Liverpool vs Real Madrid
Liverpool vs Real Madrid
On Saturday, 41 years after their first meeting in the lovely city of Paris, Liverpool and Real Madrid will meet in Saint-Denis, just north of the French capital, for the 2021-22 Champions League final.
This weekend, the Reds are looking for a seventh triumph in Europe’s top tournament, while continental veterans Los Blancos are attempting to win the trophy for a record-extending 14th time.
Jurgen Klopp’s team has eliminated Inter Milan, Benfica, and Villarreal en route to the Stade de France, while Carlo Ancelotti’s side has eliminated Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City.
- Thiago Alcantara was forced to leave the game against Wolves before the conclusion of the first half after suffering an Achilles injury. Klopp was originally gloomy about Thiago’s prospects of appearing in the final. However, he has now altered his mind, and there is fresh optimism about his availability for the match. Whether he can play the whole 90 or 120 minutes is a different matter completely.
- On a more positive note, Fabinho’s hamstring ailment is anticipated to improve with time after he rejoined team training on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Joe Gomez is likely to return to the squad after recovering fast from an ankle injury.
- Following their FA Cup final injuries, Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were both fit enough to sit on the bench last weekend. The pair will hope to return to the starting XI tonight, with the latter scoring the Reds’ second to share the Golden Boot with Son Heung-min.
- Salah will almost certainly replace Diogo Jota, while Ibrahima Konate was mainly to blame for Wolves’ quickfire opening at the weekend, but the Champions League regular will fight to keep his place ahead of Joel Matip for the final.
- Cult icon Divock Origi has played his final game for the club after suffering a muscle injury in training, meaning the famed Belgian will not have a goodbye 2019 moment ahead of his expected free move to AC Milan.
- Carlo Ancelotti, on the other hand, will aim to have everyone healthy and available for his side’s 17th European Cup/Champions League final, with David Alaba returning to training in midweek after an adductor injury. Alaba was not in the squad for the match against Betis. But if there are no setbacks, he should reclaim his due spot in the starting XI, demoting Nacho Fernandez to the bench.
- Marcelo has recovered from his fitness problems to make himself ready. Moreover, he will once again play second fiddle to Ferland Mendy, while Eder Militao is expected to keep his place despite requests for him to be withdrawn.
- Eduardo Camavinga has been brilliant off the bench throughout Real’s march to the final. But if one of the midfield trio suffers an injury before Saturday, the 19-year-old would only be able to beat Casemiro, Toni Kroos, or Luka Modric.
- The Liverpool high line is designed for players like Vinicius and Rodrygo to rush in behind, but Rodrygo’s remarkable impact as a replacement may push Ancelotti to keep Federico Valverde somewhat more forward.
- With another hat-trick in the showpiece event, Benzema would beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 Champions League goals in a single season, while he only has to make the net ripple once to become the competition’s indisputable third-highest goalscorer, equal with Robert Lewandowski on 86.
Real Madrid and Liverpool have met eight times in European play, with Los Blancos winning four times to the Reds’ three, and the most recent meeting ending in a tie.
After a 5-0 aggregate victory in the 2008-09 last-16, Alan Kennedy’s winner pushed Liverpool to the European Cup final against Real Madrid in 1981, kicking off a run of three straight triumphs for the Merseyside club.
However, Liverpool has lost four and drawn one of their previous five matches against the Spanish champions, including 2018 final, which Gareth Bale will remember for all the right reasons and Loris Karius will remember for all the wrong reasons.
What a difficult game to predict. Keeping the likes of Benzema, Vinicius, Salah, and Mane at bay for 90 or 120 minutes is nearly impossible, and the Reds’ attackers, in particular, should be confident of scoring a few goals against a fragile Blancos defense.
Real’s risky defensive stance will always leave them open to the quickness and cunning of Ancelotti’s two Brazilian starboys, and Benzema only needs one half-chance to restore parity for Real.
We believe that Liverpool’s recent experience from 12 yards will help them get their hands on Europe’s biggest prize for the seventh time and end the Real fairytale. Having Thiago and Fabinho fit to start the game would be a massive boost for Klopp, whose side may be taken all the way to spot-kicks again.
Our prediction is a Liverpool 2-2 Real Madrid (Liverpool to win on penalties)
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz;
Real Madrid: Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr. Courtois;