Although we’ll all be enjoying a World Cup final match in barely a month from now, the Champions League final is arguably as important because of the quality of football on display. This season’s final, rather dramatically, includes a Premier League team in Liverpool for the first time in almost a decade – but they’re facing off against the current champions, Real Madrid. This is very much a David and Goliath tale, with Madrid looking to secure their third Champions League title in a row, while Liverpool will see this as an opportunity to re-establish themselves among Europe’s elite. We’re going to get into some more details about the squad and how this game is likely to pan out.
Marcelo v Salah: Liverpool’s golden boy Mohamed Salah has enjoyed an exceptional season, hitting heights that put him in a similar echelon to Ronaldo and Messi. While he’s been shredding left backs for fun the entire season, Marcelo is probably the best in his position in the world right now, so Salah will have a tough task. Something that will count in Salah’s favour, though, is that Marcelo likes attacking quite a bit more than he does defending, so there should be significant space open on Madrid’s left flank for Salah to exploit.
Modric/Kroos v Henderson/Wijnaldum: Real’s midfield duo of Kroos and Modric run their entire game and can often starve opposing teams of possession with their quick passing and impeccable reading of the game. Liverpool’s midfield will likely have to work overtime to disrupt Real’s control of the match – but it’s something Liverpool has shown a knack for in previous matches, visible in Klopp’s affinity for the aggressive press out of possession, which can be tricky for slower midfielders like Kroos to deal with.
Ronaldo v van Dyk: While Real’s wide players are no doubt talented, the most dangerous man on their side is Ronaldo, who’s been enjoying impressive form in the Champions League of late. Virgil van Dyk was brought in by Klopp specifically because he’s thought of as being a potentially world class defender – something Liverpool’s squad has sorely lacked for several seasons. His sternest test this season will undoubtedly be Portugal’s 5-time Ballon d’Or winner, and the competition’s leading scorer.
Predicted Line ups:
Ultimately this final, like the two that preceded it, is Real Madrid’s to lose. The difference in the prior finals is that the teams facing Real Madrid genuinely seemed a level below Los Blancos, and so their failures to win weren’t all that surprising. At the moment, though, Liverpool is one of the most proficient attacking sides on the continent, coupled with the fact that Real Madrid has shown significant defensive frailty throughout their La Liga season, which the Merseyside team will no doubt feel they can prey on. Ronaldo has managed to bail them out of any difficulties they’ve come across in the Champion’s League, but if Liverpool’s wave of confidence crests on Saturday, they’ll have an amazing opportunity to add to their illustrious European history.
Liverpool 4 – 3 Real Madrid