Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich both boast enviable talent ahead of their meeting in the DFB Cup final on Saturday, with the likes of Kai Havertz, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller all set to start. But who holds the edge?
Having won the Bundesliga title for an eighth successive year and as 19-time record cup winners, Bayern might be the favourites on paper. Leverkusen, though, have won two of the teams' last three meetings and will be going all out to end the club's 27-year wait for a major trophy.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at the players who could prove decisive in Berlin.
Volland got his first start since February on Matchday 34, having made the most of the coronavirus hiatus to recover from a serious foot injury. He was on target in the 1-0 victory over Mainz, netting his 10th goal of the season as Leverkusen finished just outside of the UEFA Champions League places in fifth.
A natural-born scorer, the 27-year-old should start at the tip of Peter Bosz's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, even if Havertz deputised there superbly in his absence. Constantly on the move, his clever runs drag defenders out of position and open up spaces for his teammates to exploit. Volland ending the campaign with a team-best seven assists is no coincidence.
He also thrives on the big occasion, providing two assists when Leverkusen beat Bayern 2-1 on Matchday 13, as well as finding the target against Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach this term.
"We play a very attractive brand of football," said Volland of his team's playing style earlier this year. "We're excellent at pressing and have a lot of possession. We can make life hard for any team."
Lining up at the opposite end of the pitch will be a man who has only failed to score in seven of his 41 competitive outings this term, and has a staggering 49 goals across all competitions. Lewandowski continues to raise the bar in terms of what it means to be a complete striker, and it is little wonder he was voted as the Bundesliga's Player of the Season.
It is one thing knowing all about the threat posed by the Polish forward, and quite another trying to nullify it. His tally of 34 Bundesliga goals in 2019/20 was the fourth-best in the league's history, with only the legendary Gerd Müller bettering it on three occasions.
Watch: How Robert Lewandowski has become the world's best No.9
"To score 34 goals in one Bundesliga season is an incredible achievement," said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "He's the best centre-forward in the world."
As good as Volland undoubtedly is, Lewandowski is simply in a league of his own right now.
Without doubt the star attraction at Leverkusen is 'King Kai'. The Germany international has been particularly impressive in the second half of the season, during which he scored 10 of his 12 league goals.
No player netted more often in May than Havertz, whose five goals earned him the league's Player of the Month award and helped him earn a Player of the Season nomination.
Leverkusen won every game that their cultured attacker scored in that month, and his Matchday 29 winner in Freiburg made him the first player in league history aged under 21 to score 35 league goals.
Watch: Kai Havertz's roots
In the last few weeks of the season, Havertz dropped back to the attacking midfield role he is more known for, and chipped in with another goal and an assist – his sixth of the campaign and ninth in all competitions – in the Matchday 32 victory over Cologne.
"I haven't seen anyone with the skills that Kai Havertz has for 20 years," former Bayern and Germany midfielder Didi Hamann wrote in his Sky column last month. "For me, he's the most exciting player in the world right now.
"He has an innate instinct for every situation and scores goals with both feet and his head. He always knows which side he has to turn to, is equally capable as both a provider and a finisher and has – in a positive sense – the natural arrogance that distinguishes the top players."
Havertz, who turned 21 last month, did miss one crucial league game late in the campaign: a 4-2 home defeat against Bayern at the start of June.
A player who excelled in his absence was Bayern's Thomas Müller. The 2014 FIFA World Cup winner made two of Bayern's four goals, helping him finish with a league-record 21 assists for the campaign.
The 30-year-old has been in brilliant form of late and, having scored eight times in the league as well, he is the leading Bayern player in terms of direct contributions to goals since Hansi Flick took over as head coach in November.
The 2012/13 Champions League winner is used to playing in – and winning – big games. On Saturday he will be out to win the DFB Cup for the sixth time, but Havertz has the potential to deny him.
Leverkusen will hope that their midfield maestro Charles Aranguiz will get the upper hand in the engine room. The Chilean has played an anchoring role under Bosz, looking to get on the ball as much as possible to dictate the flow of play.
The two-time Copa America winner has been a central player in Leverkusen for five years now, and his importance to Die Werkself was highlighted by sporting director Simon Rolfes.
"Charles can read a game and accelerate at the right moment," Rolfes said in May, when announcing that Aranguiz had extended his contract until 2023. "He radiates an incredible calm and gives his teammates support and security."
The 31-year-old will need to be at his best, however, if his side are to get the better of Bayern and Joshua Kimmich.
Following Benjamin Pavard's arrival last summer, Kimmich was able to move from right-back to his preferred position in central midfield. The Germany international has relished the extra responsibility, finishing with four goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga.
"Joshua Kimmich is making outstanding progress," Bayern coach Flick said. "He's a player who's always driving others on, always 100 per cent focused, and he has a winner's mentality."
Kimmich covered a league-high 247 miles over the season, and led the way for touches of the ball – 3216 – as Bayern were crowned champions again. The 25-year-old's delightful, match-winning chip in the 1-0 Matchday 28 win at title rivals Borussia Dortmund was also voted the Bundesliga's Goal of the Month for May.
One player who clearly loves playing against the defending champions is Jamaican winger Leon Bailey. The 22-year-old already has four career goals against Bayern, with his first coming from a free-kick in a DFB Cup semi-final tie in April 2018. That game wasn't one to remember for Leverkusen fans, however, as they lost 6-2 before their opponents were stunned by Eintracht Frankfurt in the decider.
The other two games Bailey scored in were. First, he netted another free-kick to equalise during a 3-1 home win in the Bundesliga back in February 2019.
Watch: Leon Bailey's Man of the Matchday performance vs. Bayern
Then on Matchday 13 of this season the former Genk player downed the champions in Munich, firing home – first with his right foot and then with his left – as Leverkusen won 2-1 at the end of November. Bailey picked up Man of the Matchday honours as a result of those two precise, driven finishes past Manuel Neuer, both of which came after he raced on to Volland through balls.
"We all left out hearts out on the pitch today," he said at the time.
A player with the pace to do similar damage to Leverkusen is Serge Gnabry. He got a key goal the last time the sides met – swiftly latching on to a long ball forward before producing a calm first-time lob over the advancing Hradecky to make it 3-1 right on half-time.
That was the Germany attacker's 12th and final goal of the 2019/20 league campaign, and he also had 10 assists as part of Bayern's impressive total of 100 in 34 matches. The 24-year-old, who won the Bundesliga's Player of the Month award in October and was also shortlisted for the Player of the Season prize, will not want to be upstaged by Bailey.
Winter signing Edmond Tapsoba is enjoying a remarkable season, especially when you consider that he only broke into the Vitoria Guimaraes starting eleven in August. Leverkusen saw enough in Tapsoba's opening months as a first-team player to invest in January, and their new centre-back hasn't disappointed since moving from Portugal to Germany.
The 21-year-old Burkina Faso international slotted nicely into the Werkself defence – whether that's been a four-man or three-man backline – and boasts a record of nine wins, two draws and just three defeats in the Bundesliga. Throw in two UEFA Europa League victories over Porto and one over Rangers – not forgetting DFB Cup successes against Union Berlin and Saarbrücken – and it's been a sensational start.
"My German adventure really started well," he told kicker recently. "It's like a dream come true."
That dream was partially soured when Leverkusen – two points shy of Gladbach – missed out on a place in next season's Champions League. A 58-point haul had been enough to get them fourth last season but with 63 this time they finished as the most successful fifth-placed team since the three-point-per-win rule was introduced in 1995/96.
If Tapsoba hopes to end on a high, though, so too does Bayern's Jerome Boateng. Tipped to leave the club last summer, the slick-passing defender missed the defeat against Leverkusen earlier in the season.
Flick reacted to his first loss as Bayern boss by recalling the 31-year-old, and Boateng has since formed a solid centre-back partnership with David Alaba. The 2014 World Cup winner ended up playing 23 league matches on his way to becoming a Bundesliga champion for the seventh time.
Having watched last year's final from the bench – when Bayern beat RB Leipzig 3-0 – Boateng will be expecting to play a more central part on Saturday. While Tapsoba hopes to win his first trophy as a professional, Bayern's defensive stalwart will be out to add a fifth DFB Cup winner's medal to his collection.