By Liam Twomey
The “invasion” imagery perpetuated by much of the mainstream media this week is as tiresome as it was entirely predictable, but there can be no doubting London is playing host to a German party of epic proportions as Bayern Munich prepare to take on Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on Saturday.
Despite each club receiving a ticket allocation of just 24,000 – with the rest reserved for the now notorious ‘Uefa family’ – as many as 150,000 Germans could descend on the capital to revel in the novelty of the biggest match in the European club calendar being an all-Bundesliga affair.
Those who make the trip will pay a high price to be part of history. Air fares from Germany to London rose swiftly once the finalists became known and many have been charged a premium, despite both Lufthansa and Ryanair providing extra flights from Munich.
In addition, a survey by CheapRooms.co.uk this week revealed that 85 per cent of London hotels are already sold out for the final, and the few remaining rooms are being offered for anything up to 700 per cent more than the normal price.
Yet in other respects, London is also proving a capable and generous host. As well as the established tourism hotspots, the Uefa Champions Festival, being held in the International Quarter of Stratford City overlooking the Olympic Park from Thursday to Sunday, offers locals and travelling fans alike the chance to enjoy numerous football-themed attractions.
|Flight||Munich to Gatwick||£483|
|Ticket||Black Market||> £500|
|Food||Fish and Chips||£7.50|
John Quambusch, a boyhood Bayern fan who now lives in London, insists he will be spending Saturday evening in the vicinity of Wembley despite not having a ticket for the game.
“It’s fantastic for German football, and it’s the biggest surprise that we have two German teams in the Champions League final for the first time ever,” he tells Goal. “In my lifetime I’m not sure I’m going to experience it again, so it’s huge.
“I’m so glad it’s not El Clasico, which a lot of people probably expected and would have been a bit boring, as it’s happened a lot in the last few years.”
For Christian and Daniela Gebhart, Dortmund-supporting siblings from Nurnburg who were among the lucky few of the 500,000 applicants to get tickets, the sense of anticipation is even greater.
“We’re really excited and looking forward to the match,” Daniela tells Goal. “It’s an incredible, one-time thing that we can actually be in the stadium and support our team in a final, especially because this will be our first live Champions League game!”
Even for a final, Saturday’s clash has an embarrassment of compelling narratives. As far as Bayern are concerned, the main one is redemption, with two agonising falls at the final hurdle in the past three seasons. Striker Thomas Muller admits he fears being labelled a loser if it becomes a hat-trick.
This time around they seem genuinely unstoppable, though, having re-written the record books en route to the Bundesliga title and battered Barcelona home and away in the semi-finals. Outgoing boss Jupp Heynckes is now just two matches away from completing an historic Treble and leaving Pep Guardiola with arguably the hardest act to follow in the history of the sport.
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|13/2||Arjen Robben is 13/2 with bet365 to score first on Saturday night
Any upset will have to be achieved without Mario Gotze, Dortmund’s golden boy-turned-judas, who has been ruled out with a hamstring problem sustained against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, leaving many Bayern fans relieved and everyone else disappointed.
“It’s a massive shame,” Quambusch admits. “People were really looking forward to it, because of the question over his attitude, going against his future employer. I think subconsciously it would have been very difficult for him to give his all.”
The Gebharts are adamant the sensational 20-year-old’s absence is no great loss. “We don’t need Mario Gotze,” Christian continues. “At first I thought it was going to be harder without him but, having seen Gundogan play that position, I think it will be ok.”
Whatever the result, there will be a German Champions League winner for the first time since 2002. In spite of all the issues with flights, hotels and ticket allocations, it is this fact which will ensure that Wembley – and London – hosts a party to remember.
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