Bayern and Dortmund seek Champions League glory to kick off big summer of soccer for Germany


It’s shaping up to be quite the few weeks for German soccer.

The country is preparing to stage the European Championship over June and July, with Germany’s national team taking a nicely timed upturn in form.

Before that, Germany might yet be celebrating having a European champion once again, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund making up half of the lineup for the Champions League semifinals beginning this week.

The last time Bayern and Dortmund both reached the Champions League semifinals was in 2013 and they went on to meet in the title match at Wembley Stadium, with Bayern winning 2-1. As fate would have it, Wembley will be hosting the final this year, too.

Setting up a repeat of that 2013 final would mean upsetting the odds.

Bayern is up against another European heavyweight in Real Madrid, the record 14-time champion and king of the competition.

Dortmund faces Paris Saint-Germain, whose star striker Kylian Mbappe is looking to lead the French team to its first ever Champions League title in his last season there before a likely move to Madrid.

Germany didn’t have a single semifinalist in each of the last three seasons. In the 2019-20 competition, it had two – Bayern and Leipzig – and Bayern was the eventual champion.

This season, Bayern and Dortmund have mounted impressive European campaigns while underperforming on the domestic front.

Bayern has relinquished its Bundesliga title to Bayer Leverkusen after an 11-year hold on the biggest prize in German soccer, and needs to win the Champions League to avoid a first trophy-less season since 2012.

Dortmund, meanwhile, is in fifth place in the league so its deep run in Europe has come as something of a surprise.

Here’s a closer look at the two games:

BAYERN MUNICH vs. REAL MADRID (TUESDAY)

Madrid should arrive well rested after the Spanish league moved its game at Real Sociedad to Friday. Madrid won 1-0.

With Madrid set to win Spain’s domestic title, coach Carlo Ancelotti kept Jude Bellingham, Vinícius Júnior, Eduardo Camavinga, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Antonio Rudiger and goalkeeper Andriy Lunin on the bench at the start of the league game in San Sebastian. Forward Rodrygo did not travel with the team because of flu.

All started against Manchester City in the second leg of the quarterfinals and are expected to be back in the starting lineup against Bayern.

Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel is leaving at the end of the season, and the Champions League — which he won with Chelsea in 2021 — offers him the chance to go out on a high.

Two months on from Bayern’s announcement that Tuchel would depart, he seems more popular than ever among sections of the Bayern support. Part of that is down to the calm, controlled way Bayern knocked out Arsenal in the second leg of their quarterfinal. Partly it’s a reaction to Bayern’s failure to hire top coaching targets like Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso or Germany’s Julian Nagelsmann.

As Tuchel nears the end of a troubled tenure at Bayern, he’s often seemed more upbeat than ever.

“If people want me to stay, it is still an issue that has no priority,” Tuchel said Friday when asked about a fan petition begging the club to keep him. “Even if in this case it is a pleasant issue for me.”

The injuries that have plagued Bayern this season are easing off, too. Tuchel predicted Friday that Serge Gnabry would recover from his latest problem in time to play — and score — against Madrid on Tuesday, while fellow forward Leroy Sané could also return.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (WEDNESDAY)

PSG is cruising toward another French league title, but the Champions League is the trophy the Qatar-backed club is desperate to finally get its hands on.

And there would be no better way for Kylian Mbappe to sign off at the end of the season than by leading PSG to victory in European club soccer’s elite competition.

The club is already planning for life without its superstar striker, who is set to walk away as a free agent, with players like Randal Kolo Muani, Ousmane Dembele and Goncalo Ramos expected to help fill the void in his absence. But Mbappe could still have a big say in the Champions League and he scored two goals in PSG’s 4-1 comeback win against Barcelona in the quarterfinals.

PSG drew 3-3 at home to Le Havre on Saturday after coming back from 3-1 down and needing an equalizer from Ramos in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

It’s been a strange season for Dortmund and that was underlined by Saturday’s 4-1 loss against top four rival RB Leipzig.

Dortmund has certainly saved its best performances for the Champions League, none better than the comeback win over Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals.

Striker Sebastien Haller scored in the first leg against Atletico but injured his ankle in Dortmund’s next game and hasn’t played since. Forward Donyell Malen has been struggling with pain, too.

Much could depend on which version of Jadon Sancho turns up to face PSG.

Sancho, who scored against Leipzig, has shown glimpses of his obvious talent since returning to Dortmund in January on loan from Manchester United. The issue is whether the former England forward can consistently play at his best.

“Both I and Jadon have noticed he isn’t at the peak of his performance yet, but that’s totally OK. That’s something we were aware of when we decided to bring him back, but we know that he’s able to reach that maximum very quickly,” Dormund coach Edin Terzic said Friday. “Every training session, Jadon has a moment that shows his incredible talent and we see how hard-working he is with the team.”

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer



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