Champions League final early look: Real Madrid or Dortmund?

The 14-time winners of the Champions League are poised for the 2024 final. against June 1, Real Madrid takes against Borussia Dortmund, the 1997 champions, at Wembley with the goal of following Manchester City in winning the cup in London.

With Carlo Ancelotti’s team having just won a record-breaking 36th La Liga championship, Madrid is the clear favorite. On the other hand, Edin Terzic’s Dortmund team is currently in fifth place in the Bundesliga, 24 points behind the undefeated Bayer Leverkusen team.

Dortmund has overcome the odds to get all the way to Wembley despite having a subpar domestic campaign. They will be looking to win at Wembley a second time around following their 2013 final defeat by Bayern Munich.

But Madrid’s goal is always the same when they go to the Champions League final: to win the tournament a record 15 times, increasing their already enormous lead over the next most successful team, AC Milan, who have won seven trophies.

Here’s an all-too-early sneak peek at Madrid vs. Dortmund’s historic European Cup/Champions League final, which will mark the teams’ first-ever encounter.

How each of the two teams arrived

After winning each of the six games in Group C against Union Berlin, Braga, and Napoli, Madrid easily advanced to the knockout stages.

Ancelotti’s team had a regular group stage campaign, scoring 16 goals and giving up seven against Liverpool in Paris, where they last won the trophy in 2022 after defeating them 1-0.

Dortmund won Group F, and their home and away wins over Newcastle United were crucial to their achievement in earning a spot in the playoffs against a group that also contained AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

Dortmund, in contrast to Madrid, who easily qualified out of their group with seven goals, managed to maintain a tight defensive record with only four goals allowed.

Both teams had to fight their way through the knockout stages to get to the final, though.

Madrid won a tough, suspenseful round-of-16 battle against RB Leipzig 2-1 on aggregate before defeating champions Manchester City 4-3 in a penalty shootout after a 4-4 aggregate draw.

And Madrid’s semifinal victory over Bayern was pure drama, with two late goals from substitute Joselu securing a 2-1 second-leg triumph at the Bernabeu and a 4-3 aggregate victory. Bayern appeared to be on their way to the final until Joselu scored in the 88th and 91st minute.

Meanwhile, Dortmund profited from being in the easier half of the draw, avoiding all of the tournament favorites, and began with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in the round of 16.

Who has the upper hand here?

It has been a long time since Real Madrid entered a Champions League final as anything other than favourites, but no team has been such big underdogs as Dortmund will be, possibly since Liverpool met Ancelotti’s all-conquering AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.

That final 19 years ago was one of the most remarkable in history, with Liverpool coming back from 3-0 down at halftime to defeat Milan on penalties, so Dortmund knows where to seek for inspiration at Wembley.

Madrid possesses tournament pedigree. This will be their sixth final in 11 years; they have won the previous five. Madrid has not lost a Champions League final since 1981, winning eight of them.

Dortmund has only won the Champions League once: in 1997, when Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team defeated Juventus in Munich. Their only other final appearance came in 2013, when they were defeated by Bayern Munich at Wembley Stadium.

So, while history definitely favours Madrid, they are also favourites in the present.

Ancelotti’s club boasts superstars like Jude Bellingham and Vinícius Júnior, as well as world-class players like Toni Kroos and Antonio Rüdiger. The roster is very experienced.

Dortmund’s star player is midfielder Julian Brandt, and they have top-class experience in Mats Hummels and Marco Reus, but they also got here by taking a chance on loan signings Jadon Sancho and Ian Maatsen from Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively, and benefiting from the astute signing of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich.

Ancelotti will be chasing a record fifth Champions League title against a coach with only one prize to his name — the German Cup in 2021.

Everything points to Madrid having the advantage.

What are each team’s strengths and weaknesses?

Only Manchester City (28) has scored more goals than Madrid (26) this season, highlighting Ancelotti’s team’s attacking threat.

Vinicius, Rodrygo, and Joselu have each scored five goals, while Germany centre-forward Niclas Füllkrug leads Dortmund with three.

Madrid can score goals and manage games in midfield with Kroos, Eduardo Camavinga, and Federico Valverde. Rudiger has undoubtedly been the best defender in the competition this season.

However, despite their many assets, Madrid has conceded eight goals in six knockout games, so Dortmund will have scoring opportunities. Ancelotti must decide whether to bring back fit-again goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after a season-long injury hiatus or to remain with Andriy Lunin, the penalty-saving hero of the semifinal win versus City.

Dortmund prides itself on hard effort and teamwork. Terzic has built a squad that is more than the sum of its parts.

According to official UEFA statistics, no team has made more tackles (207) than Dortmund, and they also have the most balls retrieved (529). Dortmund also leads in tackles won (108) and clearances (251), with six clean sheets, two more than the next best (Arsenal, Internazionale, Real Sociedad, and Bayern).

Dortmund is not a free-scoring team, but if Madrid takes the lead at Wembley, their capacity to generate opportunities will be tested.

Key players and battles.

Bellingham left Dortmund for Madrid in a €103 million trade last summer, and the England midfielder has already established himself as the club’s most valuable player.

Although the 20-year-old’s phenomenal early season record has slowed, he has still scored 22 goals in 39 appearances across all competitions and assisted 10 times. His accomplishments in his debut season at the Bernabeu have established him as a strong possibility for the Ballon d’Or.

Madrid has several crucial players in the lineup. Rudiger anchors Ancelotti’s back four, while Kroos sets the pace with his unwavering temperament and passing range. Vinicius’s pace, skill, and goals offer them a competitive advantage that can hurt any team in the globe.

Dortmund has relied on their teamwork to reach the final, but 35-year-old defender Hummels has been exceptional at the back. The Germany international lacks speed, but his understanding of the game keeps him a valuable member of Terzic’s squad.

Brandt’s creativity, combined with Sabitzer’s energy, calmness, and reliability, provide Dortmund midfield strength, while Füllkrug provides an old-school threat as a true No. 9, and his rivalry with Rudiger will be an intriguing subplot.

Sancho has found his best form on Dortmund’s right wing, providing an unpredictable attacking danger.

Dortmund will need Sabitzer to neutralize Kroos and Hummels to keep things tight in the back when Real attacks from all sides. From Madrid’s perspective, they must devise a strategy to nullify Dortmund’s aerial danger at set pieces.

What about the fairy tale ending?

Everyone like a sporty fairy tale, right? Good, because both Madrid and Dortmund have players on their rosters who will complete an incredible trip if they win the cup.

For Dortmund, it’s all about Sancho restoring his career at his previous club after spending the first part of the season practicing alone at Manchester United due to a public disagreement with manager Erik ten Hag. In January, United loaned Sancho back to Dortmund, 2½ years after signing him in a €85 million deal, with little hope that the 24-year-old would finish the season in a Champions League final.

However, Terzic has coaxed Sancho back to his greatest form, and Sancho now has the opportunity to end what appears to be his worst season with a victory.

The romantic story in the Madrid camp is around Joselu, the two-goal hero of the semifinal victory over Bayern.

The 34-year-old former Stoke City attacker watched Madrid defeat Liverpool in Paris as a fan two years ago before joining Espanyol later that summer, after his contract with Alaves expired.

Espanyol were demoted despite Joselu scoring 16 goals, third only behind Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski and Madrid’s Karim Benzema in the scoring statistics. However, after losing Benzema as a free agent, Madrid strengthened their offensive alternatives by adding Joselu on loan to cover for their more celebrated forwards.

Nonetheless, he finishes the season as a Madrid hero, one win away from ultimate success for Los Blancos.


Everything points to Real winning the 15th European Cup/Champions League. Dortmund’s players will need to put on their best performance of their life to overcome the odds. They have a fighting chance and will be supported by some of Europe’s most devoted fans.

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