Thursday, May 30, 2024

Premier League Connections In Saturday’s Champions League Final

The storylines of interest to Premier League fans are fewer this year for the Champions League final. For only the second time in the last seven years, there is no Premier League team contending for Europe’s most prestigious club trophy. The Premier League won the trophy in three of the last six years but English hopes for this year’s tournament were dashed when defending champion Manchester City fell to this year’s finalist Real Madrid. The Spanish giants have won the tournament five of the last ten years and few Premier League supporters will be excited to see the Spaniards add to their record 14 trophies as European champions.

Interest in England would have been greater if Bayern Munich had not collapsed in their semifinal contest with Los Blancos. A late comeback from the Spanish club means former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will not be seeking a second Champions League this week. Tottenham Hotspur legend and current Bundesliga scoring leader Harry Kane will not be seeking his first silverware at Wembley on Saturday. It instead falls to Borussia Dortmund to spoil the Real Madrid party. The German side returns to the final for the first time since 2013, when a gentleman by the name of Jurgen Klopp was their manager. Their unimpressive fifth place finish in the Bundesliga this season makes them an unlikely and unexpected finalist. The Black and Yellow came back from a first leg goal deficit to beat Atletico Madrid 4-2 in Germany to advance from the quarterfinals. The Germans then posted two clean sheets and identical 1-0 victories over PSG to earn their ticket to Wembley. The Dortmund lineup will have a few names familiar to Premier League fans. Winger Jadon Sancho is on loan from Manchester United where his squabbles with Manager Eric ten Hag were well documented. Left back Ian Maatsen is a Chelsea loanee. Maatsen, however, is one of several young talents Chelsea is unhappily expected to sell this offseason to balance its finances under profit and sustainability rules. Borussia Dortmund captain Emre Can made 115 appearances for Liverpool between 2014-2018. Can’s midfield partner Marcel Sabitzer had a cup of coffee with Manchester United while on loan for 10 appearances last season. Stars are few in a Dortmund squad which is playing with house money as it faces the 14-time champions.

Real Madrid required penalties to dethrone Manchester City in the quarterfinals and then staged some of its patented late match dramatics by scoring in the 88th minute and 91st minute of its second leg semifinal with Bayern Munch to advance by an aggregate 4-3 margin to the final. Both goals in that second leg were scored by Joselu, a Spanish striker who made 46 appearances for Newcastle across 2017-2019. Andriy Lunin was in goal against both Manchester City and Bayern Munich but could be on the bench for the final. Ludin performed capably this season filling in for the injured Thibault Courtois, but Real Madrid’s first choice keeper is now fit and made four appearances late this season as he worked to be ready for yet another cup final. Courtois, an FA Cup winner with Chelsea, was between the sticks for Real Madrid’s 2022 Champions League victory. Defending in front of goal will be Real Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger who won a Champions League title with Chelsea in 2021. 

And then, of course, there is legendary Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti who has won a record four Champions League titles as a manager and two more as a player. Memorably for Premier League fans, Ancelotti was also on the losing end of a Champions League final when his AC Milan side fell to an epic Liverpool comeback in Istanbul in 2005. The legendary manager spent time in Merseyside himself during a short, surreal and largely unsuccessful run at Everton during the COVID pandemic. A decade earlier, Ancelotti won the Premier League with Chelsea. Of course, Chelsea sacked him a year later. Some things never change...


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