London: Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are bitter rivals, yet in tactical terms they offer variations on the same theme. Both press their opponents high up the pitch, can move the ball from defence to attack with bewildering speed and play with a 4-2-3-1 formation featuring wide players on each flank and a lone striker. Dortmund, however, are more lightweight and lean towards a more counter-attacking style.
One of coach Juergen Klopp's training exercises involves setting his players a target of eight seconds between winning possession of the ball in their own half and having a shot on goal. Pressing their opponents is a key to Dortmund's style, so much so Klopp once described it as "the best playmaker a team can have". Yet, even Klopp has realised that you can have too much of a good thing.
He admitted his team tried to do too much in the Champions League last season, when they pressed their opponents relentlessly and dominated matches only to finish bottom of their group behind Olympiakos, Arsenal and Olympique Marseille. This season, Dortmund have pressed in shorter bursts, yielded possession to their opponents, yet have been ruthless in the counter-attack and finishing.
The addition of the lithe Marco Reus on the left flank has been fundamental to the new approach. "I have learned a statistic," Klopp told uefa.com. "Teams that run too much lose, and teams that press reduce their chances of winning the game. Now I know why it happened.
"We ran more than our opponents and we pressed them all over, as high as possible." Bayern also press their opponents high up the pitch, a ploy which proved especially effective in their 7-0 semi-final aggregate win over Barcelona.
Compared to Dortmund, they are more of a possession team, not unlike Barcelona but employing a style which is much more direct and physical than tiki taka. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are their most eye-catching players as they tear into the opponents on the flanks, although both can be infuriating with their histrionics.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, however, sees his key player as Bastian Schweinsteiger, who directs the midfield from a position just in front of the defence. Heynckes rates "Schweini" as one of the world's top players and his injuries were blamed for Bayern's failure to win a trophy last season.
After completing a triple of second places in the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup, Bayern quickly decided that they needed a reinforcement in that part of the pitch and splashed a Bundesliga record fee for Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martinez. The versatile Spaniard has turned out to be a crucial signing, adding a very physical presence in front of the defence where he dispossesses opponents and charges forward when the openings arise.
Bayern's other key acquisition has been Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic, a far more versatile presence than the prolific but rather one-dimensional goalscorer Mario Gomez. In the quarter-final against Juventus, Mandzukic gave a masterclass in how to play as a lone centre-forward as he tussled with defenders, pulled them out of position, created chances and scored himself.
"To be successful, a team needs a squad of top players, not just eleven, and that is maybe what we lacked in the Champions League final last summer," said Heynckes referring to the shattering penalty-shootout defeat against Chelsea. "That's why the transfer policy for this season was so important."