Preview: Real Madrid Could Hinder Dortmund’s Fairy Tale in Champions League Final

Borussia Dortmund faces a formidable challenge following their remarkable journey to the Champions League final as star-studded Real Madrid arrives at Wembley with high expectations of securing their 15th European title.

The Spanish giants’ unrivaled success in the competition makes them the clear favorites against Dortmund, a team that defied the odds just to reach London.

Madrid’s ability to triumph when it matters most in the Champions League has been evident throughout their path to the final.

Under Carlo Ancelotti’s guidance, they endured a relentless assault from defending champions Manchester City, ultimately prevailing in a penalty shootout during the quarter-finals.

Another legendary comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals further exemplified their resilience.

Having lost only twice in 54 games across all competitions, Madrid confidently heads to the English capital, culminating what has been a memorable season. They comfortably clinched the La Liga title by a ten-point margin and delivered a resounding 4-1 victory over Barcelona to secure the Spanish Super Cup.

Jude Bellingham, the Madrid midfielder who departed Dortmund for the Spanish capital twelve months ago, expressed his aspirations, stating, “I came here because I wanted to win, and to expect it. It is a bit greedy almost, but you have to be confident when you’re playing with so many great players.”

Bellingham’s career trajectory serves as a testament to the magnitude of the challenge that awaits Dortmund. Transferred from English Championship side Birmingham as a teenager, he was nurtured and developed by the German giants before being acquired by Madrid for a staggering transfer fee exceeding 100 million euros ($109 million).

Dortmund struggled domestically this season in Bellingham’s absence, finishing fifth in the Bundesliga, a significant 27 points behind Bayer Leverkusen. However, they have saved their best performances for the Champions League, reaching the final for the third time in the club’s history, their first appearance since their defeat to Bayern Munich at Wembley eleven years ago.

Dortmund Qualify From Group of Death

Dortmund emerged as victors in the “group of death,” which included Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and Newcastle. They subsequently overcame PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid before showcasing a heroic defensive display to keep PSG at bay over two legs in the semi-finals.

Bellingham acknowledged Dortmund’s impressive run, stating, “They’ve prepared their season around the run in the Champions League. They’ve played amazingly, showing great character and mentality in many games. They’ve faced a tough journey to the final, and that deserves respect.”

While Dortmund’s defensive prowess was evident in their ability to neutralize Kylian Mbappe in the semi-finals, they are aware that defeating Madrid in the European final for the first time since 1983 requires them to elevate their game to another level.

Dortmund’s coach, Edin Terzic, a former Dortmund fan, emphasized, “Our goal wasn’t to qualify for the final; our goal is to win the Champions League. And if you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat the champions. Now the absolute champion in the history of soccer and especially in this competition is waiting for us. The ultimate boss.”

Saturday’s final also holds personal milestones for Madrid, given their rich Champions League tradition.

Ancelotti to Extend Record

Ancelotti could extend his record as the only coach to win the European Cup four times. Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos, in what will be Kroos’ final club game, have the opportunity to match Madrid legend Paco Gento as the only players to win the competition six times.

Following previous incidents that marred major finals, UEFA is keen to ensure that the focus remains on the players during the Champions League final at Wembley. Three years ago, the Euro 2020 final was marred by violence as ticketless fans stormed the stadium doors.

Additionally, UEFA had to apologize to Liverpool fans for the organization of the 2022 Champions League final in Paris, which an independent review found to have “almost led to disaster.”

To address safety concerns, the English Football Association (FA) has invested £5 million ($6 million) in enhancing security and infrastructure at Wembley, which is also slated to host the Euro 2028 final.

Chris Bryant, the FA’s director of tournaments and events, stated, “We never foresaw events like that for the Euros final, and I’m not sure we will again, but we’ve learned lessons, and additional measures have been implemented.”

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