When Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich line up at the Olympiastadion for next week’s make or break DFB-Pokal final, both teams will be looking to end a trying season on a positive note.
The Bavarians will have wanted – even expected – to be on the road to a second straight treble but their form has nosedived since they sealed the Bundesliga title in record time, costing them dear in a disheartening 5-0 loss to the Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final.
For BVB, meanwhile, injuries and shoddy defending saw them crumble either side of Christmas after a promising start to the season. The Pokal clash will be their final chance to bring home some silverware and make a statement for the future.
And, truth be told, momentum is firmly with Jurgen Klopp’s side. Dortmund’s players seem more united and, crucially, have not taken their foot off the gas since they secured Champions League football ahead of next season.
Bayern, meanwhile, have looked devoid of ideas over the last six weeks. Their attacking play, once so potent, has been decidedly blunt since March.
The final day of the Bundesliga season was an apt demonstration. Dortmund travelled to Hertha, who pulled off a stunning 2-1 win at the Westfalenstadion before Christmas, and put on a clinic of attacking football with Robert Lewandowski starring in a 4-0 victory.
In Bavaria, though, Bayern were stumbling. Stuttgart had endured a torrid season, sacking two coaches and a total of 61 goals prior to kick off, but Pep Guardiola’s side looked disinterested before their blushes were saved through Claudio Pizarro’s late winner. What should have been a party at the Allianz Arena was a loose, lacklustre affair.
It leaves the Pokal final finely poised. Bayern will fancy their chances as the holders and, crucially, the superior team. But Dortmund look capable of hurting them in a way most other teams in Europe would envy.
Their three meetings this season make the match even harder to call. BVB gave Guardiola a wakeup call in the DFL-Supercup back in July as their incisive counterattacking saw them triumph 4-2 at Signal Iduna Park.
Four months later, they were back in the Ruhr and Bayern got revenge, recording an incredible 3-0 win to knock Dortmund out of the running for the Bundesliga title once and for all.
With more bodies back in the team in April, though, Klopp’s side went to the Allianz Arena and their pace and directness stung their arch rivals once more, as they got revenge in the grand manner, recording a 3-0 win.
The beer will be flowing in Munich on Saturday night as Bayern rightfully celebrate a thoroughly deserved title victory, but come Monday, they must turn their attentions to Berlin to cap a brilliant season with more success.
It is fitting that Germany's two best teams will finish the season - just as they started it all those months ago - and it looks as though the game itself may just be something of a classic.