Saturday May 25th marks the 58th UEFA Champions League Final. The competition which was previously known as the European Champion Clubs Cup, before being renamed the UEFA Champions League, will be hosted at Wembley Stadium in London. UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, hosts the most prestigious club soccer competition in the World and the Champions League is open to top soccer clubs all over Europe. UEFA also sponsors the Europa League which is a secondary competition that was won by Chelsea Football Club which is located in London. Later on this year, Chelsea will face the winner of today’s match in what is known as the UEFA Super Cup. So, who will be facing off at Wembley later today? The participants will be FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Both clubs represent Germany and they were the top two teams in the German League, known as the Bundesliga. Wembley Stadium in London, England’s national stadium hosted the 2011 Final (won by Barcelona over English club Manchester United) and is now hosting this all-German final. Now a quick recap of the two clubs and a prediction from your’s truly.
FC Bayern Munich is making it’s 3 appearance in the Final in the past 4 years. Unfortunately, the last 2 appearances resulted in losses. In 2010 Bayern lost to Inter Milan (from Italy) and last year they lost in Munich to the previously mentioned Chelsea FC. Bayern has a history with this game (also losing in 1999 to Manchester United) and has a storied history but all of the pressure is on them after losing last year. Manager Jupp Heynckes, who is retiring after this match, led what is affectionately known as FC Hollywood to the final behind the play of wingers Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and strikers Thomas Muller, Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gomez. Munich plays with a free flowing, steam rolling system. They like to attack, but they also rely on top German keeper Manuel Neuer. Neuer is the brickwall behind their attacking system. When Bayern is on they are truly a joy to watch. Most soccer enthusiasts would point to Barcelona as the best club in the World and Bayern destroyed them over two matches to a 7-1 win by goal aggregate. As good as Bayern is they face an equally good side in Borussia Dortmund in the Final.
Borussia Dortmund, who finished 2nd in the Bundesliga (an amazing 25 points behind) to Bayern Munich, will be out for revenge on Saturday. Led by striker Robert Lewandowski and midfielder Marco Reus the Black and Yellows will be hurt by the loss of midfielder Mario Gotze (who ironically enough will be playing for Bayern Munich next season). Gotze adds additional scoring punch for manager Jurgen Klopp’s side. However, Borussia has a solid defense with center backs Neven Subotic, and Mats Hummels as well as a solid young talent in defensive midfield with Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan. Dortmund doesn’t have the worldwide recognition of Bayern but they do have a Champions League title (1997) and was the first German club to win a European title when they won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1966. So we have Germany vs. Germany. History vs. History. The top two clubs in the Bundesliga who have faced off several times over the past few seasons in the Final at Wembley. Who wins?
I’m going with Bayern here. The familiarity of these two teams means that this game really could go either way and Bayern has the pressure on their side but they also have the motivation on their side. They’ve beaten Borussia. They’ve done it several times and tomorrow should truly be no different. The difference makers for Bayern should be their wingers Robben and Ribery. Both men can cut inside from the perimeter, and both men can launch pin point crosses into the box for the strikers. If Bayern is going to win they will need to play a huge role to make it happen. My final score is 3-1 Bayern with goals from Mandzukic, Muller, and Schweinsteiger (one of the most awesome names in the game). The lone Borussia goal will come from Lewandowski. The young talent from Poland will put the club on the board. Man of the match? Robben. Yes, I don’t have him on the score sheet but he’ll be the engine that will make FC Hollywood go.
So, there you have it. My little preview of the UEFA Champions League final. The match will be on FOX in the United States and it’ll kick off at 2 P.M. eastern.
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