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Wise punters expecting close Champions League final at Wembley

Bayern will be out to shed their 'nearly' tag, although Dortmund are pick of the handicap

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 4:32am

Tonight's first all-German final of the Champions League promises to be a high-quality, exciting match, and with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich having knocked out the cream of Spain in the semi-finals, it is difficult to dispute that the best two sides have reached Wembley.

Bayern are justifiably firm favourites as they approach their third final in four years, and they will be desperate to shed their "nearly" tag after losing to Inter Milan in 2010 and Chelsea on penalties last year. They were on home territory in last year's final yet still could not take advantage, which raises some doubt over their ability to handle the pressure.

[Bayern's defeat on home soil]...raises some doubt over their ability to handle the pressure

Dortmund don't have the same pedigree as Bayern, who are appearing in their 10th final in Europe's leading club competition, but the underdogs won their only previous final in 1997. That side had a similar style and beat Juventus 3-1, and at their best, the current side are capable of matching that result.

This is the fourth final involving clubs from the same country, and it is interesting to note that the worst-placed team from the domestic league has triumphed in two of the previous three. And results from Germany also point to a closer match than the odds suggest.

Dortmund and Bayern have met four times this season, and while Bayern won both cup meetings by a single goal, the two league matches finished 1-1.

In the previous two seasons, Dortmund won all five matches against Bayern by an aggregate of 12 goals to three. Bayern have undoubtedly improved this season, with a runaway success in the Bundesliga, but it may be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that Dortmund have regressed.

Bayern are better equipped to contest competitions on all fronts, and almost from the start, Dortmund appeared to concentrate more on the Champions League. They had little choice, having been placed in the "group of death" that killed off Manchester City, and they responded superbly.

Jurgen Klopp's side topped group D, with home victories over both City and Real Madrid, and draws away to those domestic champions, and overall their Champions League record this season is won seven, drawn four and lost only one (2-0 away to Real Madrid in the semi-final second leg).

Bayern, by comparison, have a Champions League record of won nine, drawn one and lost two, and their goal difference is better than that of Dortmund, but overall form and the head-to-heads do not give them an overwhelming advantage.

Dortmund are the pick on the handicap, and a draw in 90 minutes is worth considering, having occurred in both league meetings between the two this season, and in two of the previous three finals involving clubs from the same country.

Bayern have averaged 2.42 goals per game in this season's Champions League, with Dortmund not too far behind on 1.92, and over 2.5 goals looks a decent bet. The final of the Champions League tends to have more goals and action than in other major competitions (at least two goals in the past nine finals), while the Bundesliga is the highest-scoring major league in Europe at 2.93 goals per game.

Robert Lewandowski has been the key player for Dortmund, with 10 goals in this season's Champions League (second only to Cristiano Ronaldo's 12), and he is the obvious choice for first goalscorer on their side. He has scored in six of his 11 starts in the competition this season, three times as first scorer.

Better odds for first scorer is Thomas Müller, whose eight goals make him Bayern's top scorer in the Champions League. He has a proven big-match temperament, having scored in last year's final with the opening goal, before Bayern were pegged back by Didier Drogba's late equaliser.

Wembley hosts another final on Monday, when Crystal Palace and Watford fight out the one remaining promotion place from the Championship to the English Premier League.

Based on the results from last weekend's two play-off finals lower down the league ladder, Watford are an attractive bet.

Both of those previous finals were won by the team with the best momentum going into the play-offs, and Watford finished the regular season in much better form than Palace.

Watford, like last weekend's two play-off winners, are also the better team on away form - a key factor with the final on neutral territory and no home advantage to rely on.

One of Watford's best away results was a 3-2 win at Palace early in the season, and with the return match finishing 2-2, over 2.5 goals looks a decent bet. Watford to win in 90 minutes is the main pick.

Dortmund, Watford, Betis, Osasuna, Sociedad.