Football might be coming home, but just like in 1996, it is Germany that is bringing it back. Wembley is the stage for Saturday’s Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and exactly like the European Championships that summer 18 years ago, the national stadium will be rocking to a familiar German beat.
No, that doesn’t mean Kraftwerk, but that old Gary Lineker quote about football “being a game played by 22 men and at the end of 90 minutes, the Germans win” will never be more apt than Saturday evening, when the two best teams in the competition go head-to-head in the final.
And there can be no doubt that Bayern and Dortmund have been the two outstanding sides in this season’s Champions League.
While the English contingent were either never good enough (Arsenal and Manchester United), poor (Chelsea) or abysmally poor (Manchester City), the Germans have made all the running and the way they dispatched the Spanish giants in the semi-finals was a breath of fresh air for the competition.
It is no fluke, either: Dortmund, under their wonderfully eccentric and innovative coach Jurgen Klopp, had won back-to-back Bundesliga titles (one with a domestic cup) before being dethroned by this season by Bayern, who under veteran coach Jupp Heynckes are on the brink of a treble. And to think that Pep Guardiola is taking over this summer.
I would not bet against the former Barcelona coach taking the reins at the champions of Europe, because I am confident that Bayern will exorcise the demon of defeat in last year’s final to Chelsea and cement their position as the best team in European football by getting the better of their rivals.
Bayern are 67/100 to win in 90 minutes and the draw, not to be discounted entirely, is 16/5, with Dortmund a slightly bigger 333/100 to cause a minor upset, but it has to be Bayern on the evidence of the entire campaign.
I say the draw cannot be discounted not just because Dortmund are a fine side (which they are) but because of their recent record against Bayern.
Dortmund have won five and drawn two of the last nine meetings over the past three seasons, which is a confidence-boosting record to take into a final.
But most of those wins came in the earlier matches and Munich are actually unbeaten in the last four meetings with Dortmund, winning twice, and it seems as if Der FCB have got the measure of Klopp’s side after initially struggling.
And nobody else has a claim to being as impressive as Munich over the course of nine months.
Runaway Bundesliga winners – they finished on 91 points, a huge 25 ahead of Saturday’s opponents – Bayern have been sensational all season.
Heynckes’ side have lost just three times all campaign and since the turn of the year have been on a wonderful run, winning 23 and drawing one of their last 25 matches.
An incredible 75 goals have been scored during that sequence and Munich can take advantage of Dortmund’s leaky defence.
The Borussians are great to watch going forward, but are always liable to give you a chance at the other end: Klopp’s side have only kept one clean sheet in the last ten and four in the last 23.
That is not the sort of defensive record you want going into a game against such free-scoring opponents and Bayern can overpower – and outscore – Dortmund in the same manner as they have done to nearly all that have stood in their way this term.
Fuelled by the disappointment of last year, Bayern have been outstanding all season and, for me, are the best team in Europe. At 67/100, back them to show it at Wembley.