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. It cost them dearly in a disheartening 5-0 aggregate loss to the Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal.
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 the team's 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, has looked devoid of ideas over the last six weeks. The team's attacking play, once so potent, has been decidedly blunt since March.
The final day of the Bundesliga season was an apt demonstration. Dortmund traveled to Hertha, which 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 was stumbling. Stuttgart had endured a torrid season which included sacking two coaches, but Pep Guardiola’s side looked disinterested before its blushes were saved through Claudio Pizarro’s late winner. What should have been a party at the Allianz Arena was a loose, lackluster affair.
It leaves the Pokal final finely poised. Bayern will fancy its chances as the holder and the superior team. But Dortmund looks capable of hurting the Bavarians 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 wake-up call in the DFL-Supercup back in July as incisive counterattacking saw Dortmund triumph 4-2 at Signal Iduna Park.
Four months later, BVB was 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 its pace and directness stung its arch rival once more, as BVB got revenge in a 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, the team must turn its 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.