Champions League final: The key battles that will decide Saturday’s showdown

Real Madrid face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on Saturday at Wembley.

Real will bid to become European champions for a record-extending 15th time, while Dortmund, whose solitary Champions League win came in 1997, will be appearing in their third final.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the key battles that could prove decisive on the night.

Jude Bellingham v Emre Can

Bellingham, who will face his former club, was voted LaLiga’s player of the season earlier this week after a stellar first year in the Spanish capital.

He could be the difference between the two sides unless kept in check by Dortmund’s deep-lying former Liverpool midfielder Can.

The German international cannot match Bellingham’s dynamism, but can head off the gaps in the final third, which the marauding Englishman thrives in.

Vinicius Junior vs Julian Ryerson

Vinicius Junior scored Real Madrid's winner in the 2022 Champions League final against Liverpool
Vinicius Junior scored Real Madrid’s winner in the 2022 Champions League final against Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

Brazil forward Vinicius Junior scored his side’s winner in the 2022 final against Liverpool and his 31 Champions League goal contributions (goals and assists) over the last three seasons is more than any other player.

But Norway right-back Ryerson has been an outstanding one-on-one defender this season and impressively came out on top when asked to snuff out Kylian Mbappe’s threat in both legs of Dortmund’s semi-final win against Paris St Germain.

Jadon Sancho v Ferland Mendy

Dortmund’s potency in attack is provided by wingers Sancho and Karim Adeyemi.

The latter’s pace is sure to keep Real right-back Dani Carvajal on his toes, but the bigger threat on the night could come from Sancho, who has plenty to prove on the Wembley stage after being loaned out by Manchester United.

Sancho appears back to his best and France left-back Ferland Mendy may have to think twice about bombing high up the other end of the pitch.

Antonio Rudiger v Niclas Fullkrug

Antonio Rudiger, right, has a key role to play for Real Madrid
Antonio Rudiger, right, has a key role to play for Real Madrid (Nick Potts/PA)

Germany centre-back Rudiger, who made his 100th appearance for Real Madrid last week, played a key role in their passage to the final after keeping a stranglehold on both Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane earlier in the knockout phase.

Rudiger has every attribute required for a world-class central defender and Fullkrug, a traditional centre forward, must look to pull Rudiger out of position so gaps appear for others.