Who will be crowned the kings of Europe?

2 min read

The final major game of the season is almost upon us, with Saturday’s much anticipated Champions League final bringing down the curtain on another phenomenal campaign which has seen twists and turns aplenty alongside some show-stoppingly memorable moments. 

Unfortunately for fans of English clubs, there will be no Premier League representative competing at Wembley for the biggest prize of them all in club football. It is the first time in four years this has happened after both Manchester City and Arsenal bowed out at the quarter-final phase but that will have little bearing on the excitement levels for the neutral, with Real Madrid vying for a 15th European Cup or Champions League triumph when they take on 2012/13 finalists Borussia Dortmund in a mouthwatering tie in prospect. 

On paper, Los Blancos are the overwhelming favourites. The Spaniards, who clinched the La Liga title for a 36th time this season, are a different beast in this particular competition and already count Manchester City, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig as their slain victims during their euphoric journey to this stage of proceedings. 

With the likes of Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jnr, Rodrigo et al firing on all cylinders, containing Carlo Ancelotti’s men seems an almost impossible task should they play to their full potential but Dortmund will be looking to upset the apple cart at Wembley, as they have done in the previous knockout rounds when defeating the odds to see off Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. 

Indeed, whilst those victories were both impressive and – to a degree – fairly convincing, Madrid are set to prove a significant step up in opposition. Of the previous five finals they have competed in, Real have won them all, with their most recent triumph coming against Liverpool at the culmination of the 2021/22 campaign. 

Dortmund, by stark contrast, have only reached the final of the European Cup or Champions League on two occasions throughout their rich history. As mentioned above, their latest outing in the final of this competition which, somewhat ironically, also came at Wembley eleven years ago, ended in heartbreak as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Bayern Munich. Prior to that, the Germans’ one and only success in Europe’s elite tournament was when they beat Juventus 3-1 in 1996/97. 

For all the talk of Madrid’s quality and dominance, Dortmund have possessed a unique edge in this season’s competition, with the form of Jadon Sancho – who returned on loan from Manchester United in January – adding a sprinkling of much needed quality which has been dearly missed during recent campaigns. 

Sancho was instrumental in Dortmund’s two-legged victory over PSG in the semi-finals and will be chomping at the bit to prove himself in the biggest game imaginable on his home soil, not least after all of the criticism he has been subjected to since his move to Old Trafford back in 2021. 

It remains to be seen whether or not the 24-year-old will be able to carry his recent form into Saturday’s final but one thing is for certain – he is without doubt a player who can harm Madrid and turn this game in Dortmund’s favour should his capabilities be maximised under the arches of the national stadium. 

The spotlight will be firmly focused not only on Sancho, but also on Real’s very own English prodigy this weekend. Jude Bellingham has enjoyed a faultless debut season in the Spanish capital this term, scoring 23 goals whilst providing 12 assists in all competitions for Madrid. The 20-year-old will carry the baton of hope for England at this summer’s European Championship in Germany and is the name everyone’s eye is drawn to each time he sets foot on the pitch. 

Up against the very side who nurtured and developed him so well during his three-year stint at Westfalenstadion, a victory here for Bellingham would perhaps taste bittersweet given the history he shares with the Bundesliga titans. More sweet than bitter though, I imagine, with the lasting aftertaste of a first ever Champions League title under his belt at the tender age of 20 providing the perfect tonic to a drink which will just keep on fizzing for the Birmingham-born starlet. 

With a two-week break commencing between this game finishing and the start of the Euros, there will be some time at least for us all to catch our breath and decompress from another truly remarkable football season. Saturday’s curtain-closer is up first before that rest can be earned, however, and trust me, you won’t want to miss a second of it.

Champions League final – Saturday 1st June, 8pm

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid, Wembley Stadium

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