Borussia Dortmund Try Real Madrid for Size


Continental supremacy is at stake at Wembley Stadium this evening, when underdogs, Borussia Dortmund and seasoned Champions League pros, Real Madrid square off in a 2023-24 final of titanic proportions.

For the Bundesliga powerhouses donning black and yellow, victory would end 27 years of hurt and seal Champions League title number two, while Los Blancos endeavour to etch their name onto the European Champion Clubs’ Cup for the 15th time   

Borussia Dortmund were triumphant against Paris Saint-Germain in the final four to book their tickets to Wembley, while Carlo Ancelotti’s troops, Real Madrid denied their upcoming foes an all-German final against Bayern Munich thanks to a gripping second-leg turnaround.

Exorcising former Champions League demons under the Wembley arch is the goal for today’s unfancied unit, Borussia Dortmund, 11 years on from helplessly witnessing Arjen Robben’s scuffed shot trickle over the line for Bayern Munich in a 2012-13 Der Klassiker final in the English capital.

Departing club icon Marco Reus and rejuvenated centre-back Mats Hummels may be the only surviving members from that silver medal-winning troupe – the latter’s CV also includes an Allianz Arena stint sandwiched in between, but none of Edin Terzic’s first-time finalists will require a sermon on the significance of June 1.

Coming up trumps in the tantalising Group of Death with AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United was a sign of things to come for Borussia Dortmund, who sent PSV Eindhoven packing without breaking too much of a sweat before a minor blip in the first leg of their quarter-final versus Atletico Madrid.

Suffering their sole defeat of the 2023-24 tournament at the Wanda Metropolitano did not hinder Dortmund’s bid for European glory, though, as a phenomenal second-leg turnaround preceded a pair of exceptional 1-0 successes over perpetual bridesmaids PSG, shut out at both the Signal Iduna Park and Parc des Princes in early May.

Thanks to their own defensive discipline and the never-ending wastefulness of the Ligue 1 champions, BVB condemned PSG to another year of Champions League torture as the old-but-gold Hummels nodded in the solitary second-leg strike, thereby booking Dortmund a date with Champions League destiny for just the third time ever.

One-time European Cup champions back in the 1996-97 term, where Ottmar Hitzfeld masterminded a 3-1 triumph over Juventus in Munich, Dortmund have not been present in the showpiece event since falling to Bayern’s supremacy in London over a decade ago, and Real’s semi-final exploits means that a shot at Bavarian revenge did not materialise.

Even as Bayern lost their iron-clad grip on the Bundesliga title, Terzic’s men and the rest of the division were powerless to quell the Bayer Leverkusen juggernaut, and despite demolishing SV Darmstadt 98 4-0 in their closing contest, Dortmund could only labour to a fifth-placed finish.

However, thanks to Germany’s superior UEFA coefficient over all other nations barring Italy, BVB will dine at Europe’s top table next year regardless of the result of today’s final, which they enter also seeking four straight Champions League victories at any stage for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Dortmund’s overall trophy drought has not been as agonisingly long as their 27-year wait for Champions League title number two – they prevailed in the 2020-21 DFB-Pokal, but a Champions League winners’ medal would shine much brighter around the neck of the Signal Iduna Park’s favourite son Reus before he clears out his Dortmund locker.

As has been customary throughout his record-breaking Champions League career, though, there will be no room for sentiment for Real Madrid manager, Carlo Ancelotti, already in a class of his own with four European Cup triumphs as a head coach and now seeking to steer further clear of the chasing pack.

Of course, 14-time winners, Real Madrid will be bidding farewell to a revered German servant of their own today, when midfield maestro, Toni Kroos will play his final competitive club match before a Euro 2024 swansong, and the 34-year-old has already experienced one taste of Champions League final stardom over Dortmund from his Bayern heyday.

Kroos and his fellow fundamental Real performers did not drop a single point in the Champions League group stage versus Portuguese outfit Braga, deposed Italian champions Napoli and Bundesliga upstarts Union Berlin, although the manner of their 2-1 aggregate triumph over last-16 foes RB Leipzig left something to be desired.

However, in quintessential Blancos fashion, Ancelotti’s men astonishingly found a way to prevail against defending champions Manchester City – exacting revenge on their 2022-23 semi-final conquerors from 12 yards

After shaking hands on a 2-2 first-leg stalemate, a rocket from Alphonso Davies, appeared to have extinguished Real’s dreams of crown number 15, only for Espanyol loanee Joselu to write his name into Bernabeu folklore with a dazzling double to punch their ticket to Wembley.

Thanks to the astounding individual efforts of the erstwhile Magpie, Real Madrid’s iconic logo will appear on the front cover of the Champions League final programme for the 18th time today, and only three of Los Blancos’ previous 17 appearances in the trophy match have ended in heartbreak.

In fact, it has been a staggering 43 years since the Spanish behemoths came out second best in the showpiece, and since that crushing loss versus Liverpool in 1981, Real Madrid have triumphed in each of the last eight Champions League finals in which they have been present.

Extending that phenomenal sequence would seal a terrific treble of trophies for the reigning La Liga and Supercopa de Espana champions, who may have concluded the regular top-flight campaign by dropping four points against Villarreal and Real Betis, but little sleep should be lost over those two stalemates.

Unbeaten in 25 straight matches since January’s Copa del Rey beating at the hands of Atletico, Ancelotti’s men have also found the net in every single one of their fixtures away from their Bernabeu base in the 2023-24 season, another promising omen ahead of today’s European extravaganza.

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