Dortmund vs Real Madrid: Five things to watch in the Champions League final

Dortmund vs Real Madrid: Five things to watch in the Champions League final

Isaac Darko
updated at May 31, 2024 at 6:58 PM
In this article:
Real Madrid logo
Real Madrid
Borussia Dortmund logo
Borussia Dortmund
UEFA Champions League logo
UEFA Champions League

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  • Borussia Dortmund will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final
  • The Bundesliga giants are looking to win their first UCL since 1997
  • Meanwhile, Real Madrid have not lost a UCL final since the 1980-81 edition

Serial Champions League winners Real Madrid are out to dash Borussia Dortmund dreams in Saturday's Champions League final at London's Wembley Stadium.

The Spanish champions are going for their 15th European crown and sixth in the past 11 seasons against a Dortmund side hoping to win the competition for just the second time.

Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Yussuf Poulsen, final.
Real Madrid are tipped as favourites ahead of the UEFA Champions League final clash with Borussia Dortmund on June 1, 2024. Photos by James Gill - Danehouse and Sebastian El-Saqqa - firo sportphoto.
Source: Getty Images

Sports Brief looks at five things to look out for in European club football's showpiece occasion:

Bellingham's pitch for Ballon d’Or

Jude Bellingham is emblematic of the difference between the two clubs and the scale of the challenge facing Dortmund this weekend.

After breaking through as a prodigious teenage talent at Birmingham in English football's second tier, Bellingham was moulded into a world class performer during three years at Dortmund.

He was then sold on for over 100 million euros ($108 million) to Madrid 12 months ago and has shown remarkable maturity at just 20 to shine in the spotlight of the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bellingham has already been crowned La Liga's player of the season after scoring 23 goals in all competitions to help Madrid reclaim the Spanish title.

Add the Champions League and he could become the first Englishman to win the Ballon d'Or since Michael Owen in 2001, particularly with the Three Lions set to contend at Euro 2024.

Can Sancho shine on homecoming?

Jadon Sancho (left) has shone on his return to Borussia Dortmund
Jadon Sancho (left) has shone on his return to Borussia Dortmund. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Source: AFP

Jadon Sancho returns to his home city but in the Dortmund colours he has flourished in over two spells.

The 24-year-old returned to Germany in January on loan from Manchester United, who had paid Dortmund £73 million ($93 million) for the winger less than three years ago.

Sancho struggled to match the heights of his first stint in the Bundesliga under three different managers at United and was ultimately outcast by Erik ten Hag after a public spat with the Dutchman.

Back at Dortmund, he has looked a different man and played a starring role in the semi-final, first leg win over Paris Saint-Germain.

Victory over Madrid would cap a spectacular turnaround in his season and help ease the pain of his own Wembley hoodoo.

Sancho was one of three Englishmen to miss in the Euro 2020 final penalty shootout defeat to Italy.

Reus' dream farewell?

Marco Reus will play his final game for Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid
Marco Reus will play his final game for Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid. Photo: Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
Source: AFP

Along with Mats Hummels, Marco Reus is one of only two Dortmund players who experienced the 2013 final defeat to Bayern Munich.

Injuries have robbed him of fulfilling his full potential, including an ankle problem that saw him miss Germany's 2014 World Cup win.

But the Dortmund native has been the club's reliable star, scoring 170 goals, during an era where they have become a stepping stone for the likes of Bellingham, Sancho and Erling Haaland.

Now 35, Saturday will be his 429th and final game of a Dortmund career that could have a fairytale ending.

Fuellkrug v Rudiger

Real Madrid's Antonio Rudiger (left) kept Bayern Munich's Harry Kane (right) quiet in the Champions League semi-finals
Real Madrid's Antonio Rudiger (left) kept Bayern Munich's Harry Kane (right) quiet in the Champions League semi-finals. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP
Source: AFP

A heavyweight clash between two German internationals could go a long way to deciding the fate of the final

Within two weeks, Niclas Fuellkrug and Antonio Rudiger will be lining up on the same side as the host nation go for glory at Euro 2024.

They have taken very different routes to the biggest game in European football.

Just two seasons ago Fuellkrug was playing in Germany's second tier with Werder Bremen, but earned his first call-up to the national team aged 29 for the 2022 World Cup and then his big move to Dortmund last summer.

The hulking striker has struck 16 times this season, including the winner in the semi-final, first leg against PSG.

Rudiger is already a Champions League winner from his time at Chelsea and the centre-back played a huge part in Madrid's run to the final by locking down Manchester City's Haaland and Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane.

Champions League master Ancelotti

Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti is aiming to win the Champions League for the fifth time as a coach
Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti is aiming to win the Champions League for the fifth time as a coach. Photo: Thomas COEX / AFP
Source: AFP

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti already stands alone as the only man to win the European Cup four times as a coach and can open up a clear gap as the most successful coach in the history of the competition at Wembley.

Ancelotti guided AC Milan to Champions League glory in 2003 and 2007 before ending Madrid's 12-year drought for a 10th European Cup in 2014 during his first stint in the Spanish capital and winning it again in 2022.

But it is during his second spell as Madrid boss that Ancelotti's mixture of man-management and tactical prowess has begun to get the credit it deserves as one of the all-time greats.

"I think our biggest strength is he finds a way to let the boys play with freedom," said Bellingham.

"Some teams are more organised and structured with their passages of play, but one of our biggest strengths is we are off the cuff and he (Ancelotti) is calm and confident."

Kroos warns Madrid ahead of Dortmund final

In an earlier publication, Sports Brief reported that Toni Kroos issued a warning to Real Madrid as they prepare for the Champions League final against Dortmund.

Despite his team's rich history in the competition, Kroos, who announced his retirement on Tuesday, May 21, feels the German side must not be underestimated.

With the final approaching, the veteran, who has five UCL titles to his name, stressed the importance of his Real Madrid team respecting their opponents.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)