German rivals Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are set to fight for the Champions League title. It marks the third time in four years Bayern are in the championship match of the marquee club event, while Dortmund are making their first appearance since 1997.
Dortmund weren't even a lock to advance beyond the group stage. They were stuck in the "Group of Death" alongside Real Madrid and Manchester City. Not only did they win the group, they didn't drop a single match against the elite competition.
From there, it was clear the Borussians were a legitimate title threat. Bayern have been in that category throughout after falling just short last season. FCB were downright dominant leading up to the final, eliminating Juventus and Barcelona by a combined score of 11-0 over four legs.
The clubs have already faced off four times this season. Bayern won twice—in the DFB Super Cup to start the campaign and in the DFB Pokal quarterfinals—while both Bundesliga meetings ended in draws. Dortmund hope their first triumph comes in the biggest matchup of them all.
Here's a look at all the key viewing information for the Champions League final, followed by some players to watch and a prediction for which club will capture the coveted trophy.
Where: Wembley Stadium in London, England
When: Saturday, May 25 at 2:45 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox and Fox Deportes
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
Borussia Dortmund Player to Watch: Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski hopes to finish his second straight terrific campaign on a high note. The 24-year-old striker's biggest highlight, at least heading into the UCL final, was scoring four goals in the semifinals against Real Madrid.
The most amazing thing about the Polish international is his ability to dominate a match without extraordinary physical gifts. He won't be the fastest or tallest player on the pitch in the final, but he will outrun players for 50-50 balls and jump over them for headers.
It all comes down to effort. He's willing to do the little bit extra for 90 minutes, and it usually results in good things for Dortmund. The matchup isn't a good one for him, however. He's scored just once in the four matches against Bayern this season.
Bayern Munich Player to Watch: Mario Mandzukic
Bayern added Mandzukic last summer after a couple solid yet unspectacular seasons with Wolfsburg—an interesting decision considering the club already had Mario Gomez. It could very well turn out to be the move that puts them over the top in the Champions League.
The Croatian star has enjoyed a breakout campaign playing in front of the talented Bayern midfield. He scored 15 goals in 24 league appearances. His combination of pace and a deadly final touch has been a major problem for opposing back lines.
Mandzukic has been in a minor slump as of late, though. He's failed to score in his last four starts. So while he deserves to draw the start given his strong play overall, don't be surprised if Gomez gets a chance right after halftime if the Bayern attack is sluggish.
Matchup to Watch: Battle of the midfielders
Lewandowski and Mandzukic often provided the final touch, but the reason these clubs are in the final is their midfield dominance. Both sides have been able to control the middle of the pitch—even against clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid—to spark their runs to the final.
Dortmund suffered a major setback when it was announced Mario Gotze, who will move to Bayern ahead of next season, would miss the final due to injury. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder has been one of the top young players in Europe.
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Dortmund announce Mario Gotze will miss the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, the club he will join this summer, through injury.5/22/2013, 2:03:13 PM
His absence will put immense pressure on fellow midfielders Jakub Blaszczykowski and Marco Reus, who will probably take over the central playmaking role. Although still a formidable group, Dortmund can't expect the same level of production without Gotze.
Bayern will likely counter with the trio of Thomas Muller flanked by Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. They combined to score five goals in the semifinal rout of Barcelona. Finding a way to contain them is the biggest key for the Borussians.
If Gotze was healthy, the advantage for either side from this terrific matchup would be minimal. The edge shifts clearly to Bayern since he can't play. It should be enough for Muller and Co. to control the match and capture the trophy.
Bayern Munich 2, Borussia Dortmund 1
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