A well-stocked Bayern Munich would begin as the overwhelming favourites to defeat defending champions RB Leipzig in the German Cup Final tonight. As though the record Bundesliga champions are not formidable enough, they have strengthened their squad this season with the acquisitions of Sadio Mane, Matthijs de Ligt and Ryan Gravenberch so that they could wield their muscle in Europe and reclaim the Champions League title they last won in 2020.
But former Bayern Munich legend Lothar Matthäus rings in a word of caution for the club he featured 302 times in two spells: “Anything could happen at the start of the season, There are new players, who are gelling into the system, still getting used to the formations and strategies and they would take time to settle down. So you can’t rule out either team, though Bayern would be the slight favourites. You know, Bayern will fight for every piece of metal on offer.
The recent purchases—though they had to release prolific striker Robert Lewandowski—clearly emphasise their vaulting ambitions. But Bayern would miss him, the scorer of 239 goals in 253 appearances for the Bavarians, Matthaus believes. “He has been your best player and one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the world. You don’t get many No 9s like him these days. And there is not anyone in the side who does the exact same role. Mane, you know though he scores a lot of goals , is a wide player. Thomas Muller is not his type either. But I am sure the coach would have found some way out, maybe a different formation or a change of role. And even without him Bayern would have a lot of firepower,” he explains.
But Leipzig are no pushovers—this calendar year, they have managed as many points as Bayern Munich in the league (36) but with a better goal difference (+27). Domenico Tedesco has forged a tough side who could test the resolve and energy of the best teams in Europe, and who unlike in the past seasons have managed to keep their most exciting players in town for another season. Despite covetous suitors willing to shell out truckloads of money, they have managed to retain the effervescent midfielder Christopher Nkunku, who again holds the key to spinning an upset. “He is one of my favourite players in the world, and the best player in the league last season, according to me. He can play a variety of roles and be good in each role. Containing him would be the key,” he says.
Leipzig have made smart but inexpensive buys as well, like Ademola Lookman from Leicester City and Alexander Sorloth from Real Sociedad (both on loan). “Leipzig have been a superb addition to the league. Since their promotion 5-6 years ago, they have played some great football and managed to reach the Champions League,” he says.
He foresees a keen contest that could set the tempo for this Bundesliga season, which Bayern had been dominating in the last half a decade. “I am expecting a tighter championship. Dortmund, Leverkusen and Leipzig would be knocking on Bayern’s doors,” he says. His heart, though, whispers that Bayern would continue their hegemony over the Bundesliga.