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Ahead of the Game: Previewing the Champions League Final

By Alex Al-Kazzaz

The Champions League final is this Sunday. Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund. Wembley Stadium. London, England. Real Madrid is in the final for the first time in two years, and they're seeking their 15th UCL triumph. Borussia Dortmund is in the final for the first time since 2013, and they're looking to win their first title since 1997. With both clubs loaded with effective talent, this Sunday's UCL final will surely be competitive.

Borussia Dortmund overcame significant odds in the group stage to win their group. By finishing ahead of tournament favorites Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund solidified themselves as the tournament's darkhorse for the knockout stage. Borussia Dortmund faced major obstacles in Atletico Madrid (final eight) and PSG (final four) to reach the final. Real Madrid went undefeated in their group, and while their chances to win it all had been high from the beginning, Los Blancos were under pressure from the get-go. Real Madrid had to go through defending champions Manchester City and Bayern Munich to reach the final.

Both competitors in this final overcame insurmountable odds to be in this match. However, in Real Madrid's case, the controversy from the second-leg match against Munich overshadows their appearance in the UCL final.

Real Madrid being the favorite is no surprise. However, declaring them the favorite simply because they've won the UCL fourteen times previously and because they're REAL MADRID is ludicrous. While the club's past triumphs are historic and remarkable, that's not what makes them the favorite. It's rather because of the squad and brilliant manager leading the unit. And they're playing abilities on the pitch and the results, too.

Borussia Dortmund, while they are the underdogs, they deserve respect. They were not expected to make it this far, but they did. And it was not by luck. Borussia Dortmund played very well, and they earned their spot in the final. They've not backed down from any challenge so far this tournament, and they surely will not back down from Real Madrid.

Real Madrid's keys to victory

Take control and maintain control. Put the midfielder's advantage to good use, initiate the attack, and keep it alive and well. Put immense pressure on the opposing defense, create scoring chances, and put the ball into the back of the net.

The defense will face a challenge against an underrated but strong opposing attack. If Real Madrid's defense can heavily mark either Jadon Sancho or Niclas Füllkrug, that leaves one out in the open with several threats from the Borussia Dortmund midfield. Isolating both of Borussia Dortmund's strikers is ideal, but seems unlikely because of the attack's strength and resilience. With the defenders likely to be heavily assisted by the midfield, Real Madrid can foil any threat by the opposing attack. Los Blancos needs to play heavy defense to keep the game to their advantage.

Borussia Dortmund's keys to victory

Heavy defending played a key role in their wins over PSG in the semifinals, along with PSG's inability to score. Borussia Dortmund is capable of being rock solid on defense. If, somehow, the defense heavily marks and isolates both Vini Jr. and Rodrygo, the Real Madrid midfield will rush in and be out in the open, and the Borussia Dortmund defense may get overwhelmed and breached.

Borussia Dortmund's attack is effective, and it can score goals tremendously. They may even have an advantage against Real Madrid's defenders if the Borussia Dortmund attack can figure out a way to outsmart the tough Real Madrid midfield and potentially catch them off guard. Scoring and taking an early lead gives Borussia Dortmund the advantage, but doubling that lead early strengthens that advantage. Therefore, Borussia Dortmund must be at least two moves ahead of Real Madrid for the 90 minutes of regulation. Like the opposition, they must take and maintain control.

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