There’s nothing in sports better than winning a trophy. It’s the reason we religiously check the league table every week, why we slog through every dreary 0-0 snoozefest hoping for a breakthrough, and why we scan the headlines for transfer rumors about our club’s latest potential signing. It’s because every additional victory, every additional point, and every additional goal inches you one step closer towards that coveted moment when the final whistle sounds and your team captain is handed a gold-plated pot and hoists it to the heavens.
Borussia Dortmund won’t have the chance for a top trophy tomorrow. The DFB-Pokal is far from the most coveted trophy in German football, let alone in Europe. But for 90-120 minutes, it won’t matter, because if BVB are indeed victorious over RB Leipzig when the final whistle blows, they’ll get to mount the podium and sing ¡Campeones! as confetti flies, and it will feel absolutely marvelous.
To do so, Dortmund will have to beat Rasenballsport Leipzig for the third time this season, and the second time in a week. BVB might have had Leipzig’s number so far this season, there’s no guarantee that it will be easy. Dortmund blew a 2-0 lead and needed an 87th minute winner on Saturday, and you could argue that Leipzig will be even more motivated this time. They’ll be playing for their first major trophy in their club’s history.
We already know that Dortmund are capable of beating Leipzig. The question will be whether they can replicate the same tactics that led to success the first two times: namely using central midfielders Jude Bellingham and Mahmoud Dahoud to quickly move the ball through midfield and break Leipzig’s press, executing dynamic passing combinations to pull out defenders and enter open space, and taking advantage of Leipzig’s overly-aggressive full backs.
A key question will be whether or not Erling Haaland is healthy to play. He scored a brace in the first match against RB Leipzig in January, and while Dortmund managed to score three without him on Saturday, there’s no doubt that the squad’s offense is that much more lethal with Haaland leading the line.
The other major lineup change from Saturday involves Jude Bellingham. The young Englishman had to sit out the game for a suspension following his red card against VFL Wolfsburg. He actually hasn’t featured in either game vs RB Leipzig, but he’s proven again and again that he can form a very effective pairing with Mahmoud Dahoud, even against sides that emphasize possession like Manchester City.
You may notice that I didn’t include Emre Can in this squad. While he definitely provides a bit of tactical flexibility with his ability to drop into a back line during the buildup or to surge forward in possession, his performances ever since the last international break have been shaky at best, and in the Champions League, catastrophic at worst. I don’t think his defensive upsides are enough to outweigh the positive impacts that Bellingham and Dahoud bring to the squad. That being said, he could be a valuable option to come off the bench if, for example, it’s been sixty minutes and Jude and Dahoud are getting railroaded in midfield.
As always, in a 90 minute final, anything can happen. A freak goal from outside the box can be all the difference between victory and utter defeat. The best thing BVB can do is execute their game plan and rack up as many chances as possible, and the ball will take care of the rest.