Bayern chase yet another double as Leverkusen hope to end title wait






A club accustomed to winning titles on a near annual basis takes on a team used to missing out in agonizing fashion.



 

By Derek Wilson,  The dominating giant of the Bundesliga take on the nearly men of German football when Bayern Munich face Bayer Leverkusen in Saturday's German Cup final.
Bayern have already lifted the Bundesliga title, their eighth in a row, in this coronavirus altered season and now wish to add another cup to their bulging trophy cabinet.
Leverkusen in contrast have not tasted success since 1993 despite going close on eight occasions across Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League.
"We'll continue to stay hungry," said Bayern's Joshua Kimmich after the Bundesliga success. Bayern have won the double 12 times previously with the majority of them coming in recent years including last season.
When Bayern get going, they are hard to stop but a surprise is not impossible. They did lose the 2018 cup final to Eintracht Frankfurt but that is their only slip in their last five appearances in the showpiece match.
A repeat of 2013's treble also remains on with the Champions League still to resume from suspension in August. Bayern are on the brink of the quarter-finals having convincingly won their last 16 first leg away to Chelsea.
Such a season is remarkable given the team's struggles under former coach Niko Kovac early on. But Hansi Flick's arrival in November signalled a turnaround with Bayern now unbeaten in their last 25 competitive games, winning 24.
"It was a difficult but ultimately very strong campaign," said striker Robert Lewandowski, top scorer in the Bundesliga with 34 goals.
Bayern are on a 16-match winning streak which includes a 4-2 romp at Leverkusen despite giving their hosts a goal of a start.
But Leverkusen did win in Munich early in Flick's reign, even if luck was on their side in that 2-1 triumph.
"Since then, they have come on a long way. They are incredibly difficult to play against and beat under Hansi Flick," said Leverkusen defender Sven Bender.
"That's clearly what the statistics show. But we have weapons to beat them. We have to be brave and play our own game."
Coach Peter Bosz's side are sometimes brilliant when their attack, focused around rumoured Bayern target Kai Havertz, clicks. They can also produce weak performances though and stumbled late in the season to finish fifth and miss the Champions League spots.
Winning the cup would largely atone for that even if their fans cannot attend in Berlin with the game behind closed doors due to the coronavirus crisis.
"The atmosphere before, during and after the final was always very special," said Bender. "It will be different this time round. But that's not a problem for us.
"There is great anticipation as the club hasn't been in a final for a long time. We are all eager to win this title."
It would be just Leverkusen's third honour after the 1988 UEFA Cup and 1993 German Cup. Since then they have lost two domestic finals, the last in 2009 and been league runners-up five times.
In 2002 they even managed a 'treble' of their own, finishing second in both domestic competitions and losing the Champions League final as well.
Whatever happens, the fact the curtain is drawing on a German season concluded on the pitch - even with empty stands - can be considered a triumph. A strict hygiene protocol has been followed since action resumed in May after two months off.
The governing DFB said neither side would appear before or after the match in public. "Therefore we advise and ask you, please do not make your way to Berlin."

 


Thursday, July 2nd 2020
By Derek Wilson,
           


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