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Champions League final: Dortmund bank on solid defence, quick transitions against Real Madrid

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Borussia Dortmund are clear underdogs in the Champions League final against 14-time winners Real Madrid but the Germans’ surprise European run this season has been in sharp contrast to their rollercoaster domestic campaigns.

Edin Terzic’s Dortmund, bidding for their second Champions League title after their 1997 triumph, finished a disappointing fifth in the Bundesliga.

They have, however, been far more consistent in Europe despite having 10 per cent less possession in the Champions League than in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund kept six clean sheets in 12 Champions League matches this season, counting on a strong defence and quick breaks.

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These clean sheets included both semifinal legs against Paris St Germain with Dortmund winning 2-0 on aggregate.

Terzic has set up his team in Europe with, at times, five defenders, providing a solid backline as the foundation of their game.

Central defenders Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck have been in spectacular form in recent months and the latter was included in Germany’s Euro 2024 squad.

That will be key for Dortmund along with quick transitions provided by speedy wingers Jadon Sancho and Karim Adeyemi trying to stretch the Real defence.

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Their pace down the wings will be crucial in Dortmund’s counter-attacks, knowing that Real will have a bigger share of possession and the Germans will wait to carve out chances on the break.

Terzic hopes Adeyemi and Sancho can open up space for centre Niclas Fuellkrug, Dortmund’s best striker in the competition this season with three goals.

Fuellkrug’s role, however, is far from just scoring, with the burly Germany forward often dragging opponents with him and allowing teammates opportunities.

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It comes as no surprise that 12 different Dortmund players have scored at least one goal in the Champions League this season.

“I say ‘don’t play the occasion, play the game’,” Terzic said. “My aim is not to try out new things or to overcoach. But to use the experiences we made this season and say which experience fits this game.

“For the line-up we still have some training sessions to see who will prove themselves. But we know that our substitutions can have an influence,” he said.

Among those likely to be on the bench but expected to come on is departing veteran Marco Reus.

“It will not be good enough to have a starting line-up and hope the lads will do it. In this game we have to count on the entire quality of the full squad,” Terzic said.

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