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International

A Generation apart, Lewandowski and Mbappe Seek 1st CL Title

LISBON, Portugal  — Robert Lewandowski had already been playing for nearly a decade when Kylian Mbappé started his career. 

The Bayern Munich and Poland striker had scored more than 100 goals by the time the young Frenchman made his professional debut, and he had won the German Bundesliga five times before Mbappé lifted his first domestic league trophy with Monaco.

The 32-year-old Lewandowski and 21-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappé are a generation apart but they will meet in Sunday's Champions League final with the same goal — winning the European title for the first time.

It would be a first for Lewandowski in nine attempts, while Mbappé would be clinching it in his fourth try. 

"It's precisely the reason why I came here," Mbappé said on Saturday. "I've always said I wanted to go down in my country's history. Tomorrow will be another opportunity to do so."

Lewandowski on Sunday will also have a chance to break Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 17 goals in a single Champions League season. The Portugal star reached the milestone in the 2013-14 season. The Bayern marksman enters this year's final with 15 goals from nine matches.

"The fact (Lewandowski) naturally poses an enormous threat in front of goal has not only been known since this season, so for me he is simply the world's best center-forward," Bayern coach Hansi Flick said. "So I'm just curious to see how things will go and, of course, hope that he also scores against Paris." 

Lewandowski is the third player to score in at least nine consecutive Champions League matches, along with Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The four he bagged 15 minutes apart against Red Star Belgrade in the group stage this season was the fastest quadruple in the history of the competition.

Lewandowski has 50 Champions League goals with Bayern and 68 in total, only behind Ronaldo (130), Lionel Messi (115) and Raúl González (71).

The Polish star was a Champions League runner-up with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, losing 2-1 to Bayern. Against Real Madrid, he became the first player to score four goals in the semifinals.

Lewandowski has reached the last four on three occasions since joining Bayern in 2014 but this is his first appearance for the German powerhouse in the final.

Mbappé made it to his first semifinal during Monaco's surprise run in 2016-17 and then endured consecutive round-of-16 eliminations after joining PSG.

"Since I joined in 2017 we've experienced a few disappointments, but we are in the final and it shows that we didn't give up, that I didn't give up," Mbappé said. "It would be a terrific reward to win the Champions League with a French club. It's the mission I set for myself when I signed here."

Mbappé played in this month's quarterfinals nursing an ankle injury but now appears fully fit. He is the club's joint leading Champions League scorer this season with five goals, along with Mauro Icardi.

But neither Mbappé — nor any other forward — has come close to Lewandowski's numbers this season. The Bayern striker has an average of five shots per game in the Champions League, scoring with almost every third shot, according to statistical analysts Driblab. He has also created more than two chances per game.

Winning Sunday's duel for their respective clubs is the only thing that really matters, though.

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