This past week, Atalanta thrashed the formerly “Invincible” Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the Europa League final. Despite being the clear underdog, Atalanta put Leverkusen on the back foot from kick-off to the final whistle. They pressed aggressively and didn’t give Leverkusen’s playmakers Florian Wirtz and Exequiel Palacios an inch of space. It suffocated their attack as Leverkusen struggled to get their forwards any dangerous scoring chances. A hat-trick from winger Ademola Lookman capped off a brilliant team performance from the Italian side.

After watching Atalanta’s jaw-dropping display, Borussia Dortmund will be inspired to do the same against Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. At Wembley Stadium, the spotlight will be directed at Real Madrid’s star midfielder Jude Bellingham. The England international will face his former club at his nation’s home stadium on Saturday.

In the summer transfer window, Madrid were desperate for a replacement for the departing Karim Benzema. They set their sights on Bellingham and coughed up a whopping €103 million plus add-ons to sign the Englishman from Dortmund. A learning curve was expected for the young superstar, but Bellingham’s confidence, swagger and maturity have made his transition seamless.

Real Madrid courtesy of flickr

With Benzema taking his talents to the Saudi Pro League, manager Carlo Ancelotti has used Bellingham in a more advanced role. With Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo on the wings, Bellingham has thrived in his new position. Los Blancos have reaped the benefits and have knocked out the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich en route to the final.

Despite losing their key cog in the midfield, Dortmund reinvested the money from the Bellingham sale wisely. In the summer, they brought in proven veterans like Marcel Sabitzer and Nicklas Fullkrug to provide stability and mentor the wonderkids. Then, Dortmund pounced on the opportunity to sign Jadon Sancho and Ian Maatsen on shrewd loan deals. The plethora of reinforcements has helped lift Dortmund through the competitions “group of death” and powerhouses like Atlético Madrid and PSG.

As the clear underdog, I would expect Dortmund’s manager Edin Terzic to line up very narrow and clog up the midfield. Viní Júnior and Rodrygo will look to exploit the space down the wings, but the Brazilian duo are not the most adept at crossing the ball into the box. Since Dortmund possess tall imposing center-backs Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck and giant goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, Terzic will feel secure defending crosses.

With this in mind, it’ll be up to fullbacks Ian Maatsen and Julian Ryerson to neutralize Madrid’s wingers in one-on-one situations. They defended valiantly against Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé in the semifinal and will need to do more of the same this Saturday. Madrid’s frontline will need to weave through Dortmund’s defense to create scoring chances. They’ll need to rise to the occasion because Dortmund will have plenty of chances of their own.

With pacey and dribbly wingers Karim Adeyemi and Sancho, Dortmund will look to attack the space behind Madrid’s defense. This could prove to be a serious problem for Los Blancos since goalkeeper Andriy Lunin is often too shy to come out of his box. The return of Éder Militão should help, but Dortmund’s forwards are rapid and their counterattack is deadly.

All things considered, I think Madrid will be ready for everything Dortmund try to throw at them. Ancelotti’s boys possess the individual quality and experience to rise to the occasion in the biggest moments. Not to mention, they have options like Luka Modrić, Brahim Díaz and semifinal hero Joselu who can make a huge impact off the bench.

Madrid will control this game from start to finish and win 2-0 comfortably. Viní Júnior and Bellingham will score, but don’t expect the latter to celebrate. Toni Kroos gets the perfect send-off to an accomplished and iconic career. Meanwhile, the Champions League trophy will forever elude Marco Reus before he makes his expected move to the MLS. On Saturday, Real Madrid will become European Champions for the 15th time and cement themselves as the elite of the elites.