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Three key battles that could decide Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Having conquered Manchester City and Bayern Munich in the last two rounds of the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid lock horns with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday night in the finale of the premier event.

The game will be significant for multiple reasons, the biggest of all being Los Blancos’ dream of making it 15 UCL titles for Real Madrid.

Beyond the point of glory, however, is the story of two legendary footballers who will call it time on their club career after the final whistle.

Toni Kroos and Marco Reus both thus give their teams an extra incentive to go for the kill, and it is safe to say that the game at Wembley will be a battle of the highest quality from a sporting, tactical and psychological perspective.

Madrid Universal brings you three key player battles that can decide the outcome of the UEFA Champions League final.

Vinicius Jr. vs Gregor Kobel

Already getting shouts as a favourite to take the Ballon d’Or home, Vinicius Jr. has enjoyed a phenomenal campaign for Real Madrid in 2023-24. The UCL title could well make the accolade his, but he must first get the better of a certain Swiss shot-stopper this weekend.

Gregor Kobel has dazzled between the sticks across all competitions for Borussia Dortmund this season. Calling him one of the team’s MVPs is an understatement, and his statistics prove the same.

The 26-year-old goalkeeper averages just 1.3 goals conceded per game and, in the process, makes 3.1 saves with a 71% success rate every 90 minutes.

Gregor Kobel has been brilliant for Dortmund. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

His figures in the UEFA Champions League are only more daunting.

The Swiss star has recorded 3.8 saves per game with an 84% success rate on the biggest stage and has prevented an xG of 6.09 in just 11 games. Furthermore, he has six clean sheets to his name in 11 games and a 50% penalty save record.

Depositing the ball into the back of the Dortmund net will thus not be easy for Los Blancos at Wembley, and the onus of finding a break will fall on Vinicius’ shoulders once more.

As the team’s most potent force in the final third and a top finisher, his match-up against Kobel will one one to look out for.

Jude Bellingham vs Julian Brandt

The very theme of a UEFA Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund highlights the name of Jude Bellingham who only left the German side to join Real Madrid last summer.

Faced against familiar faces in his former club, the Englishman will likely be the key for Los Blancos as he knows the inside outs of Dortmund’s setup and weak links.

Bellingham will likely start at the apex of Real Madrid’s diamond midfield in the 4-4-2 setup, looking to orchestrate play from behind the forwards while also creating a direct threat on goal with his vertical runs. 

Old friends set to square off. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

His direct battle on the field, thus, will be against Dortmund’s pivot including Emre Can and Marcel Sabitzer, and the centre-backs Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck.

What will be interesting, however, will be the battle between the two attacking midfielders and who will be more successful under pressure at Wembley. After all, Julian Brandt has been in a rich vein of form in recent times.

The 28-year-old German international plays as an attacking midfielder directly behind the team’s striker, Niclas Fullkrug, and offers a serious threat in the final third.

In 11 UCL appearances this season, Brandt has scored two goals and provided two assists for Dortmund. Further, he has seven goals and eleven assists to his name in the Bundesliga and averages 2.6 key passes per game, creating a staggering 18 big chances in the process.

The advanced midfielder who enjoys the better night, thus, could well play the game-defining role for their team at Wembley.

Ferland Mendy vs Jadon Sancho

If Real Madrid’s clash against Manchester City and Bayern Munich brought out one common finding, it was the sheer inconvenience caused by dynamic wingers on the team’s full-backs.

Sancho has been in fine form since leaving Man United. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The final against Borussia Dortmund, needless to say, will bring more of the same for the men in white and the name in charge of the duty for the Germans will be Jadon Sancho.

The 24-year-old English star shone brightly when Dortmund took on PSG in the UCL. He has been in good form ever since and even played a game-defining role in the team’s latest 4-0 win over Darmstadt.

Sancho is capable of starting on either flank, but his record in recent games suggests that he will play down Dortmund’s right wing in the UCL final. All eyes, thus, fall on Ferland Mendy who will be tasked with the objective of keeping Sancho silent.

The Real Madrid left-back, himself, has been in decent shape in recent games. With the attacking responsibilities clearly off his shoulders, the Frenchman must focus on holding the fortress for his side as he must cage one of Dortmund’s most lethal weapons.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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