How Dortmund might redeploy Lewandowski to beat Bayern
STATS ZONE OVER EUROPE: FourFourTwo's award-winning FREE app now also covers the top flights in Italy, Spain, France and Germany (as well as England, Champions League and Europa League). Ahead of the Champions League final, Michael Cox evaluates Robert Lewandowski
There shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be any major surprises in the 2013 Champions League final: this is the 10th time that Bayern Munich will have met Borussia Dortmund in the last three years.
Those 10 meetings have been across four competitions, and the previous nine games have produced a variety of results. Following a period of Dortmund dominance, this season Bayern Munich have emerged victorious, winning the meetings in the German Cup and the German Supercup, while the two Bundesliga draws favoured Jupp Heynckes' side in terms of league position and psychology.
The results may have varied, but the pattern of the game has been consistent: Bayern dominate possession, and Dortmund play on the counter-attack. A couple of years ago, BayernÃ¢ÂÂs lack of positional structure, carelessness in possession and lack of mobility in midfield meant Dortmund could convert their inferiority in possession into more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. These days, they find that much tougher: Bayern are fiercer in the centre of the pitch, less naÃÂ¯ve in their passing, and less vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Therefore, Bayern will almost certainly have more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than Dortmund. If Jurgen KloppÃ¢ÂÂs side are to record an unlikely triumph, they will have to depend upon ruthlessness in the final third.
Fortunately, up front Dortmund have Robert Lewandowski Ã¢ÂÂ second-top goalscorer in the Bundesliga, and a striker who demonstrated his incredible goalscoring potential with a brilliant four-goal haul against Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg. The Polish striker had an underwhelming debut campaign in the Champions League last season, along with the majority of his teammates, and failed to show the goalscoring form many expected at Euro 2012 on home soil.
Lewandowski and Klopp
However, heÃ¢ÂÂs been superb in the Champions League this season, showing great intelligence and variety in his play, as well as great poaching skills.
Against Real Madrid, LewandowskiÃ¢ÂÂs brilliance was all about his finishing ability. Peculiarly, despite netting four crucial goals, he barely received any passes in dangerous positions Ã¢ÂÂ he simply capitalised on half-chances and picked up on loose balls, then swivelled and shot without a momentÃ¢ÂÂs hesitation. Granted, one goal was a penalty Ã¢ÂÂ but he scored four times from inside the box, despite receiving only two passes in the penalty area.
Whereas Lewandowski seems like a simple target man on first viewing, heÃ¢ÂÂs actually become a more refined all-round forward capable of dropping deep to link play. In the quarter-final against Malaga, for example, it was notable that he continually moved into midfield positions to receive short passes and link play Ã¢ÂÂ this was crucial in the build-up for DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs opening strike, finished by Lewandowski himself.
That ability to move towards the ball will be important in the Champions League final, when thereÃ¢ÂÂs a good chance Klopp will adjust to the absence of Mario Gotze by playing without a central attacker, and instead reverting to a 4-3-3 system. That will leave Dortmund without their customary chief creator, so Lewandowski will have to play as a No.10, as well as a No.9.
The worry in this respect is LewandowskiÃ¢ÂÂs relative lack of a relationship with Marco Reus Ã¢ÂÂ he combines better with Gotze, but Reus will be the main responsible for the majority of DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs counter-attacking moves.
Lewandowski has been continually linked with a move to Bayern in recent months, and while heÃ¢ÂÂs often punished the Bavarian club in this fixture recently, he was particularly quiet during the sidesÃ¢ÂÂ only competitive league meeting this campaign.
WeÃ¢ÂÂve established that Lewandowski can score goals without picking up possession close to goal, and that he can be dangerous when dropping deep Ã¢ÂÂ but still, he must have been concerned by his performance at the Allianz Arena. The majority of passes he received were long, straight, simple passes that found him a long way from goal, and his passing in the final third was frequently unsuccessful.
Furthermore, Lewandowski was dominated in the air by Holger Badstuber and Dante, and didnÃ¢ÂÂt have a single shot in the 90 minutes.
More than any other player on the pitch, Lewandowski has the ability to change the course of this fixture Ã¢ÂÂ he is capable of guiding his side to victory even if Bayern dominate, even if Dortmund donÃ¢ÂÂt create clear-cut goalscoring chances. The Pole must play as both a reliable poacher, and an all-round link-up man, if Dortmund are to upset the odds.
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