With 19 European Cup/Champions League crowns between them, it’s safe to say Saturday’s meeting between Liverpool and Real Madrid is a continental royal struggle.
Our betting expert is here with the biggest talking points, key team news, and the best facts and figures ahead of what’s sure to be a great night in Paris.
🏆 UCL Final Match Teaser
After narrowly losing the Premier League title, Liverpool will be determined to lift the Champions League on Sunday against 13-times European champions Real Madrid to complete the hat-trick in 2021-22 having already won the Premier League and FA Cup. Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti is seeking his fourth Champions League title as a coach.
Key Talking Points
Liverpool referee in 2022
Liverpool have arguably been the best team on earth in this calendar year. This season they became the first English team to win all six of their group stage matches, a division that included champions Portugal and Italy, in addition to last season’s Spanish champions, narrowly losing the Premier League title. Just one point after falling 14 points behind finalist champions Man City in January.
They beat last season’s Italian champions Inter in the round of 16, then knocked out Benfica in a fun quarter-final match. When they faced their first real test away to Villarreal in the semi-final second leg at the Ceramica, they worked deep to turn the match and tie in their favour, and by the end of that competition it’s no exaggeration to say it. They were in cruise control. Now they are in the final for the third time in five seasons.
🤺 midfield battle
Luca ModricTony cross and the unknown Casemiro They are a world-famous and legendary fantasy midfielder who has the amount of poise you’d likely see in a high-end central formation. Saturday night in Paris might be their last trip, too.
Majestic midfield figure Fabinho He has missed Liverpool’s last three games, but he should be fit enough to start on Saturday, and his importance to Jurgen Klopp’s machine can never be underestimated. mate Thiago Alcantara He was wounded against the wolves and now seemed unlikely to appear. Thiago has completed 90.5% of his passes in the Champions League this season, despite being one of the most adventurous planners in world football, and the creative Spaniard will be very evident in his absence. The legendary Madrid trio will be looking to dominate this part of the field and that could bring significant gains.
👓 Klopp is indeed a Liverpool legend
He has since ditched the brand-name glasses for laser eye surgery, but Jurgen Klopp’s vision for Liverpool FC is just as clear as ever. The German tactician re-established the Reds as a European superpower, winning all the trophies available to him since arriving in England some seven years ago. The ink on his new contract has just dried up too, so the pants will be licking their lips with the prospect of seeing Klopp at the helm until at least 2026. Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish are on the list of Liverpool’s great coaches, and Jürgen Norbert Klopp already finds himself sitting at the same table in Anfield folklore.
🐐 Don Carlo orders respect
One of the greats in modern management and history of the game has already won the La Liga title this season. In doing so, he became the first coach ever to win titles in all five of Europe’s major leagues.
Ancelotti has a mixed history with Liverpool as well. He was on the wrong end of the Reds’ miraculous comeback in Istanbul 17 years ago, but he got his revenge when the two met again in Athens two years later.
⚪️ Never rule out Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s truly impressive comeback and recovery capabilities against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Man City have propelled them to this final, as they look to win the European Championship for the 14th time. When everything comes on the line, this football establishment and star group somehow find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, as if it were written in the threads of their DNA.
They were late on aggregate against Paris Saint-Germain until Karim Benzema’s 17-minute hat-trick turned things around in the round of 16. They were ten minutes away from elimination against Chelsea but threw the defending champion in overtime, 5-4 on aggregate. In the great quarter-finals. Incredibly, they only needed two goals on death to survive against Manchester City in the fourth round, and Brazilian substitute Rodrygo duly handed it over as time ran out. A Banenka penalty by Karim Benzama (he had missed three of the club’s previous four penalties) early in overtime sealed the deal. It’s not really over with this club, and while their beloved supporters know it all too well, they were surprised by what they witnessed in the knockout stage this season.
👑 Mo fair with revenge on his mind
Mohamed Salah is the joint winner of the Premier League Golden Boot this season with 23 goals, and he also took home the Playmaker Award with 13 assists. Amazingly, it wasn’t enough to give him the PFA Player of the Year award, but his match-winning credentials are in no doubt. The Egyptian came off the bench on Sunday against Wolverhampton and his 84th-minute shot ensured the 29-year-old would not be outdone by Tottenham’s top striker Son Heung-min. Like Michael Jordan, Salah may have taken it personally.
Salah is a formidable talent and goal machine, bent on collective and personal trophies. He will also have a personal score to settle with Los Blancos after being knocked out early in the 2018 final after a confrontation with Sergio Ramos left him with a shoulder injury. The legendary Spaniard has since departed, but Salah’s desire for revenge will remain front and center after that night in Kyiv.
🔥 Karim Benzema’s “dream” is hard to ignore
Karim Benzema has been a world player for over a decade now, but even by his own lofty standards, this has been the Frenchman’s best season yet. He has found the net 15 times in the Champions League this season and has netted 27 goals in La Liga to take home the 2021-22 Pichichi Trophy.
When Los Merengues needed someone to deliver the goods, Karim Benzema was bound to do so time and time again. A three-pointed goal-scoring player in the famous white jersey, the 34-year-old would become the favorite to win the 2022 Ballon d’Or if he adds a fifth-time Champions League winner’s medal to his explosive cup treasury.
🧮 Trent vs Vinicius Jr. could be the decisive tactical battle
The 21-year-old Vini Jr had the best season of his young career to date, scoring 21 goals and providing 20 assists in 53 appearances in all competitions. He will be keen to exploit the inevitable space that Trent Alexander-Arnold will leave behind as the Englishman bombards the Reds’ right-hand side, with Salah running diagonally towards the middle in front of him. Vini was a thorn in Liverpool’s side last season in this competition, scoring twice in Real’s 3-1 win in the quarter-finals in the Spanish capital and Klopp will need a master plan to contain the superb Brazilian.
🔋 Madrid with more in the tank?
When Liverpool take to the pitch at the Stade de France on Saturday, they will be in contention for their 63rd game of the season. It will surely take its toll, both physically and psychologically, on this particular group of players.
Although Los Blancos ended their La Liga campaign with a 0-0 draw with Real Betis, Ancelotti enjoyed the luxury of rotating with his team as he won the 35th La Liga title with four games remaining. They will surely be the freshest of the two teams as they prepare for their 17th appearance in the European Cup/Champions League Final.
🔮 Likely to start XIs
Klopp must choose between Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate to partner Virgil van Dijk in the center of defence. With Thiago facing a race against time, Naby Keita must start in midfield.
🔴 Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson. Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dyck, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Keita; Diaz, Mane, Salah
Carlo Ancelotti will miss David Alaba, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard, but of this trio, only Austrian Alaba has been the team’s main starting player this season.
Real Madrid 11 (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Nacho, Mindy; Kroos, Modric, Casemiro; Valverde, Benzema, Vini Jr.
Final UCL Facts and Figures
- Sadio Mane has scored in eight of his 13 matches in all competitions, scoring against Real in the 2018 final.
- Liverpool have played 18 official matches unbeaten (W15, D3) with five of their last six games played which have included goals at both ends.
- The Reds scored the last seven European goals in the second half of matches.
- The Reds have also not advanced at halftime in any of their last three Champions League matches.
- All four goals in the 2017-18 final between these parties came after the break.
- Real Madrid have beaten English rivals Chelsea and Man City in the previous rounds – having fallen behind at some point in every game.
- Spanish clubs (Madrid in 2000, Barcelona in 2006) have won previous finals held at this stadium.
- Mohamed Salah provided assists in both back and forth from Liverpool’s semi-final win over Villarreal, while Karim Benzema has scored 15 goals in the Champions League this season, including one after the 80th minute in each of his last three games.
- Benzema needs two more goals to equal Cristiano Ronaldo’s record in a single season of 17 in 2013-14.
- The team that initially scored has won all of the previous seven H2H matches to score goals (Madrid: W4, L3).
💶 Best bet: Liverpool have been rightly favored by bookmakers, but Real Madrid’s ever-indomitable stance and pedigree at this level make it tempting. Return of the final match to go into overtime. Both teams that score in the second half offer a massive value at 2.95 at the time of writing.
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