Toni Kroos urged Germany to embrace the "special" pressure of hosting Euro 2024, as Julian Nagelsmann's side prepare to launch the tournament on Friday.

DFB will host their first major international tournament since the 2006 World Cup, where they finished third after losing to eventual champions Italy in the semi-finals. 

Germany launch their campaign against Scotland at Munich Football Arena on Friday, while also facing Hungary and Switzerland in Group A.

And Kroos, who will retire from football after the tournament, wants his team-mates to enjoy the "great honour" of playing in their home event.

"At every tournament on home soil [there is pressure]. It is even more special," the midfielder told reporters during a press conference.

"We know the pressure is there, we don't want to brush it aside, but we have to enjoy this pressure. We want to influence the atmosphere positively, and we have to make amends for past tournaments.

"We know what this is about, but it is also a great honour and joy to play this tournament. How many players do get to play a home tournament?"

Germany are hoping for an upturn in fortunes in major tournaments after suffering back-to-back World Cup group-stage exits, while they were beaten by England in the round of 16 at Euro 2020.

Nagelsmann's side have also endured mixed form in the lead-up to this tournament. Their final warm-up matches brought a goalless draw with Ukraine, and a narrow 2-1 victory over Greece.

Kroos knows the hosts need to up their game, but feels they have the perfect stage on which to address their form.

"You know what is possible when you see the squad quality we have," he added. "But we also see that during some phases in matches, there is room for improvement.

"There is no better opportunity to show in a tournament that we can play well. That is the task.

"If we want to play a good role then it is inevitable that we must minimise these phases when we don't play well as a team. There are teams coming [in the tournament] that will punish us and then the tournament is over."

Antonio Rudiger wants to use his experience with Real Madrid for the benefit of Germany at Euro 2024, seeking to find a "killer instinct" for Julian Nagelsmann's team.

Germany duo Toni Kroos and Rudiger helped Madrid to their record-extending 15th Champions League crown last Saturday, defeating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the final.

That European glory added to this season's LaLiga success for Los Blancos, who continue to power on as a title-winning machine under the tutelage of veteran coach Carlo Ancelotti.

With Germany's Euro 2024 opener against Scotland less than two weeks away, Rudiger hopes to embed his club's efforts into Nagelsmann's national side.

"These are two different pairs of shoes," Rudiger said on Wednesday, referring to the difference between Germany and Madrid.

"Here we have a very good system that fits our game but what we can take with us from Madrid is that killer instinct.

"Our last game against Ukraine was super good. I have not seen a 0-0 from us in quite some time that was so good but the thing that was missing was the goals and that is what we can learn from Madrid."

Germany were wasteful in that Ukraine draw on Monday, producing a similar performance as to those in their back-to-back group-stage exits at the World Cup in 2018 and four years later.

They face Greece on Friday in their final warm-up match before the European Championship, where they meet Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland in Group A.

"The anticipation in our own country is huge," Rudiger added. "On Friday we have an important last test. It is important for our confidence. It is important to excite our fans in this final test.

"We have to be humble. We all know what happened in the past tournaments. The road to get here had ups and downs.

"What is important is to play a very good first game and then see what happens in the rest of the tournament."

As for Rudiger's own role within Germany's national setup, Nagelsmann wants the centre-back to guide his side through the tournament.

"Julian said that I should be a leader in my role," Rudiger concluded.

Champions League football is a simple game. Twenty-two men run around a field for 90 minutes, and in the end, Real Madrid always win.

Los Blancos claimed their record-extending 15th European crown at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, with late goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior enough to see off a spirited Borussia Dortmund side.

The last six of those triumphs have come within the space of 11 years, following an agonising 12-year wait for La Decima, won in Carlo Ancelotti's first stint in charge in 2014.

Few clubs have enjoyed sustained success in Europe's elite club competition. Fewer still have built the kind of dynasty established by Madrid in recent years.

But how does their recent success compare to those of yesteryear, and how do their players and effortlessly cool Italian coach stack up against those who dominated Europe in the past?

Here, we take a deep dive into the Opta data to find out.

Europe's second-greatest side? 

Given the depth of talent found across Europe in modern times, the lure of the Premier League and the financial power of state-owned clubs such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, modern-day Madrid can arguably lay claim to the most impressive run of success in European history.

To triumph in the world's most difficult knockout competition more often than not over the course of 11 years, while replacing stalwarts like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Iker Casillas, shows an incredible capacity for reinvention.

However, it might be incorrect to suggest Los Blancos' current crop are the most dominant team in European history. That honour goes to… well, Madrid.

Under the tutelage of Jose Villalonga, Luis Carniglia and Miguel Munoz, Madrid won the first five editions of the European Cup from 1955-56 to 1959-60.

That glorious era was capped by a 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final at Hampden Park, a game that has almost taken on mystical status, with Alfredo Di Stefano scoring a hat-trick and Ferenc Puskas upstaging him with four goals. 

 

While Puskas was only around for the last two of those five victories – also featuring in Madrid's sixth triumph in 1965-66 – Di Stefano was inspirational throughout the first five editions of the European Cup, his total of 36 goals coming in just 35 games and more than doubling that of his closest competitor (Crvena Zvezda great Bora Kostic, with 15).

Left winger Paco Gento was the only player to match Di Stefano's 35 European Cup outings during that time, and his longevity allowed him to play on until 1966 and become the first player to win six European crowns. Only on Saturday was that feat matched, with Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Carvajal and Nacho following in his footsteps.

Madrid went 32 years without lifting the European Cup after 1966, before the Galacticos delivered three titles in five years between 1998 and 2002, Zinedine Zidane's volley against Bayer Leverkusen being the defining moment of the club's second golden era.

Other sides can lay claim to a period of dominance in the European Cup, with Benfica (1960-61, 1961-62), Inter (1963-64, 1964-65), Liverpool (1976-77, 1977-78), Nottingham Forest (1978-79, 1979-80) and Milan (1988-89, 1989-90) all winning back-to-back titles. 

Ajax (1970-71, 1971-72 and 1972-73) and Bayern Munich (1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76), meanwhile, both managed three-peats.

Madrid's recent run of success may have been broken either side of their own three-peat from 2015-16 to 2017-18, but only the great Blancos side of the 1950s and 1960s have previously won as many as six titles in an 11-year spell. 

If the likely arrival of Kylian Mbappe propels them to number 16 next year, modern-day Madrid will have a real claim to have upstaged their forerunners. 

Don Carlo: The undisputed GOAT 

When it comes to the men in the dugout, there is simply no debate. UEFA's flagship competition belongs to Ancelotti. 

Saturday's win was Ancelotti's seventh European crown overall, with two coming as a functional midfielder in Arrigo Sacchi's great Milan side and five arriving as a coach. 

That is as many titles as any other club has won, with Milan being crowned kings of Europe on seven occasions (four times with Ancelotti involved as a player or manager).

 

No other manager has won more than three European Cup/Champions League titles, with Bob Paisley, Zidane and Pep Guardiola joint-second in the charts. 

Ancelotti's three triumphs with Los Blancos, meanwhile, are the joint-most by any coach with a single club, alongside Paisley with Liverpool and Zidane with Madrid. 

The Italian has won 71.4 per cent of his Champions League games in charge of Madrid across two spells (45/63), while he has the most victories of any Blancos boss since the competition's 1992 rebrand. 

As a player and a manager, Ancelotti has experienced eight European Cup/Champions League finals and only failed to lift the trophy on one occasion. It took perhaps the most memorable comeback of all time to deny him, as Liverpool fought back from 3-0 down to beat Milan on penalties in 2005.

Madrid's European aura 

For all Madrid's success in the last decade or so, few would argue they have been the continent's most consistent or aesthetically pleasing side throughout that span. 

Sometimes, the weight of that iconic white shirt alone seems to be enough to drag Madrid through knockout ties, with almost 70 years of history causing Los Blancos' opponents to wilt at the crucial moment.

Most would hold Manchester City up as the absolute pinnacle of footballing excellence in the modern age, yet in the 2021-22 semi-finals, two Rodrygo goals within the space of 90 seconds were enough to undo 180 minutes of excellent work from Guardiola's team.

In 2023-24, City fired 33 shots at Andriy Lunin's goal over the course of 120 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, the most in any Champions League knockout game since Liverpool attempted 34 against Atletico Madrid in March 2020. But it was all in vain as Madrid clung on before triumphing on penalties.

It is difficult, impossible even, to explain Madrid's logic-defying European results with facts and figures. 

Saturday's final saw Dortmund produce 2.08 expected goals (xG) to Madrid's 1.13. BVB's first-half total of 1.68 xG was the largest on record in a Champions League final (since 2013-14) while Los Blancos did not record a shot on target before the break.

Across their last six Champions League knockout games of 2023-24, Madrid lost the xG battle on four occasions, only creating a greater quality of chances than their opponents in both legs of their semi-final triumph over Bayern. 

It was a similar story in 2021-22, when Los Blancos lost the xG battle in four of their seven knockout games including the final, when Thibaut Courtois' heroics kept Liverpool at bay.

Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Madrid have 'lost' 26 Champions League knockout games on xG, but boast a record of 11 wins, six draws and nine losses in those contests. 

If you fail to put them away, they simply will punish you. Why? A plethora of big-game players certainly helps… 

The men for the big moments

Having players well-versed in coming up with clutch moments has helped turn Madrid into a winning machine, almost making their performance levels irrelevant.

It all starts between the sticks. In Madrid's last two Champions League finals, Courtois has faced 12 shots on target but saved all of them, keeping two clean sheets. According to Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) model, the Belgian prevented 3.4 goals in those matches.

At the other end, Madrid have put their trust in lethal finishers. 

In this season's Champions League, Vinicius (six goals from 4.49 xG), Jude Bellingham (four, 3.02 xG) and Brahim Diaz (two, 1.53 xG) all outperformed their underlying numbers, while Rodrygo (five, 5.71 xG) and Joselu (five, 5.44 xG) were not far away. 

In 2021-22, their charge was spearheaded by Benzema, who scored an incredible 15 goals from chances totalling just 8.35 xG. With five goals from 2.39 xG, Rodrygo was another notable overperformer.  

And of course, Ronaldo was at the forefront of their previous four triumphs. Between the start of 2013-14 and the end of 2017-18, he plundered 53 goals from just 42.9 xG in 50 Champions League matches. The fact he turned those chances into 51.4 expected goals on target (xGoT) only further demonstrates the supreme quality of his finishing.

It hasn't all been about the strikers, though. Who could forget the contributions of Ramos, whose last-gasp header saved Madrid from defeat in the 2014 final against Atletico?

Modric and Kroos, meanwhile, have dictated midfield battles at the highest level well into their thirties.

Kroos produced another metronomic performance in the final game of his club career on Saturday, leading all 22 starters for touches (108), passes attempted (94) and passes completed (91). Only Julian Brandt matched his four chances created, one of which was the corner-kick assist for Carvajal's opener. 

With Ancelotti – and Zidane previously – allowing some of the game's greatest improvisers to do their thing, sometimes the data goes out of the window. 

Toni Kroos is set to leave Real Madrid as a six-time Champions League winner but Carlo Ancelotti wants the Los Blancos midfielder to reverse his retirement decision.

The Germany midfielder appears to have played the final club game of his career, signing off with European glory after a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in Saturday's final.

Kroos delivered a perfect corner-kick assist for Dani Carvajal's 74th-minute opener at Wembley Stadium before Vinicius Junior sealed Madrid's 15th crown in UEFA's top club competition.

The 34-year-old Kroos will head to Euro 2024 with Germany this month before calling time on his glittering career, though Ancelotti hopes he will change his mind.

"I'm really grateful to Kroos," Ancelotti said. "He finished at the very top, there is no way to finish higher than this.

"He had the boldness to finish it [his career] and he is a legend at this club.

"All the fans are grateful to him for his attitude, his professionalism. I've told him we are waiting for him to change his mind – we are waiting for you."

It was the sixth winning campaign for Madrid quadruple Kroos, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal and Nacho in the Champions League.

Only Paco Gento (six) has won the European Cup/Champions League as many times among players in history.

This success will be further boosted by the expected arrival of Kylian Mbappe, who is reportedly set to join Madrid after announcing his intentions to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

Ancelotti says Los Blancos will look to new arrivals, as well as the current crop of Madrid stars, to combat Kroos' retirement.

"We have lost an important player, but we have players who can replace him and we will adapt and play a slightly different way," Ancelotti said.

"We have fantastic players and the resources to remain competitive."

Kroos' Germany face Ukraine and Greece in warm-up fixtures before opening their Euro 2024 campaign against Scotland on June 14.

Toni Kroos was hailed as a "legend" by his fellow midfielder Federico Valverde after helping Real Madrid win their 15th European crown in the final game of his club career on Saturday.

Kroos enjoyed a winning send-off in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium, assisting Dani Carvajal's opener in a hard-fought 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.

The 34-year-old – who will hang up his boots after representing Germany at Euro 2024 – joined Luka Modric and Nacho in winning his sixth European crown, a feat only previously achieved by Paco Gento.

Kroos led all 22 starters for touches (108), passes attempted (94), and passes completed (91), while only Ferland Mendy, with perfect distribution, bettered his passing accuracy (96.8 per cent). Dortmund's Julian Brandt matched his four chances created.

Speaking to Movistar after the game, Kroos expressed relief that Madrid had survived a below-par first half, in which Dortmund missed several decent chances.

"The decisive thing was that we didn't concede in the first half. The first half really wasn’t good from us," Kroos said.

"Then we got into the game better and scored the goal. We were fully there and the better team. But it took a long time until we were the better team tonight."

Valverde, meanwhile, was glowing in his praise for Kroos. 

Asked how much he would miss his retiring midfield partner, the Uruguayan said: "A lot, like everyone else. 

"He is a person who has left his legend here, his mark. We, as youngsters, try to learn as much from him as possible, like with Modric. 

"Thank you for all that you have given and taught us on a day-to-day basis, for that competitiveness."

Asked about Madrid's winning mentality, he added: "It comes from the greatest, those who give this value to this club: you always win. 

"Tomorrow we'll go to celebrate, but they'll tell us to win it again next year!"

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti felt winning the European Cup for a record-extending 15th time on Saturday had been much more difficult than expected for the Spanish champions.

Los Blancos needed two late goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior to beat Germany's Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the Champions League final at Wembley.

"I never get used to it, because it was difficult, very difficult, more than expected," Ancelotti told Movistar Plus+.

"In the first half we were a bit lazy, we had losses and they [Dortmund] were able to play how they wanted, but in the second half we were better and more balanced, with fewer losses.

"This is a dream that continues. I don't know what is going to happen tonight, but we are not going to sleep!"

Ancelotti added to TNT Sports: "It seems a dream but it is reality. Really happy for sure. A final is always like this [with good and bad parts of the game].

"We were able to win, it was a fantastic season and we are really happy to be able to win the cup again."

Asked how Madrid are able to keep winning the Champions League, he replied: "It is the history and tradition of the club and of course the quality of the players.

"The club is a family, we work all together without problems and the atmosphere is really good in the dressing room.

"I need to thank the club and the players, no big egos, really humble, it was not difficult to manage the squad this season."

Carvajal also acknowledged Madrid had been fortunate to escape from a first half where Dortmund squandered a host of good goalscoring opportunities.

"After the first half we had, we didn't even deserve to go the changing room with a level score, but this is football and we are very, very happy," said defender Carvajal, who scored the first goal by heading in Toni Kroos’ corner.

For Dortmund, it was another Champions League final loss at Wembley, which also hosted their 2013 defeat by domestic rivals Bayern Munich.

"At the moment we are bitterly disappointed," said Dortmund keeper Gregor Kobel. "Against Real you don’t get too many chances and they always become dangerous.

"We had our chances and should have done a bit more.

"We are still disappointed, but 100% it was a huge success to come here and play this game, so we are very proud."

Borussia Dortmund left everything out there on the Wembley Stadium turf, but everything was not enough. For the Champions League belongs to Real Madrid, and to Toni Kroos.

Los Blancos captured their record-extending 15th European crown with a hard-fought 2-0 win over BVB on Saturday, with second-half goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior punishing Edin Terzic's men for a series of misses.

For all the star power available to them, for all the talk of destiny pitting Jude Bellingham against his former club at the home of English football, Madrid just seem to have a knack for finding unlikely heroes, and Carvajal certainly fits that category.

The identity of Madrid's opening scorer may have been a surprise, but that of the man who created it was not.

In the final game of his storied club career, it was Kroos whose pinpoint corner was glanced home by Carvajal. By the time Kroos was substituted to a rousing ovation in the 85th minute, Ian Maatsen's error had allowed Vinicius in to make the victory safe.

This win was not straightforward, though. With Madrid, things rarely are.

Madrid's road to Wembley was not quite as dramatic as the frankly ridiculous series of events that led to them winning their 14th crown in 2021-22.

On that occasion, Carlo Ancelotti's men pulled off a series of increasingly unlikely rescue acts to break the hearts of Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City before Thibaut Courtois kept Liverpool at bay in the final.

They still faced their share of adversity this time around, though. 

Having come under fierce pressure against RB Leipzig in the last 16, they made a dismal start to the home leg of their quarter-final against Manchester City, Phil Foden putting them on the back foot within two minutes. Within another 12, Madrid found themselves 2-1 up.

After a pulsating 3-3 draw, they needed a desperate rearguard action to negotiate 120 minutes at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola's all-conquering machine fired off shot after shot – 33 in total, the most in any Champions League knockout game since Liverpool attempted 34 against Atletico Madrid in March 2020.

But the ball simply would not go in after Kevin De Bruyne cancelled out Rodrygo's opener, setting the stage for Andriy Lunin's penalty shoot-out heroics to send Madrid through.

In the last four, they produced their best impression of the class of 2022, former Stoke City and Newcastle United man Joselu – much maligned when he arrived on loan last June after a failure to lure Kylian Mbappe – stepping off the bench with a last-gasp brace to stun Bayern Munich.

Ahead of Saturday's match, Madrid had only trailed for 7.5 per cent of their total game time in the Champions League this season (90 minutes out of 1,200), the lowest percentage of any side. 

They had, however, won four matches after falling behind, with only Barcelona in 1999-00 and Los Blancos themselves in 2016-17 (five each) ever recording more comeback wins in a single edition of the tournament. 

Resilience, aura, whatever you want to call it, Madrid have it by the bucketload. 

Onto the final. Madrid were again slow out of the traps, even the effortlessly cool Ancelotti looking slightly ruffled as Dortmund's excellent transition play caught them out time and again.

Madrid were caught flat-footed when Mats Hummels released Karim Adeyemi through on goal midway through the first half, yet the youngster's touch past Courtois took him too far wide and Carvajal recovered with a vital challenge. That was warning number one.

Warning number two came when Maatsen slipped Niclas Fullkrug through on goal two minutes later. There was a hint of offside as the Germany striker stretched to prod goalwards, but an even bigger hint of fortune for Madrid as the ball bounced off the inside of the post and found its way to safety. 

Another six minutes later, warning number three as Adeyemi beat Carvajal in another footrace, his low strike from the angle working Courtois again.

Madrid became the first team to fail to record a shot on target in the first half of a Champions League final since Tottenham versus Liverpool in 2019. Their total of two first-half attempts was their joint-fewest in 55 games this season.

Dortmund had them on the ropes, but like Leipzig, City and Bayern, they failed to deliver the knockout blow. 

For all the exuberance of Terzic's team, for all the noise and colour brought by the Yellow Wall behind them, the outcome somehow felt inevitable, and so it proved.

Kroos began finding his range early in the second half, testing Gregor Kobel with a clever free-kick from near the corner of the area before seeing another set-piece nodded over the top by Carvajal – a sighter for the right-back. 

Dortmund continued to threaten at the other end, though, with Courtois again worked by Fullkrug's diving header just after the hour mark.

The big moment, as is so often the case when Madrid are involved, seemed to come out of nowhere.

One perfect swing of Kroos' right boot, one inch-perfect corner delivery, and Dortmund were on the back foot. 

A Dortmund recovery never looked likely from there, with Madrid slotting into cruise (or should we say Kroos?) control.

The midfielder led all 22 starters for touches (108), passes attempted (94), and passes completed (91), while only Ferland Mendy, with perfect distribution, bettered his passing accuracy (96.8 per cent). Dortmund's Julian Brandt matched his four chances created. 

At half-time, Kroos might have looked jaded as Madrid's midfield was caught cold by Dortmund's rapid transition play. By full-time, he was the coolest man at Wembley.  

When it comes to the big moments, Madrid just know how to dial it up. Perhaps no player quite personifies that trait like Kroos.

When announcing his retirement last month, Kroos said he wished to go out at the very top.

By joining Carvajal, Nacho and Luka Modric in winning six European crowns, a feat only previously achieved by Paco Gento, he has certainly accomplished that. 

Real Madrid were crowned kings of Europe for a record-extending 15th time with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on Saturday.

Huge favourites going into the game, the Spanish side were outplayed for long periods but broke Dortmund's resistance with late goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior.

Veteran right back Carvajal glanced in a header from a Toni Kroos corner in the 74th minute and from that moment Carlo Ancelotti's side sparked into life.

Vinicius slid home Madrid's second in the 83rd minute to silence the yellow-clad Dortmund fans who had created a wall of noise throughout the final.

It was hard on the German side who missed several good first-half chances, the best of which saw Niclas Fullkrug hit the post from close range.

Data Debrief: Madrid deliver unbeaten campaign

Victory in the final meant Madrid had gone through a whole European Cup or Champions League campaign without defeat for the first time.

Ancelotti's side won nine and drew four of their 13 matches this season, not losing any. They are the second LaLiga team to achieve the feat, as Barcelona also managed it in 2005-06 under Frank Rijkaard.

The match also saw Vinicius (aged 23 years and 325 days) become the youngest player to score in two Champions League finals, having also netted against Liverpool in their 2022 triumph.

The biggest game of the European club season is upon us, as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid face off for the Champions League trophy at Wembley Stadium.

It's fair to say Edin Terzic's side were not expected to get this far, particularly when they were drawn into a tough group containing Paris Saint-Germain, Milan and Newcastle United.

However, they passed that test with flying colours before seeing off PSV, Atletico Madrid and PSG – for a second time – to book their ticket to Wembley, where they suffered final heartache against Bayern Munich 11 years ago.

Madrid, on the other hand, always expect to feature in this game.

They have had to do things the hard way this term, coming from behind in heavyweight ties against Manchester City and Bayern to emerge as favourites for a record-extending 15th European crown.

Jude Bellingham has been their talisman in his first season after leaving Dortmund, being crowned LaLiga's Player of the Season after leading Los Blancos to their 36th domestic title.

Few would bet against him having a decisive impact upon his return to England on Saturday.

The game will also represent a swansong for two iconic figures in German football, as Marco Reus prepares to leave Dortmund after 12 years and Toni Kroos plays the final game of his glittering club career.

Two DFB-Pokal wins are all Reus has to show for his distinguished spell with BVB, having also missed Germany's 2014 World Cup win due to injury. Kroos, on the other hand, could cap his career with a record-equalling sixth European crown, with his first coming with Bayern against Dortmund.

Whoever lifts the trophy, expect emotional scenes. 

What's expected?

Unsurprisingly, given their continental pedigree, Real Madrid enter Saturday's showpiece game as favourites, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 55.6 per cent chance of victory inside 90 minutes.

Dortmund are assigned just a 21.4 per cent chance of claiming the trophy within regulation time, with 23 per cent of simulations seeing the final go to extra time and potentially penalties.

This will be Madrid's 18th appearance in a European Cup or Champions League final, with their 17 previous finals already the most of any club. They have lifted the trophy on 14 of those 17 appearances.

Dortmund, meanwhile, are making just their third appearance in a Champions League final, having overcome Juventus 3-1 in 1997 before losing 2-1 to Bayern in 2013. This will be the first Champions League final between a Spanish team and a German team since 2002, when Los Blancos overcame Bayer Leverkusen 2-1.

 

Only Man City (28) have bettered Madrid's 26 goals in this season's edition of the Champions League, while only City (25.1) and PSG (24.9) have topped their total of 24.3 expected goals (xG). Dortmund rank seventh for goals scored (17) and eighth for xG (15.2), with both finalists outperforming their underlying attacking metrics in the competition, Dortmund by 1.8 and Madrid by 1.7.

It is at the other end where BVB might have been a little fortunate. Their average of 1.9 expected goals against (xGA) per Champions League game in 2023-24 is the highest of any team to progress beyond the group stage, and they have been indebted to goalkeeper Gregor Kobel. 

According to Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) model, he has prevented 7.1 goals in the Champions League this term, conceding seven times from 14.1 xGoT faced. Madrid, meanwhile, have conceded 15 times from 15.6 xGA.  

Sancho to cap underdog story?

When Jadon Sancho was unceremoniously exiled from the Manchester United squad by Erik ten Hag last September, few would have expected to see him play in European football's biggest game within the same season. 

Sancho was initially slow to get going upon his loan return to the Westfalenstadion in January, but he has found his feet in recent months, particularly in Europe.

The winger produced a talismanic display in the first leg of Dortmund's semi-final triumph over PSG and has completed 25 dribbles across his six Champions League appearances this season.

That is the most by any player in the knockout stages of a single edition of the tournament since Neymar recorded 32 for losing finalists PSG in 2019-20.

Should Sancho inspire Terzic's men to victory, it will go down as one of the greatest comeback stories in recent memory.

Moreover, having finished fifth in the Bundesliga, Dortmund will be the second-lowest ranked German team to ever compete in a European Cup/Champions League final, after Bayern won the 1974-75 edition while finishing 10th domestically. 

Fans of an underdog story will be right behind Sancho and Dortmund on Saturday.

 

Is Madrid's name on the trophy?

When Carlo Ancelotti led Madrid to their most recent European crown in 2021-22, it sometimes felt like a greater force was at work.

Los Blancos came from behind in three successive knockout ties against PSG, Chelsea and City, pulling off increasingly unlikely rescue acts to reach the showpiece game in Paris, where Thibaut Courtois' heroics set the stage for Vinicius Junior to down Liverpool.

There has been a greater degree of control about Madrid this season, but their European aura certainly remains intact. 

Madrid have only trailed for 7.5 per cent of their total game time in the Champions League this season (90 minutes out of 1,200), the lowest percentage of any side. 

They have, however, fought back to win four matches in which they've been behind in the competition this term, with only Barcelona in 1999-00 and Madrid themselves in 2016-17 (five each) having more comeback wins in a single edition.

The most memorable of those saw Joselu's late brace dump Bayern Munich out in the semi-finals, but they also had to hold firm to keep RB Leipzig and City at bay in their previous knockout ties.

Teams are advised to play the game rather than the occasion, but Madrid often find something extra when it matters most in a tournament they regard as their own.

PREVIOUS MEETING

The teams last faced each other in the Champions League in 2017-18, with Los Blancos winning both games in the group stage, triumphing 3-1 away and 3-2 at home.

Neither side has previously managed to win three straight European games against the other, though.

Dortmund did memorably overcome Madrid en route to their last Champions League final in 2013, with Robert Lewandowski scoring all four goals in a 4-1 first-leg triumph before they held on in the second leg, a 2-0 defeat sending them through 4-3 on aggregate. 

However, BVB have only won three of their 14 previous Champions League meetings with Madrid overall, drawing five and losing six.  

Among teams they have faced at least five times in the competition, only against City (17 per cent) do they have a lower win percentage than versus Madrid (21 per cent).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Borussia Dortmund: Mats Hummels 

Dortmund have had to stand firm in the face of pressure en route to the final, and if they are to overcome the might of Madrid, another solid rearguard action will be required.

Hummels has not missed a single minute of Champions League football this season, and he could become the first outfielder to be ever-present for the eventual winners since Cristiano Ronaldo for Madrid in 2017-18.

Like departing team-mate Reus, he could appear in his second Champions League final 11 years on from his first. Juventus icon Gianluigi Buffon (12 years between 2003 and 2015) was the last player to appear in two showpiece games with a longer wait between them.

Real Madrid: Jude Bellingham

Who else but former Dortmund star Bellingham?

The England international has earned a reputation as a player for the big occasions this season, and few would bet against him having a decisive impact against his old club at Wembley.

He has created more chances while under pressure (19) than any other midfielder in this season's Champions League, with four of those resulting in assists. The only player to provide more assists while under pressure from at least one opposition player in the 2023-24 tournament is Dortmund's Marcel Sabitzer (five).

Just as importantly, Bellingham never shirks his off-the-ball work. He has made the most high-intensity pressures of any player in the 2023-24 Champions League overall (572) and in the knockout stages specifically (344).

Real Madrid were fortunate to call upon Toni Kroos for a decade, said Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti, after the Germany midfielder bade farewell to a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu.

Veteran Kroos played his final league game for Madrid on Saturday, with a goalless draw against Real Betis hardly befitting of his illustrious time with the LaLiga champions.

The 34-year-old will still have one more appearance to come for Los Blancos in next Saturday's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

Yet having played for a final occasion at Madrid's storied home ground, Ancelotti was quick to praise Kroos.

"One of the greatest, obviously," Ancelotti told a press conference. "A very high-quality midfielder, with a fantastic character, with a small ego, very humble and always at the service of the team, very altruistic. What luck to have had him for 10 years.

"To do better than Kroos has done, in this team, is very complicated. He has made a very strong decision [to retire], because nobody could have imagined it, but he has shown a lot of character and to say goodbye like that is great.

"It is the farewell of a great football character and, I repeat, we have been lucky to have him here. Football has enjoyed a great player."

On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

"I can only say thank you to all the Madridismo, to the club, to my team mates, to the stadium," Kroos told reporters after his Madrid farewell.

"I've always felt at home during these 10 years. I couldn't ask for more. They have been 10 unforgettable years.

"I was pretty strong until I saw my children, that moment killed me."

Kroos will end his playing days with the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament, where he will hope to guide hosts Germany to glory on home soil.

Toni Kroos bade an emotional farewell to Real Madrid fans at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu in a 0-0 draw with Real Betis.

One of Madrid's most decorated players, Kroos confirmed this week that he will be retiring after Euro 2024.

That made Saturday's meeting with Betis his final LaLiga match for Madrid, who eased to the title this season and will now look ahead to next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

While that clash at Wembley will be Kroos' last in club football, he was able to say goodbye to the Madrid fans, with the match all about the 34-year-old, with nothing left to be decided in the standings.

Kroos fought back tears as walked onto the pitch through a corridor formed by his team-mates, who were wearing his number eight jersey as the fans held up a giant flag with his face and the words "Thank you, legend" which covered the south stand.

In the 87th minute, Kroos, who saw a free-kick saved by Betis' Fran Vieites, broke down in tears when, after receiving another standing ovation as he was substituted, he embraced his three children who were all crying on the sidelines.

The game was stopped for several minutes as Kroos hugged each of his team-mates, as well as coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Ferland Mendy and Vinicius Junior went closest to breaking the deadlock for Madrid, while Hector Bellerin missed from a free header for Betis and Thibaut Courtois pulled off some fine saves either side of the break.

Data Debrief: Kroosing into retirement

What a career Kroos has had, not only at Madrid, but at Bayern Munich beforehand.

On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

Madrid might be in safe hands with Jude Bellingham, but Kroos will certainly be missed.

Real Madrid midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni will miss the Champions League final due to a foot injury and could be a doubt for the Euros.

The 24-year-old, who has made 38 appearances across all competitions for the Spanish champions this season, has not played since he suffered a stress fracture during Madrid's Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich earlier this month.

Madrid play Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on June 1.

And ahead of Los Blancos' final LaLiga match of the season against Real Betis on Saturday, Ancelotti confirmed the former Monaco star's injury is relatively serious.

"He's doing individual work but he's not ready for the (Champions League) final," Ancelotti told reporters.

"Let's see if he's ready for the Euros."

France coach Didier Deschamps named Tchouameni in his 25-man squad for Euro 2024, which starts on June 14.

Meanwhile, for Madrid, Saturday's match is an opportunity for fans to bid farewell to Toni Kroos, who is retiring after Euro 2024.

The 34-year-old is one of Madrid's most successful players, winning the Champions League four times during his 10-year stint with the club.

Having also won the title once with Bayern Munich, the Germany international could become only the second player after Madrid great Paco Gento to win six European crowns.

"I don't think it was a difficult decision for him. Veteran players, legends, have to choose their destiny. Toni has made that decision and it must be respected," Ancelotti said.

"We have to say goodbye to him as best we can. I respect his decision. Saying goodbye like this would be ideal. Then you have to have the courage to do it and I have a lot of respect for what he has done.

"Replacing someone like this is almost impossible, but this squad has resources in young people so that they take responsibility and follow the path set over the last 10 years."

Runaway LaLiga champions Real Madrid welcome Real Betis for the last game of the domestic season in what was supposed to be just a dress rehearsal ahead of next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

But the shock retirement announcement of midfielder Toni Kroos on Tuesday suddenly changed the significance of Saturday's clash, which quickly lost that end-of-the-season vibe.

A sold-out crowd will bid farewell to a fan favourite and all-time club great who will play his final game at the stadium after a remarkable decade with the Spanish giants.

Kroos said in a statement on his social media that his last game for Madrid will be next week's Champions League final, adding that he will retire after this year's European Championship on home soil.

Madrid have had little to play for in the last couple of weeks after claiming a record-extending 36th LaLiga title on May 4 and reaching the Champions League final four days later.

Carlo Ancelotti has rested most of his regular starters in the last three league matches but is expected to use the Betis game as a practice run for the Wembley final, with two big question marks in defence.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois' full recovery from an ACL tear suffered in August has left the Italian with a tricky decision.

Stand-in Andriy Lunin was Real's penalty hero as they beat Manchester City to reach the semi-finals, but Courtois is widely considered one of the best keepers in the world and is likely to regain his starting spot against Dortmund.

The centre-back who will play alongside Antonio Rudiger is Ancelotti's other issue.

He has used holding midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and long-time back-up defender Nacho alongside Rudiger after David Alaba and Eder Militao sustained ACL tears early in the season.

After making a full recovery last month, Militao has struggled to regain top form and, with Tchouameni out with a foot injury sustained against Bayern Munich, Ancelotti is left to decide between the Brazilian and Spaniard Nacho.

Champions Real Madrid have 94 points, 12 ahead of second-placed Barcelona going into the final round of LaLiga matches this season. 

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos will retire from football after representing Germany at Euro 2024.

The 34-year-old was thought likely to sign a new contract with Los Blancos, but he announced on Tuesday that he will hang up his boots after representing his country on home soil at the Euros. 

Kroos has enjoyed a distinguished 10-year spell with Madrid, who he joined from Bayern Munich in 2014, winning LaLiga and the Champions League four times apiece with the Spanish giants.

He played a crucial role as Carlo Ancelotti's men regained their domestic title in 2023-24, but next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund will be the final game of his club career before his Euros swansong. 

He initially quit international football after the delayed Euro 2020 three years ago, only to agree to return to the fold under Julian Nagelsmann earlier this year.

In an open letter to Madrid's fans, Kroos wrote: "As I have always said, Real Madrid is and will be my last club.

"After 10 years, at the end of the season this chapter comes to an end. I will never forget this successful time! I would like to thank everyone that welcomed me with an open heart and trusted me. 

"But especially I would like to thank you, dear Madridistas, for your affection and your love from the first day until the last one. 

"At the same time this decision means that my career as an active footballer will end this summer after the Euro championship."

Kroos also issued a rallying cry as Madrid target a record-extending 15th European crown, adding: "I am happy and proud that in my mind I found the right timing for my decision and that I could choose it myself. 

"My ambition was always to finish my career at the peak of my performance levels. From now on there is only one leading thought, la 15! Hala Madrid!"

Carlo Ancelotti has backed Toni Kroos for this year's Ballon d'Or if Real Madrid and Germany win the Champions League and Euro 2024 respectively.

With another LaLiga title under their belts, Madrid are into the Champions League final after they overcame Kroos' former club Bayern Munich in the last four.

Borussia Dortmund stand in Los Blancos' way of a record-extending 15th European crown.

And Kroos, who has come out of international retirement in order to boost Germany's Euro 2024 chances, has played a key role in Madrid's success this term.

In fact, he has been so good, that Ancelotti cannot see why the Ballon d'Or would not be a possibility.

"The Ballon d'Or for Kroos? Well, anything can happen," Ancelotti told reporters after Madrid hammered Alaves 5-0 on Tuesday.

"If he wins the Champions League and the Euro. I think he can do a double. Germany can win with Kroos."

Kroos has played 46 times in all competitions for Madrid this season, with only Joselu, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde making more appearances.

The 34-year-old leads Madrid's squad for chances created (85), while he is second for assists (nine) and expected assists (7.6). 

He has attempted 3,257 passes, over 500 more than any of his club-mates, completing 3,083 of them (94.6 per cent).

However, his immediate future is not yet certain, though Ancelotti is not concerned.

"At the moment, we are not worried about what he is going to do, neither am I, nor the club, nor Toni," the Italian added.

"Until June 1, this is a secondary issue. We are now thinking about winning the Champions League."

Madrid now want to make the most of their remaining LaLiga games as they prepare for their showdown with BVB.

"These games are important to maintain the rhythm, the good dynamics, the motivation and the good play. There are two weeks left. Now we'll rest for a few days and next week we'll do some physical work. In the second week we will do tactical work," Ancelotti said.

"For me as a coach, it's the best season. The team has been fantastic, we deservedly won LaLiga. We're on a cloud, but we have to keep going because we haven't played the most important game yet.

"This team has a lot of talent. Very young people with a lot of quality. It has the opportunity to mark an era in the future, given the value of the youngsters we have."

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