Pep Guardiola has left striker Mario Mandzukic out of the Bayern Munich squad for Saturday’s DFB-Pokal final against Borussia Dortmund in Berlin. There has been frequent speculation about the future of the club’s top scorer ever since the signing of Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski for next season was announced in January. Mandzukic’s initial reaction to the news led to him not being selected for Bayern’s first match after the winter break, although Bayern have since insisted that he remains part of their plans. Yet, his future now looks to be away from the Allianz Arena, with Guardiola doing little to disguise the fact that Mandzukic has been dropped.
“He was injured, but on the other hand he actually was able to play," he said, according to The Guardian. "But I decided to take 18 players with me. And Mandzukic is not in the squad.”
Bayern will also have several enforced absentees for the climax to the German season at the Olympiastadion. Bastian Schweinsteiger is definitely ruled out as is Thiago Alcantara, who has undergone knee surgery this week, while the match comes too soon for long-time injury victim Holger Badstuber. Franck Ribery is only likely to be fit enough for a place on the bench.
The man set to take Mandzukic’s place next season is likely to take to the field in what will be his final appearance for Dortmund. Manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed that he expects Lewandowski to regain fitness in time, despite the Bundesliga’s top scorer not taking a full part in training. It also appears that Klopp will have no hesitations starting the Poland international against his soon-to-be employers, despite beginning with him on the bench when the two sides met last month.
That match ended in a 3-0 win for Dortmund at the Allianz Arena and came amid a post-title-winning slump for Guardiola’s men. Bayern won the Bundesliga crown at a record early stage, yet subsequently lost back-to-back league matches and crashed out of the Champions League in emphatic fashion to Real Madrid.
Guardiola has faced criticism, despite a positive first season overall at the club, and the German Cup final undoubtedly presents a chance to end the campaign on a real high. But, in a joint press conference, Klopp was eager to point out that the former Barcelona coach’s achievements this season are already sufficient.
"To be German champions, that's enough,” he joked. “Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, has talked up the importance of the DFB-Pokal final and believes it has all the ingredients of being a classic.
"It's the highlight of a magnificent season for both sides," he said, according to Bundesliga.com. “These are two very attacking teams and both know each other extremely well. The game promises to be very exciting.”
Dortmund finished 19 points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga standings, but have recent memories of beating their rivals in the final having memorably triumphed 5-2 in 2012. Bayern, though, are going for a second successive league and cup double, after beating Stuttgart in last year’s final.
Where to watch: The DFB-Pokal final will kick off at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Univision Deportes, with a live stream available on ESPN3.