The final of club footballs biggest competition, where Europe’s best battle it out to be crowned the best of Europe.
So the third best team in Spain takes on the fourth best team in England in a final that pretty much nobody really wanted to see. It is classic cup competition as nowhere near the two best teams in Europe meet each other in a match to decide who will be the champions of Europe.
In a more positive note, it does seem to be a fairly open game with both teams matching up well against the other. Neither side can really defend and both sides are lucky to be in the final, so they do have a lot in common.
Madrid were very fortunate against Bayern, after being out played in both legs they somehow managed to sneak through. As much as this Real team doesn’t seem to be as good as they were last season, you can’t deny that their route to the final has been incredibly difficult. A group stage draw with Dortmund and Spurs, last 16 against PSG, quarters against Juve and the semis against Bayern is about a tough a road to the finals as you can possibly have. The experience of beating these sides this season as well as the experience of being in four of the last five finals (an incredible feat when you consider that no team had ever retained the Champions League prior to this side) will bode them well in this final.
Liverpool in contrast couldn’t have got any luckier with their draw as they pulled a piss easy group, one of the worst sides in the last 16, a tough tie against City and then by far the easiest draw in the semi finals against Roma. They’ve also been fairly fortunate with the refereeing decisions in particular against City and Roma where plainly wrong officiating decisions have been made which had a huge impact on the outcome of the game. Liverpool at times have looked like a team possessed as they throw bodies forward in attack, yet at other times they have looked like a frail old lady clutching at her purse, which one will show up is the big question here.
What does make this an interesting final is that neither team is what I’d call particularly competent when it comes to defending. Real’s defending is really poor at times and Marcelo is a liability, the other issue is that I wouldn’t say they have the best legs in defence either. It will really depend how they play defensively against Liverpool’s front three because as Roma showed a high line will kill you but sit too deep and you create too big a gap between your midfield and defence. Casemiro will be huge for Real as he will have to fill in for Marcelo more often than not and will be tasked with killing any attacks which move through the middle. Liverpool are a long ball team, they look to catch you on the counter with long balls over the top to their fast front three, it’s a case of stop those balls in behind and you stop Liverpool.
Liverpool are a weird side because I have no doubt that they could cause Real problems going forward but ultimately this game is going to come down to whether they can score enough before the inevitable collapse in the last fifteen minutes. Liverpool play with so much energy that they very rarely are able to keep it up for 90 minutes, so they very much need to create a gap which allows them to concede a couple in the last fifteen minutes. There is no chance in hell that Liverpool don’t concede at least one, they’ll probably concede two or more, so I think realistically they will need to score 3+ to win this game and that in itself is a huge ask because if the game goes to extra time then there’s only one winner, and that won’t be Liverpool.
There are a few areas which will probably define the final as a whole, full back and central midfield. Full back because Marcelo will attack down the left side putting huge pressure on the average Alexander-Arnold, however he will need to be more wary of what is going the other way as Salah is Liverpool’s big attacking threat and if he decides not to defend, then Madrid will be punished. Central midfield is an interesting battleground because when you look at the quality of the players from each team, it really is night and day. Liverpool will likely bypass the midfield because they don’t have the quality in there to make a difference whereas Real’s centre will be key to their controlling of possession. Real have quality in the midfield whereas Liverpool have workers, two contrasting styles adding to the nuances of the match.
It’s always fun to make a mix eleven of two sides because it gives you a picture of where both teams are in regards to the other. If you are doing a combined eleven of these two teams you get 10 Real players and 1 Liverpool player (Salah). That heavily implies that this match is a forgone conclusion and in theory it is but the exact same thing could have been said about Liverpool-City and we all know how that went.
Madrid should win this game, they are the better side by quite some distance, however their shaky defence will allow for Liverpool to have a chance. If Liverpool are to win they will need to play an entire 90 minutes at the high intensity that they are known for, anything other than that won’t be good enough and if they can’t then Madrid will show their quality and that’s why I think they’ll win and be crowned champions of Europe for the third time in a row.
So what are your thoughts about the Champions League Final? Will Madrid make history? Or will Liverpool do the unthinkable? Leave a comment and share those thoughts.