Why can’t we see a Champions League final like Real Madrid Vs Borussia Dortmund

As the two Champions League finalists set off for London, the contrasting moods between the teams were enough. For Real Madrid, it’s a sense of duty. There’s excitement in getting back to this level and, of course, an awareness that this is what they do. They go to these games and win. For Borussia Dortmund, there is a real sense of wonder. Manager Edin Derzyk described it as “a nightmare”. It was the third Champions League final in their history and the first in 11 years. Many of their players know they will never get this chance again. For club stalwart Marco Reus, it could even be his last chance to fulfill his potential and win a major trophy.

This sentiment is rare for Dortmund, however, and not so rare for this spectacle. The Champions League final may be the biggest global event in club football – and perhaps in all sports after the World Cup final – but it rarely features a clash between two of Europe’s best teams. They tend to come early in the knockouts, usually involving Madrid and Manchester City in recent times. That passion goes back even further with one of the last remaining unpredictability of the Champions League. In the 11 years since Dortmund last appeared at this stage, there have arguably been six finals in which one was a strong favourite. It will surely be the second time since Inter Milan’s astonishing 1-0 loss to City last season.

This may be the last year. From next season’s expanded “Super Champions League”, the knockout stages will be seeded entirely after the first-round open schedule. So, while you can get Real Madrid and Arsenal on the same side of the draw again, it’s unlikely you’ll get Madrid, City, Arsenal and Bayern Munich all on the same side. Or their equivalent will be the top four teams next season. It will certainly be more difficult for teams not at that elite level, while representing another way in which elite football is managed and designed.

As the Dortmund players see it, here’s why this final should be enjoyed. If this is supposed to be the last match of an era, this match almost represents an intensity. Before you get into bigger issues like finances, simple numbers are telling.

Madrid are heading for their 15th Champions League and sixth in 11 years, while Carlo Ancelotti could win his fifth as manager. Dortmund are hoping for their second and first in 27 years.

This is reflected in the relative gap between league positions. Spanish champions Real Madrid and Dortmund are fifth in the Bundesliga, the biggest gap between the finalists’ league position since the Champions League was established in 1992. Only two previous finals have matched it: Bayern Munich vs Valencia in 2001 and Bayern vs Chelsea in 2012. Fifth and Second vs. Sixth respectively. The latter produced a “surprise”, but Chelsea’s long-term strength confirmed what a Dortmund victory would be here.

Borussia Dortmund have fared well in the Champions League knockouts, but face an uphill battle against Real Madrid in the final.
Borussia Dortmund have fared well in the Champions League knockouts, but face an uphill battle against Real Madrid in the final. (Good pictures)

This gap has created a slightly different structure to this game for the Champions League final. While it may not be obvious to the tens of thousands of Dortmund fans who travel, it doesn’t feel epic. You could call it the 2002 World Cup syndrome. As exciting as shocks and surprises are, they often have a negative effect on the finale. A gap in that time is too much. As a result, very few people are going into this match expecting anything other than a Madrid win. The expectation is mostly how long Dortmund can stay alive; How close they are to pulling off something big.

Ancelotti won’t let Madrid think so, of course. He has already hinted at how people will have said about Dortmund’s run to this final so far. Both Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain should have beaten the German side. They’re on the more forgiving side of the draw, and luck is a big part of why they’re here.

Good fortune has its own emotional momentum; Teams can be elevated to a higher level on a larger occasion.

No one tends to go higher than Madrid in these games, and that goes for the sheer volume they enjoy. Ancelotti’s side would have lost the last final against Liverpool in 2022 but for Thibaut Courtois’ superb goal. Madrid won again. That’s what they do. That’s why there is an additional psychological barrier. Dortmund don’t just have to overcome Madrid’s current standards. In the finals too, the knowledge of their achievements must be overcome.

Real Madrid are unbeaten in the Champions League finals since 1981
Real Madrid are unbeaten in the Champions League finals since 1981 (PA Archive)

Madrid are unbeaten in this competition since losing to Liverpool in 1981. Since then, they have won eight consecutive Champions League finals. Outside of AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Juventus and Barcelona, ​​this is more finals than any other European club has played in their entire history.

But that streak must end sometime, and this year’s Champions League final will be the odd game out. Both teams want to stay away. Tercic has made Dortmund more practical. Ancelotti will want to release Vinicius Jr. and Rodrigo at the break. Between them, Jude Bellingham was injured.

The English midfielder faces a rejuvenated compatriot Jadon Sancho. The on-loan winger was excellent for Dortmund in the semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain, but it will take something beyond that performance to swing the final in the Germans’ favour. Madrid have more class and will be capable of picking up more holes in Dortmund’s porous backline. Their best hope is probably to keep it as tight as possible and hope for some sort of knockout magic.

This was also the theme of last weekend’s FA Cup final. Manchester United thrashed Manchester City. It will take more for Dortmund to shock Madrid – but it could happen.

Both Wembley and UEFA could make the final a smooth one. The last UEFA event held here was the disastrous Euro 2020 final. The last two Champions League finals have been logistical nightmares, with the game in Paris in 2022 lucky to avoid death.

UEFA is desperate to avoid dangerous scenes outside the 2022 Champions League final in Paris
UEFA is desperate to avoid dangerous scenes outside the 2022 Champions League final in Paris (AP)

Both the Football Association and UEFA have taken this on board. Another outer perimeter wall is to be built, with improved gates. Hope everything goes smoothly.

On the pitch, Madrid will look to do what they always do. Dortmund aim to give us something we haven’t seen in years.

The Champions League needs it. Another Madrid win would be the same, and the record would be even higher. For Dortmund, it’s everything.

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