,” Heynckes said. “Last year we were the better team. Perhaps tomorrow the football gods are with us.”
For now, Heynckes has as many titles as Dortmund does. But that will all change on Saturday night.