Germany international Ilkay Gundogan will be vital to Borussia Dortmund’s hopes in the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Bayern are widely considered the favourites for Saturday’s all-German showdown at Wembley Stadium, especially since the Bavarian club destroyed Barcelona 7-0 in their two-legged semi-final.
Up against Barcelona’s vaunted midfield of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, Bayern’s central-midfield duo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, were far too strong and provided a solid foundation for the German club’s impressive triumph.
Dortmund and Bayern are expected to play similar 4-2-3-1 formations at London’s showpiece stadium, which will make the midfield battle crucial as neither side will have an obvious advantage tactically.
Up against Schweinsteiger and Martinez, who combine impressive physical capabilities with accurate passing, Dortmund will need Gundogan to be at the top of his game if they are to ensure Bayern lose their third UEFA Champions League final in four seasons.
Gundogan, who will most-likely start alongside Sven Bender at the base of Dortmund’s midfield, is rated by Borussia’s head coach Juergen Klopp as one of the best passers in his team.
“We got him (in May 2011) and he has turned into a real strategist,” Klopp told UEFA.com.
“It is extraordinary. Not many players can do that.
“Many players can play in a small space, play fast and do a lot of great things but to have such vision, such a passing game, such an eye for the situation, is extraordinary and makes him an extraordinary player.”
Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes should be confident his team can overcome Dortmund in the English capital as they have had the better of Klopp’s men throughout the season.
Since last season’s German Cup final, when Dortmund beat Bayern 5-2, Heynckes’ side have won two of four meetings with the Westfalenstadion club, with the other two matches ending in a stalemate as the Bavarians clinched the Bundesliga title by 25 points.
Dortmund hosted Bayern earlier this month in the Bundesliga with Kevin Grosskreutz and Mario Gomez scoring in a 1-1 draw as both coaches gave some of their key players a rest.
In a huge blow for Dortmund, attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, who will join Bayern next season, has been ruled out of the final with a hamstring injury he suffered in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.