As Madrid Battle Liverpool for European Glory…Who Will Reign Supreme?
By Israel Igiri
Europe will be on fire later in the day when defending Champions Real Madrid and Liverpool fight for the ultimate prize in this season’s Champions League final at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev.
It certainly promises to be a titanic clash between two European titans- serial winners against a side who will counter with, as their own manager once described his preferred approach, “heavy metal football.” The centerpiece of the strategies of the two teams is an attack that has the potential to outscore any opposition. It is a confrontation between two of Europe’s most tactical, high-profile managers in Zinedine Zidane and Jurgen Klopp.
While Zidane would be counting on the experience of his side and the brilliant fom of Cristiano Ronaldo to win a third consecutive title and an unprecedented 13th trophy, Klopp will hope his irrepressible front trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to inflict serious damage on the holders in order to banish the ghost of his disappointing record in finals and deliver the Europe’s most prestigious club prize to Anfield for the first time in 13 years.
Going into this game, the Los Blancos have no injury concern and can call on the services of everyone in the squad. However, the Reds will have to make do without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip who are out injured while Emre Can remains doubtful as he is still recovering from a back injury.
Ronaldo is obviously the star man for Real Madrid. That Real Madrid are in the final of the competition once again is courtesy of the Portuguese- the tournament’s top scorer with 15 goals in the competition this season. If the Los Merengues will lay their hands on the title in the Ukrainian capital, Ronaldo will be very decisive.
For Liverpool, Mo Salah is certainly the man in the mirror. He has been the standout performer in England this season and if Real fail to devise a way of stopping the Egyptian, he will have a significant, potentially decisive, impact on this battle.
Salah, Mane vs Marcelo, Carvajal
With the pace of Salah and Mane, they can cause anyone problems, and with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal both attack-minded, there could be plenty of space on the counter for Liverpool to exploit. For Real to win this battle, stopping Mane and Salah will be key, but if they fail to do that, they will be in trouble.
This is another key area where the battle could be won for both sides. If Liverpool fail to nullify and minimize the dominance of the tactical and talented trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kross and Casemiro, it will be almost impossible for them to win the game. Therefore, the likes of Jordan Henderson, Girogino Wijnaldum and James Milner must be compact and resilient in midfield and fight for every ball with Real’s midfield veterans in order to render them harmless.
Nathaniel Clyne/Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Ronaldo
Whether it is Clyne or Alexander-Arnold that would start at right back on Saturday night, keeping Ronaldo at bay will be a big task that they must accomplish. Players like Ronaldo are hard to stop on Champions League night. In fact, Liverpool’s defence will have one its toughest games in over a decade and unless CR7 is kept quiet, the Merseyside club will have no chance of winning an historic sixth Champions League title.
- Liverpool have scored more goals (46 goals) than any other team in this season’s Champions League.
- A victory for Real Madrid will make them become the first side to win the title three times in a row under the current format.
- Liverpool were 1-0 winners of the last Champions League final meeting between both sides in 1980/1981 season.
- Cristiano Ronaldo would become the first player to win the competition five times in the UEFA Champions League era if his side win Liverpool.
- Jurgen Klopp has lost his last major finals as a manager.
“I think Real Madrid have the greater likelihood. Liverpool are the underdogs for good reasons. Real have a better squad, not just in terms of quality but in terms of experience in the Champions League, especially the finals. They are the defending champions, have won it twice in a row and always manage to get the better of the best teams in Europe when it matters most. However, will they be able to cope with the intensity of the pressing of Liverpool? Although the Reds are going to be without some of their first team players, they are surely formidable and have an attack capable of putting the at times shaky Real Madrid’s defence to shame, although their defence (albeit strengthened) might also give way. Like Klopp said, Marcelo is key in this game. Although he is capable of pulling a goal out of nowhere, he can also be missing in defence, and you cannot afford to do that when you are meant to be marking Salah. I see many goals in this, and I give it to Real Madrid, but Liverpool have a very good chance.”
“It is going to be a great battle and I expect the fireworks too. It promises to be explosive and captivating and will keep us all on the edges of our seats. As much as I love Liverpool and want them to win, I cannot look past Real Madrid because I know they’ve got experience on their side, they’ve got serial winners of the Champions League. They have beaten the top sides this season to get to the final. They have beaten the likes of PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munchen, and I cannot see them being beaten by Liverpool because, first of all, the name Ronaldo pops up when you mention Real Madrid. You cannot but give it to this young man who has been the shining light for Real Madrid all through the years. He is phenomenal and with him on any side, they are potential winners. Liverpool have got good players with pace but that lack of experience is what makes them second best to Real Madrid. So, I am tilting towards Real Madrid in as much as I would love an English side to win it. My heart says “Liverpool” but my head says “Real Madrid.” Why? Because they have seen it all and they have done it all. And lastly, because they have got experience on their side. Real Madrid to win it. Maybe, extra-time, penalties, but they will win it and I see Ronaldo also becoming the Ballon d’Or winner.”
“It is a game with so much anticipation. It is going to be dramatic, fun, suspense and passion-filled. It is going to be intriguing because we have a team like Real Madrid who have done it before, they won it back-to-back. And Liverpool the underdogs going into this tie. Magically, they came into the knockout stages, took out Porto in a grand style and of course, took out City and Roma also stylishly. I won’t take it away from them. I am rooting for Liverpool in as much as I am a Real Madrid fan. I won’t take it away from Liverpool because they’ve been on top of their game this season. They believe that this might be their only chance and they are going to give everything they have in this final. I am sure Jurgen Klopp’s boys have everything on their sleeves. You might want to say Real Madrid have the experience but Liverpool have been five time winners. You can’t take the experience away from them, they know what it takes to get the job done. I will give them the edge against Real Madrid, these young boys have not won it before. They need it more and in the game of football, you can’t take it away from the team that needs it more. For me, it is Liverpool all the way,”
JOSHUA CHIAGOZIE EZE.
“Liverpool will carry the day. If you’ve been taking records of history, you will find out that history is likely going to repeat itself in this game. The last time they met in the final of the Champions League, the Reds won the title. I believe in Liverpool and I think they will never walk alone,”