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Champions League

Bayern and Dortmund set for Champions League final

Thousands of German fans have descended upon London for the Champions League final. Like the rest of the country, national team coach Joachim Löw has been caught up in the excitement of the first all-German final.

Supporters of Borussia Dortmund use the tube in London, England, 24 May 2013. FC Bayern will play the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2013. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa

Champions League Fans in London

Germany coach Löw, who might have had every right to be a little bitter as he has been forced to pick a decimated squad for his US tour, saw only the positives in Saturday's Champions League final.

"It's a special highlight for our football, two German teams in the final of the Champions League - that really gets me tingling," Löw effused. Bayern's captain, and Löw's too, Philipp Lahm said much the same - even after competing in two of the last three finals, one of them at his own Allianz Arena.

Home defeat, away win?

"Last year, an English team won in Munich. This time, I hope that a Munich team wins in England," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said, recalling last year's penalty shoot-out heartbreaker against Chelsea.

Coach Jupp Heynckes, speaking ahead of perhaps his penultimate match in football, simply pointed to Bayern's stellar season, saying "We're in such good form." Heynckes lifted the trophy in 1998 with Real Madrid, only to be deposed for a more fashionable coach immediately afterwards - a sensation that might have prepared him somewhat for this season.

On paper, and with the bookmakers, Bayern go into the game as favorites this year, following a record-breaking Bundesliga campaign and an improbable 25-point margin of victory over Dortmund. Even Bastian Schweinsteiger, the man who missed the decisive penalty in Munich one year ago, told reporters bullishly: "I know what strengths we have." He also predicted a hard-fought game "to the last minute," but added that the core of the German national team would not overstep the mark either.

No greater game?

For Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp, and his players, this is arguably the biggest game of their careers. Last year's German Cup final win over Bayern, some key Bundesliga wins over the Bavarians in Dortmund's two title-winning years and this season's semifinal with Real Madrid would be the other major candidates; and it's hard to make a serious case for any one of them over Saturday's match at Wembley.

"Wembley will be one of the greatest moments of our lives," Klopp said. "We have an awful lot to win, and less to lose. Now the time has come to make dreams come true."

Club captain Sebastian Kehl, who might play in Mario Götze's absence with injury, felt that mentality would be decisive.

"The team that goes out there and shows the most courage and joy will win. In that regard, we have advantages," the veteran holding midfielder said.

Missing a man

Dortmund's defecting star Götze will be out of the lineup on Saturday after it was confirmed that his injury, sustained almost immediately after his transfer to Bayern was made public, would not heal in time for the game.

Bayern's Rafinha and Dortmund's Jakub Blaszczykowski, shielded by other players, argue during the two team's last meeting in the Bundesliga, on 04.05.2013 in Dortmund. (Photo: Bernd Thissen/dpa)

Tempers flared when last the two sides met

Bayern are seeking their first Champions League triumph since 2001 - at the third attempt after losing to Inter Milan in 2010 and Chelsea last season. Dortmund, for their part, have not lifted the trophy since 1997.

That year is one Dortmund fans remember fondly, along with supporters of Bundesliga also-rans Stuttgart. In 1997, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League, and Stuttgart won the German Cup. Bayern play Stuttgart in the German Cup final next weekend, the last match of their treble-hunting season.

Asked about the prospect of penalties once again, not an impossibility considering Bayern and Dortmund drew both their Bundesliga encounters this season, Bayern's resident funnyman Thomas Müller said there was nothing to be done as "you can't simulate" a shootout.

"I don't have the feeling that anyone will wet themselves, though," Müller said.

Perhaps UEFA President Michel Platini best summed up the atmosphere through a slip of the tongue ahead of the jewel in the crown of his organization's club competitions, saying how excited he was that "the German Cup Final, um, the Champions League final is taking place at Wembley."

Fans and players alike have just hours to wait, before they see whether it's Bayern's Lahm or Dortmund's Kehl or vice-captain Roman Weidenfeller leading the climb up 107 historic steps to claim the cup.