Borussia Dortmund v Wolfsburg
Live on BT Sport 2
It’s been a long goodbye for Jurgen Klopp, but so far it’s been a pleasant one. Since announcing his gut-wrenching decision to leave the club he’s made his home, the charismatic and inspirational Klopp has overseen a distinct upturn in BVB’s fortunes.
Bayern Munich were beaten on penalties at the Allianz Arena to book a place in this final in Berlin, and a run of four Bundesliga wins in six secured a top-seven finish. Klopp said a tearful farewell to Signal Iduna Park last weekend, as Die Schwarzgelben overcame Werder Bremen 3-2.
Finishing seventh is clearly a disappointment given that Klopp has delivered two Bundesliga titles and a German Cup during his glittering reign, but when you consider that BVB were languishing in the relegation zone at Christmas, it is an extraordinary turnaround.
That said, Borussia Dortmund are still far from the team that once bloodied Bayern Munich’s nose on a regular basis. Key players like Mats Hummels and Marco Reus have been hampered all season by injury niggles, summer signings like Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos have failed miserably, and playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan has only returned to form in the last three months of the campaign.
It won’t just be Klopp saying goodbye on Saturday. Midfield orchestrator Ilkay Gundogan will move on after refusing to sign a new contract, and warhorse Sebastian Kehl will make his final appearance after 14 years of dedicated service. Both players are expected to start the match, and for once Dortmund have no fresh injury concerns.
It’s easy to get carried away by the drama of Jurgen Klopp’s exit from German football, but it’s worth remembering that Wolfsburg have their own compelling reasons to want to win this trophy.
The Wolves have only won one major domestic honour, which was their stunning Bundesliga title win in 2009. Aside from that spectacular triumph, there hasn’t been much to shout about, and a 3-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1995 final is the closest they have got to German Cup glory.
Not only is there a desire to furnish a pretty bare trophy cabinet, but there is a will to honour the memory of midfielder Junior Malanda. The Belgian was tragically taken from us at the age of just 20, killed in a car accident in January. Wolfsburg’s players will wear commemorative shirts on Saturday, with Malanda’s squad number 19 featuring inside a green heart.
Wolfsburg’s squad has been united and inspired by the memory of Malanda, and in 2015 the team has excelled. Dieter Hecking’s men collected the same number of points (69) as the title-winning team managed six years ago, and they won 10 of their 17 games in the Ruckrunde, including a 2-1 success against Borussia Dortmund a couple of weeks ago. Wolfsburg have been rewarded for showing faith in coach Dieter Hecking, despite a sticky start to the campaign.
The outstanding Kevin De Bruyne has been the attacking fulcrum, delivering a record 20 assists in the Bundesliga and scoring 17 goals in all competitions. Bas Dost has banged in 16 goals since the turn of the year, and there have been powerful contributions from a host of players in all positions.
The big injury concern is Brazilian centre-back Naldo, who is the leader of the defence, and has scored crucial goals in both meetings with Dortmund this season. The veteran has a knee injury, but did return to training in the latter part of the week. If he misses out, young Robin Knoche is a solid replacement. Keeper Diego Benaglio and enterprising left-back Ricardo Rodriguez should both shake off knocks.
The emotion of Klopp’s imminent departure has clearly had a positive effect on the Dortmund squad, but if you look at the bare facts, it’s tough to tip BVB to win in 90 minutes at a price of [2.34].
Dortmund squeezed out Bayern in Munich in the semis, but away from Signal Iduna Park they haven’t beaten a side that wasn’t involved in the relegation scrap since a 3-2 win at Augsburg in August. That victory was their only away win against a top-six side all season, and they suffered defeats at Bayern, Wolfsburg, Gladbach and Schalke.
Wolfsburg have looked a bit tired in recent weeks, but they still outplayed BVB a couple of weeks ago, and I think De Bruyne will cause Dortmund’s jittery defence plenty of problems. Dost’s deadly movement in the box is always a threat, and the thrusting runs of wide midfielders Daniel Caligiuri and Ivan Perisic will be tough to track.
In midfield Wolfsburg have plenty of options, and if Hecking decides to pair up Luiz Gustavo and Maxi Arnold in the engine room, they are easily a match for Kehl and Gundogan.
The absence of Naldo would be a huge blow for Wolfsburg, but I think the odds of [3.3] for them to win what could be an incredibly close match are just too big.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Overs is the favourite here at [1.76], and that makes sense. Nine of the clubs’ last ten meetings have yielded three goals or more, and both attacks can be unstoppable when they catch fire.
Many cup finals can be nervy, safety-first affairs, but in Germany that doesn’t tend to be the case. In the 15 German Cup finals played since the turn of the millennium, ten have featured three goals or more in the first 90 minutes.
German Cup Winner
I toyed with the idea of backing Wolfsburg Draw No Bet at [2.4], given their needlessly inflated odds, but if you back Wolfsburg in the Winner 14/15 market at [2.22], then you’ll win if Wolfsburg lift the cup via the 90 minutes, extra time or the dreaded penalty shootout.
Back Wolfsburg to win the German Cup at [2.22]
Back Over 2.5 Goals at [1.76]