real madrid v fc bayern munchen semi final second leg uefa champions league 2023 24 1
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Champions League Final 2023/24: THE PREVIEW: Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund

This year’s domestic club season is coming to an end, but there is one final match to decide who will be crowned European Champions. Will Real Madrid secure their 15th title, or will Borussia Dortmund add to their sole European cup in 1997?

Spanish giants Madrid come here as resounding favourites having cruised to the La Liga title, coming out on top over bitter rivals Barcelona by 10 points. Having gone the full season without a defeat at home, accumulating 97 points over the 38-match season, Carlo Ancelotti has built a formidable side sprinkled with both experience and youth.

Madrid
MADRID, SPAIN – MAY 08: Joselu of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern München at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 08, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Los Blancos: Madrid Again?

With a combined age of 65, centre-back pairing Antonio Rudiger & Nacho Fernandez may be entering the latter stages of their careers, but they have been rock-solid all season and have allowed Aurélien Tchouaméni, Eduardo Camavinga, & Federico Valverde, among others, to focus on matters further up the field. The impact of midfielders Luca Modric and Brahim Diaz off the bench will also be crucial, and they can play a big role in getting Madrid over the line.

The form of Vinicius Junior & Jude Bellingham throughout the 2023–24 season has undoubtedly been the best in Europe, and if Dortmund have any chance of competing Saturday night in Wembley, stopping Madrid’s two star men will have to be a priority.

Englishman Bellingham will face off against his former teammates. Having left Dortmund in July 2023, he has thrived under the pressure of playing for one of Europe’s biggest clubs and has scored 23 goals in his first season. Still, at only 20 years old, Bellingham has the potential to dominate European football for the next 10+ years.

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Semi-final super-sub Joselu will be keen to replicate his 2 late goals against Bayern Munich that secured Madrid’s place in Saturday’s showpiece. The 34 year-old has had a rollercoaster career with spells in Germany with Hoffenheim, Frankfurt, & Hannover; in England with Stoke City & Newcastle; and in Spain with Getafe and Espanyol before his current year-long loan to Madrid. He has always been a clinical goalscorer, and this year has proved no different as he has chipped in with numerous crucial goals.

The Year of the Yellow Wall?

borussia dortmund v sv darmstadt 98 bundesliga
DORTMUND, GERMANY – MAY 18: Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund is thanked by the fans known as the Yellow Wall prior to the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and SV Darmstadt 98 at Signal Iduna Park on May 18, 2024 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Up until this point, the story of this year’s Champions League has been the remarkable run of Borussia Dortmund. Having come through on top of a tough group that included both AC Milan and Newcastle, Dortmund defeated PSV, Atletico Madrid, & PSG in the knockout stages to reach their first final since being defeated in 2012/13 by fellow Germans Bayern Munich. Mats Hummels & Marco Reus are the only 2 members of the current squad that played that night. It is worth noting that the final was also played at Wembley.

The current team is largely youthful with a strong, experienced spine, including Mats Hummels (35), Emre Can (30), Marco Reus (34) & Nicklas Fullrug (31), They’ll need all their years of experience to defeat a Madrid side that has so many players in their squad that thrive on the biggest stage.

Similar to Madrid, the form of centre-back pairing Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck has been the catalyst for Dortmund’s European success this season. Keeping PSG and Ballon d’Or hopeful Kylian Mbappe scoreless over the 2 semi-final legs was very impressive, and that form will be needed to keep Madrid’s attacking options quiet on Saturday night.

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Dortmund have quality attacking options of their own in Karim Adeyimi, Julian Brandt, Jadon Sancho, and Niclas Fullkrug, among others, to cause the Spanish Champions problems, and we have seen through this year’s competition how influential they can be.

It’ll be the last time both Toni Kroos and Marco Reus line out for their respective sides, it will be an emotional occasion for both, no doubt. Kroos has enjoyed success at both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and will be aiming to pick up his sixth Champions League medal on Saturday night. The German has controlled centre midfield throughout his career and has an endless list of achievements in the game.

Fellow German Marco Reus leaves Dortmund after 12 fantastic years with the club. After forming top-class on-field relationships with both Robert Lewandowski and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Reus stayed loyal to Dortmund while the others moved to bigger clubs. He leaves a club legend having held the captaincy for 5 years while also winning Bundesliga player of the season on 3 separate occasions. Having scored 4 times in his career against Madrid, Saturday night would be the perfect time to add to that tally and pick up his first Champions League winner’s medal.

It’s a big ask for Dortmund considering they finished 27 points behind Bundesliga winners Bayer Leverkusen in Germany but in a one-off game, they will rightfully have hope they can overturn the European heavyweights.

When taking all factors into consideration, it’s very hard to see past a Madrid victory and a 15th European title for “Los Blancos”.

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Verdict: Real Madrid to win

Correct Score: 3-1

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