Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Why Gregor Kobel’s Borussia Dortmund heroics are a bad sign for Champions League final chances vs. Real Madrid

Despite finishing fifth in the Bundesliga, against all odds, Borussia Dortmund will have a chance to win their first Champions League title since 1997 on Saturday. The Black and Yellow will be up against it facing a Real Madrid side in pursuit of a 15th Champions League title but the stature of a team hasn’t phased the German club so far in the tournament and it won’t begin to now. When examining how Dortmund have been able to defy the odds, one of the main reasons has been goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, who helped hold PSG goalless across two semifinal legs. 

“It looks like we feel comfortable in that situation [as underdogs] but I think it doesn’t really matter for us as a team if we’re considered the underdog or not. We built up a lot of confidence throughout this Champions League campaign,” Kobel said to CBS Sports Golazo Network ahead of the Champions League final. “We beat a lot of good teams and we showed that we can beat every opponent that is in front of us and with this confidence we approach the game Saturday as well.”

The Swiss keeper has been in amazing form this season leading all goalkeepers in saves with 42 and clean sheets with six. Despite Paris Saint-Germain producing numerous attacks during their knockout matches against Dortmund, Kobel was able to blank them to secure a spot in the final. Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin’s 38 saves are third most following Kobel but no keeper has prevented more than Kobel’s 7.09 goals in Champions League play. Lunin does make the top 10 with 2.12 goals prevented but that still shows the difference between the duo.

Kobel is having one of the most impressive Champions League campaigns in net since the likely starter for Los Blancos, Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian has struggled with injuries this season which is why Lunin has started most of Madrid’s Champions League matches. After recovering ahead of schedule from an ACL tear, Courtois then tore the meniscus in his knee sidelining him until the beginning of May. Now featuring in 333 minutes of La Liga soccer to end the season without conceding a goal in those matches, Courtois is rounding into form for what could be quite a battle of the keepers.

Andre Onana holds the best season since 2019-20 for a keeper by goals prevented leading Inter to a Champions League final which they lost to Manchester City last year, but the only keeper to have more than one season to crack the top 10 in that span is the Belgian between the sticks for Real Madrid. 

But his presence on this list hasn’t been a good thing as both seasons where he cracked the list are ones where Real Madrid didn’t lift the Champions League title. In fact, no keeper on this list has actually lifted the Champions League title in the season which they appeared in the top 10, which could spell doom for Borussia Dortmund.

Goals prevented per UCL campaign since 2019-20

Rank Name Team Season Goals Prevented

1

Andre Onana

Inter

2022-23

7.84

2

Gregor Kobel

Borussia Dortmund

2023-24

7.09*

3

Odysseas Vlachodimos

Benfica

2021-22

6.42

4

Dominik Livakovic

Dinamo Zagreb

2019-20

6.14

5

Thibaut Courtois

Real Madrid

2022-23

5.85

6

Manuel Neuer

Bayern Munich

2020-21

5.37

7

Nick Pope

Newcastle United

2023-24

4.86

8

Simon Mignolet

Club Brugge

2022-23

4.78

9

Thibaut Courtois

Real Madrid

2020-21

4.63

10

Anthony Racioppi

Young Boys

2023-24

4.53

While it makes sense that keepers who are under too much pressure rarely win the Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund would be the perfect team to break that. They’ve been up against the odds every step of the way during their Champions League run but with one of the best keepers in competition history standing on the other side of the pitch, Kobel will need to be on his game and then some to beat Courtois in the final.

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