UEFA Champions League Final 23/24: Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid

Category: Team Analysis

UEFA Champions League Final 23/24: Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid

Published:30/05/2024

This Saturday, the match that defines the most prestigious title in European football takes place, marking the end of the competitive club season on the continent. Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will face off in a unique final. Even more so than last year’s, where Manchester City was the favorite against Inter Milan, Real Madrid comes in as the strong favorite to lift their 15th title. We’ve delved into some interesting aspects with data as a preview of the big final at Wembley.

Within that favoritism, one of Real Madrid’s peculiarities as a team is that it can behave differently depending on the competition, thus forming a very changing competitive identity. Ancelotti transforms Real Madrid in the Champions League into a team that operates more in the shadows, with less prominence, exposing itself less in attack, and reducing both the intensity of pressing and the height of their defensive block. This is something we will surely see against Borussia Dortmund, despite the significant difference in experience and quality in favor of the Spanish team.

In these radars, we compare defensive style and numbers in the League and Champions League. The level of opponents, competition format, and game rhythm lead Real Madrid to behave much less ambitiously in ball possession and in their efforts to recover it. Let’s say that in the league, they go for the match, while in the Champions League, they play more with the virtues and flaws of the opponent to find the gap and punish in the areas.

The 23/24 league champion, as we have seen in other years, is much more passive without the ball when traveling through Europe (PPDA 14 in the League compared to PPDA 19 in the Champions League), with fewer high recoveries, as well as much less possession (59% in the League compared to 52% in the Champions League).

In form, things have also changed a lot. The departure of Karim Benzema and the arrival of Jude Bellingham have modified both the formation and tactics, causing Rodrygo and Vinicius to center their positions more and attack very large spaces from deep, coming together and separating through counterattacks, one-twos, and individual resources, while the Englishman has adopted a mixed role. Without the Frenchman, the two Brazilians have come closer and have together generated the most scoring chances.

One of the worst pieces of news of the season happened right at the start: Thibaut Courtois tore his cruciate ligament and later the meniscus of his other knee. But in practice, this has not meant a clear decline in goal-prevention capability. Both in the penalty shootout against Manchester City and generally, Lunin’s long-term performance against RB Leipzig, City, and Bayern was more than notable. In the same number of matches as last season (both seasons included matches against Manchester City), Real Madrid faced 22 more shots this year, with Lunin preventing up to three goals through his interventions.

As in the 2021/22 season, though not at the same frequency, Real Madrid has scored more goals in the last 20 minutes plus stoppage time than in any other phase of the matches (9). In our Trends section, we highlight some competitive circumstances that explain their ability to compete, face adversity, and react.

Borussia Dortmund, where to find the way to compete?

One of the greatest surprises in the history of the Champions League is Borussia Dortmund reaching this final at Wembley. Champions in 1997 and finalists in 2013, Edin Terzic’s team fell far short of contesting the title in Germany, finishing 5th, and in the quarterfinals, they seemed beaten in the first 60 minutes of their clash against Atlético de Madrid at the Metropolitano. But from there, not only did they recover, they showed a very different defensive face, with extraordinary resilience throughout the tie against Paris Saint-Germain.

In the defensive department, it is noteworthy how the team has raised its level, likely driven by the momentum of each knockout round and the experience of their leader, Mats Hummels. Looking at Borussia Dortmund’s defensive radar in the Bundesliga compared to the Champions League, there are two metrics where the incredible positive impact is evident. In the Bundesliga, opponents only needed to generate an average of 1.32 xG to score a goal. This figure has skyrocketed in the Champions League.

Teams in the UCL 23/24 that faced BVB had to average up to 3.25 xG (impressive) to score a goal. On the other hand, the team increased their percentage of aerial duels won to rank among the best in the competition. This has a lot to do with one of the candidates for the MVP of the competition. In the map below, we have combined Interceptions, Clearances, Tackles/Dribbled Past, Aerial Duels, Recoveries, and Shots Blocked.

An impressive defensive success rate, especially in their tie against Paris Saint-Germain. Without a great final from Hummels, it is difficult for Borussia Dortmund to compete.

Within that unusual exercise of resilience, they received 185 shots and 19 expected goals against, of which only 7 ended up being goals. An extraordinary path of survival and competitiveness that they will likely need to extend in the final on Saturday.

Founded in 2017 as a consultancy, Driblab has driven innovation through data in all aspects of professional football. Thanks to a transversal model, its database collects and models statistics in all directions. From converting matches and videos into bespoke data for training academies to developing cutting-edge technology, helping clubs, federations and representative agencies in talent scouting and transfer markets. Driblab’s smart data is used by clubs all over the world, with success stories such as Dinamo Zagreb, Real Betis and Girondins Bordeaux among others. Here you can find out more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Alejandro Arroyo
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