They call it Der Klassiker, but it’s a rivalry borne out of recent success rather than historical animosity.
Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund, though, is a special game in the German footballing calendar. And not just because it pits the two best teams in the country up against each other, but two of the best teams in Europe, too.
And after the European heartbreak suffered by both clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last week, this German Cup semi-final will take on an extra significance for both clubs on Wednesday night as both look to avenge their continental exits with domestic silverware.
Like Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti’s first season in charge will only really be considered anything like a success if Bayern Munich win the domestic double, and although he can point to some terrible refereeing errors as a reason for defeat to Real Madrid last week, not winning the domestic cup would leave him with no such excuses. Winning the league and not even reaching the final of the other two competitions won’t be any kind of improvement on his predecessor, and even he was considered a failure in some quarters.
Bayern come into this game on the back of an off-day at the weekend, too, which is reflected in the Bayern v Dortmund betting odds. A 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Mainz was a disappointing follow-up to their Champions League exit, and they’ll need a performance and a semi-final victory to alleviate the gloomy mood around the club.
Thomas Tuchel, too, has forces outside of his control to point to when it comes to Champions League heartbreak. The events before the home leg two weeks ago disrupted the tie massively and left Dortmund with a mountain to climb in the away leg.
This season has been something of a transition period for Dortmund. After losing key players like Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan last summer, as well as Mario Gotze and Marco Reus to illness and injury at various points of the season, the Yellow Wall have watched a young side perform admirably at times, even if they’ve never really been in contention. The Cup, though, gives them a chance to take another positive step in their development and get some silverware to show for their efforts this season.
With the Bundesliga title winners and Champions League placings all but sewn up, and with all Germany’s European representatives out before the semi-final stages, that just leaves the Pokal to play for. In Bayern v Dortmund, we have a game fit for a final (a repeat of last season’s final, in fact), and it represents the last chance for both of Germany’s powerhouse clubs to come away from their season with some sort of success.