Dortmund Striker Robert Lewandowski
With Barcelona and Real Madrid dominating European soccer for decades, the presence of both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals is certainly significant evidence of the Bundesliga’s rise to prominence.
Although an all-German final would settle any doubt on the matter, in order to consider this possibility, we must first weigh up all the tournament’s contenders.
Although Real Madrid has enjoyed success in Spain, winning La Liga last year, they have generally struggled recently against rivals Barcelona, who have assembled arguably one of the best squads in soccer history. And while it has been 11 years since Zidane’s Real last brought home the Champions League Trophy, Barca has won it on three occasions in the same period of time, exemplifying the beauty of Spanish soccer.
Bayern Munich must certainly not be overlooked even if it has been 12 years since they last won the most sought-after trophy at the club level. Not only have they finished runners-up in both 2010 and 2012, but they will now be playing without any domestic pressure—having already won the quickest league title in Bundesliga history.
Barcelona, Bayern, and Real will all be confident with the prospect of adding more silverware to their already vast collections, but the real surprise is Borussia Dortmund.
It is amazing to think how far Dortmund has come under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp since he took over in 2008. They have gone from being a team fighting relegation and needing loans from Bayern to pay off their wages, to back-to-back Bundesliga winners and now Champions League hopefuls.
Klopp has revived Dortmund, their qualities reminiscent of their Golden Age of the ‘90s. The question remains, however, if they are able to replicate their Champions League win of 1997. They have already proved capable of dealing with Real, earning a win and a draw earlier in the group stage, and will thrive under the title of underdogs. They will have to be at their best, however, after being fortunate to have gone through against Malaga.
Although Spanish sides Barcelona and Real do not seem to be going anywhere, it is the first time in 18 years that an English club has failed to make it past the Round of 16 (yes, Chelsea won the Champions League last year, but people might still be wondering to which soccer gods they prayed to in order to pull that off).
This coincides with it being the first year that the Bundesliga has received four Champions League spots, at the expense of Serie A. Inter Milan won the title in 2010, but generally the Italian clubs have failed to impress. Even Juventus, who went undefeated domestically last season, were completely outclassed by Bayern in the quarters.
It will be exciting to see how the German teams deal with their newfound prominence, and whether that extra Champions League spot is indeed a sign that the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A have a new rival to consider.