London turns German for UCL final
An estimated 180 000 German football fans swarmed into London on Saturday as anticipation grew ahead of the first ever all-Bundesliga Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Supporters decked in Dortmund's distinctive yellow and black strip cavorted in Trafalgar Square, while Bayern fans packed into trains heading for the city centre.
The English Football Association celebrates its 150th anniversary this year and the British media were quick to highlight the irony of two German teams taking over Wembley Stadium for the game.
The Guardian newspaper headlined its sports section "Fussball's coming home" – a reference to a mid-1990s British football song that has been appropriated by German fans – and carried a picture of deckchairs in Dortmund and Munich's colours sitting outside Wembley.
The Times, meanwhile, said the game "symbolises the closeness of Anglo-German relations".
The two teams trained beneath steady rain at the stadium on Friday evening, but the sun shone on the British capital on Saturday and weather forecasts predicted temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius at kick-off.
Bayern and Dortmund also received messages of encouragement from their local media.
Regional Dortmund daily Ruhr Nachrichten was headlined "One team, one dream", while the Munich-based Meunchener Abendzeitung urged Bayern to "Lift the cup".
Bayern are seeking to win their fifth European crown, which would put them level with Liverpool in third place on the all-time list, behind only seven-time champions AC Milan and nine-time champions Real Madrid.
They are the favourites, having romped to this season's Bundesliga title with a record 25-point winning margin over Dortmund, but both sides have thrilled neutral observers with their dashing football in this season's competition.
Bayern crushed the all-conquering Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semifinals, while Dortmund saw off Madrid 4-3 after a superb 4-1 first-leg victory over Jose Mourinho's side at the Signal Iduna Park.
Bayern are expected to take the initiative on the pitch when the game gets underway at 19:45 local time (1845GMT), with Dortmund's strategy based around high-energy pressing and rapid counter-attacks.
Writing in the match programme, Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp described his team's approach as: "Energy, speed, aggressiveness, hard but fair duels, a lot of goalscoring chances, hitting posts and the bar, and a lot of corners."
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who retires at the end of the season, to be succeeded by Pep Guardiola, said he was also expecting a fast-paced encounter.
"On the pitch, I think it'll be intense, that's obvious," said the 68-year-old, who previously tasted success in the competition with Madrid in 1998.
"You expect that in a Champions League final. There'll be a quick pace, lots of one-on-one challenges, a lot of passing and both teams will be working hard to win."
Dortmund's challenge has been boosted by the news that key centre-back Mats Hummels is fit to play despite injuring his ankle in a 2-1 loss to Hoffenheim last weekend.
Dortmund, the 1997 champions, will nonetheless be without injured playmaker Mario Goetze, who will join Bayern after the game in a 37 million euros (£31.7 million, $47.8 million) transfer.
With Robert Lewandowski, who scored four goals against Madrid in the semifinals, also reported to be in Bayern's sights, Hummels has urged his teammates to prove that Dortmund have a bright future of their own.
"It'd be fantastic if we could (win), and it might show the players who were thinking about going to Munich they'd be missing out on something," he said.
While Dortmund are appearing in only their second final, Bayern are bidding to avoid a third Champions League final loss in only four seasons, and sixth overall.
Beaten by Inter Milan in 2010, they lost an agonising penalty shoot-out to Chelsea last season in front of horrified and disbelieving fans at their own Allianz Arena home.
Despite the keen anguish of that particular experience, forward Thomas Mueller said the thought of another shoot-out would not perturb his teammates unduly.
"Some are better at taking penalties than others," he said, "but I don't think anyone will wet their pants over it."
Whatever the outcome, Germany are assured to have their first European champions since Bayern overcame Valencia on penalties in the 2001 final.
"It takes a lot to make Germans excited, but they are right now," Bundesliga chief executive Christian Seifert told Sky News.
"The Champions League is a great football competition, one of the greatest sports events on earth, and having two German teams there for the first time is an outstanding experience."