There is something almost magical about the Champions League final, coming as it does at the end of difficult and stressful seasons for millions of football fans. For supporters of both participating sides, it is a chance to see heroes making one final lunge at a slice of glory that will last forever, while for the rest of us it represents an opportunity to see two of Europe’s very best teams go head to head to for the most prestigious club trophy on the continent.
The 2013 showpiece has an extra frisson that makes it even more special – and perhaps even more significant – than many from the past. For the first time in the history of the Champions League, as well as its former incarnation the European Cup, two German sides will be battling for the ultimate prize, and the match itself promises to be an exciting affair that could have all of us on the edges of our seats from the first whistle onwards.
Semi-final ties are often dour and rather negative, with both sides cancelling each other out in a chess-like war of attrition. This year’s, however, were exciting, cavalier and potentially era-defining. The twin Spanish giants from Real Madrid and Barcelona stood in the way of a Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich final, but in truth they were swept aside by a style of play that made many observers wonder aloud whether this was to herald a glorious new epoch.
Bayern Munich are perhaps the best known of the two sides outside Germany, having appeared in two of the last three finals. Their 7-0 aggregate victory over Barcelona was fully deserved, and perhaps showed the rest of Europe that the best way to overcome the dizzying tippy-tappy passing game of the Catalan side is to attack with pace and directness. They have a German spine featuring the likes of Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm, and a host of others including Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Javi Martinez.
While many in the know predicted a Bayern Munich victory over Barcelona, few would have foreseen Borussia Dortmund knocking out the mighty Real Madrid. Although the final aggregate score was 4-3, it was only two late Spanish goals that made it appear close. The first leg saw the Germans win 4-1, with the prolific Robert Lewandowski bagging all their goals, and it was this tie that effectively put them through to the final. Marco Reus and Mario Gotze, a player who will be joining Bayern Munich in the summer, could be the stars of the show on Saturday.
The Venue – Wembley Stadium
While every Champions League final is a special one, the choice of venue can have a major impact on the occasion, and the combination of two attack-minded sides and the magnificent Wembley could turn the 2013 game into a classic. There is something magical about London’s iconic stadium which, despite the fact that it is a completely rebuilt edifice, retains a sense of heritage that dates back through nine decades of footballing theatre.
Executive suites: 166
Location: London, United Kingdom
Opened: 9th March 2007
Construction cost: £783M (2013)
Team: England national football team
Visiting fans will be well-advised to check out the public transport links from the centre of the city to the stadium in advance. Getting to Wembley – which is located in the north-western suburbs – is easy, thanks to an excellent public transport network. Wembley Park Underground Station offers direct links via the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines, and it is just a short walk from the stadium itself. Overground trains run from Marylebone to Wembley Stadium Station. There are also several bus routes to choose from.
Most spectators will use public transport options, of course, but some will want to drive. The streets around Wembley can become severely congested when a major event is being staged, so be sure to leave plenty of time to get there. Car parking is limited and you would be well advised to book a space in advance.
As you might expect from a major metropolis that is well used to coping with huge numbers of tourists throughout the year, there are plenty of accommodation options for visitors. The Holiday Inn London Mayfair is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to sample some of the finer things in life, thanks to its location in the heart of the city’s most luxurious and prestigious neighbourhood.
The Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum is on the famous Cromwell Road, close to many of the world’s finest museums, including the hugely popular Natural History Museum. The Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury enables guests to stay in an area of London that has been synonymous with literary culture for many decades, while the Holiday Inn London Regents Park is located just across the road from one of the world’s most celebrated open spaces. For convenience, the Holiday Inn London Brent Cross is less than four miles from Wembley Stadium.
What Else To See?
The UK’s capital is perhaps best known for its rich heritage and any first-time visitor will be able to feel the sense of history that surrounds them as they wander through the wide avenues, the narrow passageways and the spectacular parks that await their exploration.
Major tourist attractions include the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. Photo opportunities are, to put it simply, all around you.
Amid all the pomp and majesty, however, lies a city that is also as modern and cutting edge as any other. London is far more than just a chapter of history that has now come to an end. In many ways, this magnificent destination is – and always has been – a work in progress.
The ever-changing skyline of the city is a testament to this constant evolution, and for the finest views of all it is best to take a ride on the London Eye. Located on the south bank of the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament, it should be on the itinerary of every visitor.
The Champions League final of 2013 promises to be an occasion which showcases all that is progressive and exciting about German football, but it also represents a chance to get up close and personal with one of the world’s finest cities. If you are fortunate enough to be combining the game itself and a short holiday, be sure to make the most of this wonderful opportunity.
Betting on the Champions League final? Pay Inside Bet a visit!