All You Need To Know About The UEFA Champions League Final
Liverpool’s run to the UEFA Champions League final has been a remarkable fairy tale, something the club has done in the past but not recently. Few would have expected that the club from Merseyside will be competing in the finals of the most prestigious club competition when they took on Hoffenheim in the qualifiers. Their ever porous defense and a relatively weak bench were hardly giving confidence. The sale of the influential playmaker¸ Phil Coutinho to Barcelona in the winter transfer window seemed to be another nail in the coffin of the club. But what followed was a glorious turnaround.
On the other hand Real Madrid will be competing in a record 16th UEFA Champions League final and despite a disappointing season in the Spanish top flight, they will start as the favourites. This is their third consecutive final and the holders will be hoping to retain their title once again. They remain the most successful team in the history of the competition and they are potentially just 90 minutes away from recording their 13th success in the competition.
● Team News / Injuries / Suspensions / Predicted Lineups
The main injury concerns for Liverpool is in the midfield with Emre Can fighting to be fit in time before the finals and with Oxlade-Chamberlain out for the season and the influential Adam Lallana suffering an injury-plagued season himself all hopes now rest on the shoulders of captain Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Wijnaldum. The Lovren- Van Dijk duo is expected to start at the heart of the defence barring any injuries with Robertson and the hugely impressive Trent Arnold as the two fullbacks. Defender Joel Matip has also faced an early end to his season. The front three will be the usual trio of Mane, Salah and Firmino with much of Liverpool’s dream will be depending upon how they perform. Liverpool is expected to line up in their usual 4-3-3 formation with the likes of Ben Woodburn, Danny Ings, Solanke, Adam Lallana, and Emre Can if fit all expected to start from the bench. The German keeper Karius will be between the sticks for the Reds.
○ Real Madrid:
Real Madrid Manager Zinedine Zidane can field his best eleven against Liverpool, as all players are healthy and ready to go. Real Madrid will be starting in a similar 4-3-3 formation: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Casemiro; Vasquez, Ronaldo, Benzema. Gareth Bale, Nacho, Theo Hernandez will in all probability be starting from the bench.
● Squad Analysis :
Cristiano Ronaldo is leading the Madrid team with 44 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions, while he’s the Champions League top scorer this season with 15 goals in 12 games. Gareth Bale has scored 19 goals in 38 matches thus far, whilst Karim Benzema has bagged 11 goals in 46 games this season, four of them in eight Champions League appearances. The winger Lucas Vazquez is the team’s top assist-maker with 16 dishes on his account in 53 matches so far. Real Madrid has eliminated Juventus 4-3 on aggregate thanks to a penalty kick in the dying moments of the second leg, while in the Semi-Finals they were pretty lucky to beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw in front of the home fans, as the Bavarians were arguably a better rival in this clash than Los Blancos. The likes of Modrić and Kroos will look to control the midfield and have an upper hand and will look to provide creativity allowing Ronaldo and Vasquez to play their natural game. Sergio Ramos and Varane will start at the heart of the defense for Madrid with the attacking fullback duo Marcelo and Carvajal as their partners. Ramos has a history of scoring important goals in the finals of Champions League and will be providing a threat from set pieces. Marcelo will look to run down the wings and fly in balls at the Liverpool defense. The main task, however, will be to stop their opponents attacking counterparts mainly the front three of Mane- Firmino-Salah. Liverpool’s front three does possess the power to really hurt teams in a quick spell of domination having put three past both Manchester City and Roma in the previous rounds all within a space of no more than twenty or twenty-five minutes. The battle between the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino against Marcelo, Ramos and Varane will go some way in deciding Liverpool’s fate. Mo Salah, the winner of the golden boot in his debut season for Liverpool and his first season back in England will carry much of the limelight and hopes of the reds after having been in scintillating form in both league and Europe. Roberto Firmino himself having declared his current season as the best till date will be one of the most important players for Jurgen Klopp’s side with his tracking back abilities hugely important to the way Liverpool plays. Firmino’s partner in crime Sadio Mane completes the deadly and the all-important front three. Mane has already bagged a hattrick in the round of 16 against Porto. The midfield three of Henderson, Milner and in all likelihood Wijnaldum will be squaring off against the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić and Casemiro. They have been defying expectations all season with James Milner bagging the record of the most number of assists by a player in a single Champions League season and captain Jordan Henderson playing an influential role in protecting the defense. The midfield three might not look that strong on paper but they are in form and will go toe to toe with their Madrid counterparts. The change of keeper and arrival of the 75million Virgil Van Dijk has significantly bolstered the defense and a change in fortunes. The battle between the ever-influential Ronaldo against 19-year-old Trent Arnold who has earned himself an England call-up in light of his recent performances will be really important in the course of the game. Arnold was recently quoted as saying “he has trained for thirteen years for games like this”.
● Match Time/Broadcast Channel :
Saturday, 12:15 am(IST) will be one of the most important 90 minutes in Liverpool’s history. Kiev might see the beginning of the return of glory days to Anfield and Jurgen Klopp’s side will be no short in confidence as most of the players will be playing in the biggest match of their career so far. Real Madrid is back in the Champions League Final for the fourth time in five years and is looking to win an astounding third straight title, proving to the world the high level of dominance Cristiano Ronaldo and Los Merengues have established in the past half-decade. Ten2 and Ten2 HD will broadcast the final game of the European season before the focus shifts to the world cup. BT sports will also be streaming the game for free on youtube.
● Recent Form and Head to Head
Liverpool’s recent form in the league did take a slide downturn mainly because of their focus in Europe, with draws against West Brom and Stoke City and a loss against Chelsea. The Champions league has been an all different story, however, the reds were successful in beating Manchester City in both the legs and won 5-2 against Roma in the semis. Jurgen Klopp and his side will be aware of the 4-0 scoreline at Anfield and the 5-0 aggregate victory against Real Madrid some ten years back. It was a different story however when the two met in the group stages in the 14/15 campaign. Los Blancos ran out 3-0 winners at Anfield following with a 1-0 victory at their home turf. Real finished the domestic campaign with a two-all draw against Villareal after running out 6-0 winners against Celta Vigo, finishing the campaign on 76 points at third.
● Press Conference/ Manager Quotes/ Buildup :
There are things money can’t buy and as Jurgen Klopp said back in January the soul of Liverpool Football Club was certainly one of them. Anfield is dreaming, after so many years they are fighting for their dreams and sometimes that fight is everything and a bit more. 7-6 the scoreline read after the final whistle at Rome. Some four years later after drawing three all against a certain Crystal Palace, they sank to the ground again but only this time the grand old much, so much loved club has written an all-new fairytale and that 19-year-old right- back’s hero who was down on his knees will be smiling profoundly proudly. Jurgen Klopp was recently quoted saying ‘ win the finals and they will remember you for 500 years’. Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is confident of his team’s chances in the finals though certainly, he is respecting his fellow counterparts. A victory would see Madrid write their name in the history books and the sadness of a fairly disappointing season so far will all be forgotten and forgiven. A 13-time success in the most prestigious club competition will only increase the royalty the Los Blancos already possess.
● Writer’s Take :
you look at the two teams you will probably say Madrid are the clear favorites but Liverpool is writing a tale of their own. Most of the players including their captain Jordan Henderson are sharing a very personal story of triumph when anyone hardly expected so. Robertson the left-back was relegated a year back and you can see the passion in 19-year-old Arnold’s eyes and the hunger of 34-year-old Milner. Liverpool will be thinking of the finals as destiny and whatever be the result, this group of players who exceeded everyone’s expectations will be celebrated for some years to come. Real Madrid will be confident themselves of their own chances and will feel the trophy is theirs to take home. A 13-time victory beckons the men from Madrid.