Having fallen in the UEFA Champions League group stage last term, their first appearance in the competition for eight years, Borussia Dortmund's run to this season's final at Wembley is a surprise – not least to winger Jakub Błaszczykowski.
At Dortmund since 2007, the Polish international has been part of a BVB side that have delighted Europe with their attacking play en route to setting up an all-German decider with FC Bayern München on Saturday. As the big day approaches, the 27-year-old Błaszczykowski – or 'Kuba' – sat down with UEFA.com to discuss his personal Wembley bow.
UEFA.com: How is the feeling at the club?
Jakub Błaszczykowski: For us, the players and the whole club, it is a great event. Not many of us have had the chance to play in a final like this. This is the culmination of our good season in the Champions League, and every one of us is waiting impatiently for the final. I think it'll be a happy final and that we'll be winners after this battle.
UEFA.com: What has been the key to your new European strength this season?
Błaszczykowski: In my opinion the most important thing is that we've been a team, and that we learned from the previous season when we weren't as good as in this one. That has paid off. Thanks to that we are now talking about being in the final of the Champions League. And what has made the biggest difference is that we formed a team. That's our advantage over our opponents.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to you personally?
Błaszczykowski: If someone had told me before the season that we would be playing in the final, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm the kind of person who has to achieve something in order to believe in something. Of course, when I do something I deeply hope that I'll be successful, but I don't look so far ahead. In that sense, when I'm playing in the group stage I'm not thinking about the final, because I'm well aware how much work it takes to get to the final. That's why
I'm surprised, as many people are here in Dortmund I guess, that we managed to reach the final.
UEFA.com: How much excitement is there to be able to play at Wembley?
Błaszczykowski: I've never had the chance to play at Wembley, neither the old one nor the rebuilt one. Of course I'm happy I'll be participating in such a great event, and that I'll have some input into what goes down in history. This is something I'll surely remember for the rest of my life.
UEFA.com: Will Bayern have a psychological advantage after finishing 25 points ahead of you in the Bundesliga?
Błaszczykowski: There are many different theories you could try to find here, but in the end we'll see on the pitch who is better, who is in better form on a given day. In this particular match, what will be decisive is the form you're in on the day. And we've shown that we know how to play against Bayern, that we respect this team. For sure they're a very good team, but we also know what abilities we have, and we'll do everything to show our skills.
UEFA.com: It's been an eventful road to the final. You topped you group; then the round of 16 against FC Shakhtar Donetsk – 2-2 in the first leg before a comfortable home win; then the dramatic second legs against Málaga CF and Real Madrid CF. What has been your personal highlight?
Błaszczykowski: We played great matches in the group stage, against Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax. That was a landmark moment, a moment where we believed, as a team, that we could do it. And that gave us the hope which led us to the final. But in each of the matches you mentioned there was something cool, something you can look back on for a long time.
UEFA.com: Can you tell us something about Jürgen Klopp? How is it to train with him? How does he talk to the players? How does he motivate the team?
Błaszczykowski: I can't reveal all the secrets, but I think he's the same as the results he gets. The results reflect the entire picture of his skills. What he's done here in Dortmund is incredible. We have won the Bundesliga twice and we're in the Champions League final. That speaks for itself. He has great contact with the players, he can arrange everything, he knows how to develop each player and take them to a higher level.
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