Borussia Dortmund confirmed on Wednesday that influential playmaker and attacker Mario Götze will miss Saturday’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich. After training with the team earlier this week, the muscle injury he picked up in the semifinal second leg against Real Madrid forced him to sit out and the team doctors confirmed the worst soon after.
In the last month, Götze turned from public darling to public enemy No. 1 for Dortmund supporters following the leak of his impending transfer to Bayern this summer. His ability and influence in the team cannot be denied though. Götze has been involved in 37 goals for the team in all competitions this season and has taken his game to the next level. His performances in the Champions League have been particularly important in helping Dortmund reach the final.
Whatever antagonistic rhetoric arises in such a situation, one should remember that professionals want to play at the highest stage regardless of the surrounding circumstances and the same holds true of Götze. “The final was my biggest goal and I worked hard in the past week to reach it. It’s very disappointing not to be able to help my team in such an important match. I have complete faith in our team though and will travel with them to London and support them,” Götze said. This will be the second final he will miss due to injury, having also had to sit out Dortmund’s German Cup final against Bayern last year.
Can Dortmund compensate?
While Götze has been one of Dortmund’s better performers against Bayern in the last couple of years and has been one of the standout players in their campaign this season, Klopp is not without options going into the match. As has always been the case this season, Klopp was always ready and prepared when he faced a hurdle, much like in this situation.
“It’s going to be an adjustment,” Klopp said. “But I actually know what we’re going to do in the No. 10 position.” Götze missed much of the second half last season due to injuries and the club still went on to play its best Ruckrunde ever, including setting a new total points record in the league and topped it off with one of the most dominant wins in German Cup history with their 5-2 win against Bayern.
It is noteworthy to mention however that Dortmund’s record without Götze this season in the league has been rather disappointing. They won only one of six Bundesliga games in which Götze was absent including their two losses against Schalke in the Hinrunde and Hoffenheim on the final matchday. Götze was a constant presence in their Champions League campaign in which they never really had to compensate for his loss.
No Götze? No problem. There are several options for Klopp to consider going into the big game.
Ilkay Gündogan for one has played in the No. 10 role before, consistently with Nürnberg, and often under Klopp. He also recently played in such a role for the German national team against France towards the end of the game and was one of the better performers on the pitch. Whether for club or country, all throughout he showed that he was more than capable of filling in. While Gündogan is primarily a central midfielder, his technical ability and passing in tight spaces are reminiscent of some of the best attacking players around.
Playing Gündogan in a more advanced position means either Sebastian Kehl or Nuri Sahin step in alongside Sven Bender in central midfield. Considering the importance of the match and Kehl’s experience, one would have to lean towards the captain getting the start. Sahin has been used mostly as a late match option since his return to Dortmund and Bayern present them with a much taller task defensively, for which Kehl is the better suited player.
The other alternative can be wild card Kevin Grosskreutz who scored a fantastic volley against Bayern in their most recent matchup. Grosskreutz starting would mean Marco Reus shifts centrally and takes up Götze’s spot but a move like that could deprive Dortmund of the creativity and sheer pace they would need to break down Bayern’s seemingly impenetrable defense. On the other hand, Grosskreutz’s work rate and constant running would provide much needed defensive cover out wide, especially since they will be up against Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm on that side.
Whatever the decision, you can count on Dortmund being ready and unphased by Gotze’s absence. After all, history is never written predictably.