Champions League final: Real Madrid seals 15th European Cup after 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund

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Real Madrid could stand in the way of Dortmund’s fairytale in the Champions League final

LONDON: After a fairytale run to the Champions League final on Saturday, Borussia Dortmund face a trial by fire, while a star-studded Real Madrid walk into Wembley expecting to be crowned European champions for the 15th time.

No other club can match the success of the Spanish giants in this competition and the Spaniards are clear favourites against a Dortmund team that has qualified for London against all expectations.

Madrid’s habit of always crossing the finish line at crucial moments in the Champions League was clearly evident on the way to the final.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side withstood a barrage of defending champions Manchester City to win the quarter-finals on penalties before another legendary comeback to defeat Bayern Munich in the semi-finals at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Spanish champions are rightly full of confidence as they travel to the English capital, hoping to crown a memorable season there.

Madrid have lost just twice in 54 games in all competitions, stormed to the La Liga title by 10 points and beat Barcelona 4-1 to win the Spanish Super Cup in the process.

“I came here because I wanted to win and had the expectation that it would happen,” said Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham, who moved from Dortmund to the Spanish capital 12 months ago.

“It’s almost a bit greedy, but you have to be confident when you’re playing with so many great players.”

Bellingham’s career path shows the dimension of the task that awaits Dortmund.

He was snapped up by English Championship team Birmingham as a teenager and was shaped and nurtured by the German giants before being signed by Madrid for a transfer fee of over 100 million euros ($109 million).

Without him, Dortmund struggled in the current Bundesliga season and finished in fifth place, 27 points behind Bayer Leverkusen.

But Edin Terzic’s team saved the best for the Champions League and reached the final for the third time in the club’s history, the first since losing to Bayern Munich at Wembley eleven years ago.

Dortmund led the group of death with Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle.

PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid were then eliminated before a heroic defensive performance chased PSG off the pitch in the two semi-finals.

“They have prepared their season for the run to the Champions League,” added Bellingham.

“They played unbelievably, the character and mentality they showed in many games. They also had a tough road to the final and you have to respect that.”

As impressive as the team was in the semi-finals, keeping Real-matched Kylian Mbappe at bay, Dortmund know they will have to step up their game if Madrid lose a European Cup final for the first time since 1983.

“Our goal was not to qualify for the final, our goal is to win the Champions League,” said Dortmund fan and current coach Terzic.

“And if you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat the champions. Now the absolute champion of football history and of this competition in particular is waiting for us. The ultimate boss.”

Due to Madrid’s great Champions League tradition, some personal successes are also at stake on Saturday.

Ancelotti can extend his record as the only coach to win the European Cup four times.

Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos could, in the final club game of their careers, equal Madrid legend Paco Gento, the only player to win the competition six times as a player.

UEFA hopes that the focus will be on the protagonists on the field, who are also there full-time, to ensure that their decision to return to Wembley for a major final is not called into question.

Three years ago, the final of the 2020 European Championship was marred by violence when fans without tickets stormed the stadium doors to get in.

UEFA was also forced to apologise to Liverpool fans for organising the 2022 Champions League final in Paris, which an independent review found “nearly led to disaster”.

The English Football Association (FA) has invested £5 million ($6 million) in improving security and infrastructure at Wembley, which will also host the 2028 European Championship final.

“We did not foresee such events for the European Championship final and I am not sure if it will happen again, but we have learned our lesson and taken additional measures,” said Chris Bryant, tournament and events director of the English Football Association (FA).

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