Preview of the Champions League Final: David vs Goliath

We provide an exclusive glimpse into xvalue’s comprehensive Opponent Analysis Report, featuring data from Real Madrid’s and BVB’s 2024 seasons. This report offers a complete overview of the teams’ performance, providing valuable insights for football professionals.


A match-packed 2023/2024 season is finally coming to a close. At Wembley, on Saturday, the most anticipated game in European football will take place: the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund

The champions of Spain against the 5th-placed team in Germany, fourteen Champions League titles versus one, over €250M in salaries in front of just over €120M (estimates made by Capology): there seems to be a clear favorite. However, football should have taught us that there are no results that can be ruled out before they are actually played. This has been the case in the 2 European finals which have been played so far. In the Conference League final, Olympiacos managed to score a late goal in extra-time against Fiorentina to take the first European trophy of a Greek club (with the final being held in Athens). In the Europa League final held in Dublin, Atalanta managed to break Bayer Leverkusen’s sensational 51-game unbeaten run in all competitions to clinch their first ever European trophy and the first of Gasperini’s career with a thumping 3-0.

Economic perspectives

There are no doubts that the economic power of the finalists is substantially different. Real Madrid are among the highest grossing clubs in the world and have always been at the pinnacle of world football as their 14 Champions Leagues and nickname (‘Los Galacticos’) suggests. Borussia Dortmund, on the other hand, is an important club with great tradition (with possibly even greater fans), but doesn’t hold the same status and economic fire power as the other finalist. Leaving aside the significant difference in salaries among the clubs, it is perhaps in the transfer market that we can capture the different nature of the clubs.

The transition from ‘Los Galacticos’ to the ‘young galacticos’

Ever since Florentino Perez’s first mandate as president of Real Madrid, the club often looked for blockbuster signings, thus gaining the nickname Los Galacticos. However, at first, this strategy didn’t pay off as expected. Probably the most famous case regarding Perez’s focus on stars was the one that culminated in the signing of David Beckham, who, at the time, had established himself as a superstar on and off the pitch. However, this led to the exclusion of Claude Makélélé who was a pivotal part of the team that allowed it to keep its balance. Following his departure, Real Madrid finished 4th in La Liga, the lowest finish of Perez’s presidential career.

Such spending on players took a lot of time before Real Madrid could assert once more their dominance on European football like in the first editions of the tournament in the 50’s, where players such as Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas shined. After being knocked out in the round of 16 for 6 consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013, Mourinho led Los Blancos to 3 consecutive semifinals. This prepared the ground for Carlo Ancelotti in the following season, as he would bring the long-awaited Decima and his successor, Zinédine Zidane, would go on to win 3 consecutive Champions Leagues (no other club has managed 2, let alone 3) with Cristiano Ronaldo taking the Ballon D’Or in the first two years and Luka Modric on the third. Ever since, Real Madrid have continued to make blockbuster signings but have shown a more mature approach to business, often looking for young talent (Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo, Camavinga and Bellingham are just a few examples). This seems to have paid off as the club is probably in the strongest position it has ever been and have turned the tables on Barcelona who were the dominating team at the start of the last decade.

Borussia Dortmund’s continuous renewal

The Germans on the other hand, have definitely kept a different approach to business. Without the same purchasing power as Bayern Munich, let alone Real Madrid, the club has put their focus on youngsters to reach success, especially after severe financial struggles in the early 2000’s. The club focuses on young rising talent (not necessarily unknown, but definitely in the early stages of their careers), granting them the chance to grow in a nurturing and competitive environment. Probably the side who reached the Champions League Final in 2013 was the one who remained most impressed in our memories where players such as Lewandowski, Reus, Götze, Gündogan and Hummels blended with more mature players such as Kehl, Piszczek and Weidenfeller. From then on, the club regularly sold its stars and acquired new young talent (often not even 18). This strategy has helped the club keep a secure economic position, but hasn’t allowed the club to compete with Bayern Munich who defeated them in the aforementioned 2013 final, with the exception of a couple of occasions (last year’s last matchday debacle being the main one). However, in what looked like a particularly rough season, Dortmund have completed numerous upsets in the Champions League (AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and PSG to name a few) to grant them a chance at a dream: a second Champions League final (the last one to be played under the current format).

2024 seasonal performance

While Real Madrid have almost comfortably won La Liga, Borussia Dortmund have had a very tough Bundesliga campaign, clinching qualification to next year’s Champions League only thanks to the performances of German clubs in UEFA competitions (Germany finished second among football associations behind Italy). 

In-possession tendencies

Both teams tend to keep possession and resort to quick combinations. While Real Madrid usually don’t use a focal point upfront (unless Joselu is playing), BVB usually lineup with Füllkrug, however this doesn’t translate into many crosses. In fact, both teams are amongst the lowest producers in their leagues, however, they often resort to cutbacks (especially Real Madrid), the most dangerous among all types of crosses.

Both teams feature lots of quick and technical players, for this reason, it is no surprise to see them complete a very high amount of dribbles per match. The quickness of their players, coupled at times with a low block, also enables lots of through balls to exploit the space behind the opposition’s defensive line. This leads to both teams creating 0.19 xG from counters per match, positioning them among the best in their respective leagues. Confirmation of their attacking tendencies is also given by the Expected Threat heatmaps shown below, danger is mostly created in similar areas, however Real Madrid clearly focus on the left side where Vinicius Jr. has been the go-to player to create chances.

Borussia Dortmund usually doesn’t resort to particularly aggressive pressing, and as seen in previous stages of the Champions League (especially against PSG), we expect that BVB could adopt a lower defensive block than usual in order to limit the opposition’s team strengths. In the picture below we can see an example by looking at their passing network against Bayer Leverkusen.

Real Madrid, instead, usually have a higher barycentre, however they don’t resort to particularly aggressive pressing (they are even last in la Liga for BDP), as their pressing metrics suggest.

We don’t expect major changes in formations or starters (with the exception of the injured Tchouaméni, Alaba and Bensebaini), however given the unique nature of a final we obviously cannot be sure. 

Real Madrid usually features an atypical 4-3-1-2 system:

While Borussia Dortmund typically lines up with a 4-2-3-1 system:

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