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Three talking points ahead of Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

It has been a busy week in the Spanish capital. After all, it is the Champions League final week and the pre-game rituals had the players and the manager on their feet.

The pre-game interviews, tactical deep dives and speculative discussions around the game between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have built a real hype around the fixture which will kick off in just over 24 hours.

The last time the two teams met was over six years ago and it is almost surprising that this was the year they were destined to meet in the title clash. After all, both sides have seen contrasting campaigns to this point.

Real Madrid have faced defeat only two times all season, finished top in La Liga by a dominant ten points and have scored a staggering 87 goals in the Spanish league.

Dortmund, meanwhile, completed their domestic season in fifth place, 27 points behind champions Bayer Leverkusen and have scored just 68 goals in the Bundesliga.

Come Saturday night, however, form and momentum will have no impact on the game that plays out at Wembley. 90 minutes is all that separates both finalists from the ultimate glory and one can remain assured that they will be 90 enthralling minutes.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund.

Chasing greatness

It is only fitting that the UEFA Champions League final marks the end of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 season. On Saturday, Los Blancos will go all out chasing the elusive title of European Champions, one that has ironically not been as elusive to them.

Ten years ago, the men in white were chasing their tenth UEFA Champions League title. ‘La Decima’, as it is called, marked one of the team’s greatest-ever campaigns and comebacks and their graph has grown exponentially ever since.

Since 2014, Real Madrid walked away with the UEFA Champions League four times in nine editions. Their historic three-peat in 2016, 2017 and 2018 was followed by a win in 2022 and the team are now chasing an unbelievable 15th crown.

Considering that the Merengues have eight titles more than the team with the second-most UCL crowns in history, it is clear why they are called the kings of the competition. They are, at this point, just chasing greatness and pushing their record out of reach for decades to come.

Come Saturday night, it is not only Real Madrid who will be chasing greatness but even Carlo Ancelotti on an individual level. Already the owner of four UCL titles, he will have a chance to take home a fifth scalp and further establish himself as one of the greatest managers of all time.

The final goodbye

Toni Kroos says goodbye tomorrow. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

The feared day was not expected to arrive so soon, but as confirmed earlier this month, it is now a reality.

Toni Kroos has officially called it time on his long and illustrious career for both club and country and while he will play for at least another month, his journey with Real Madrid will come to an end tomorrow night at Wembley.

The German superstar bid adieu to the Santiago Bernabeu last weekend after Real Madrid’s goalless draw against Real Betis but made it clear that his dream retirement would be to leave the club with the UCL trophy in his arms.

As the legend steps on the field one last time for the club so dear to his heart, it thus becomes a moral responsibility for every player in white to put it all out on the field and fulfil the maestro’s final wish.

There will never be another Toni Kroos, and the club will feel the painful void left by his departure for years to come. The spotlight at Wembley will thus be on Real Madrid’s #8 as he works his magic against an army of yellow with a singular objective in mind.

Will the favourites tag bear heavy?

Real Madrid did not have an easy route to the final of the premier competition, for the knockout draw placed them in elite company.

Locking horns with co-favourites Manchester City as early as the quarterfinal, Los Blancos were forced to put out their everything on the field to squeeze past Pep Guardiola’s side.

In fact, they were the underdogs in the clash against the English champions after the first leg, and having the pressure off helped the team hold their own.

The theme repeated in the semifinal where, albeit slight favourites, Real Madrid were never given overwhelming odds to take home the place in the finale. At one point, in fact, they stared elimination in the eye and only a Joselu brace saved the side from elimination.

Tomorrow night, thus, will be an entirely different ball game. After all, Los Blancos are considered clear favourites over Borussia Dortmund and have the pressure directly on their shoulders.

How the dressing room reacts to the pressure, needless to say, will account for a large part of the result at Wembley. One can trust the veterans to steer the ship, but the pressure of the highest order can often break the most systematic plans.

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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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