Tuesday. 21.05.2024

Madrid to meet Liverpool in tasty final after contrasting build-ups

Saturday's Champions League final in Paris could end up being another classic. It brings together a Real Madrid side coasting since winning the Spanish title and a Liverpool team hoping to recover from Premier League disappointment

25 May 2022, United Kingdom, Liverpool: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) and Jordan Henderson attend a press conference for the team at the AXA Training Centre, ahead of Saturday's UEFA Champions League Final match against Real Madrid. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/dpa.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) and Jordan Henderson attend a press conference ahead of Saturday's Champions League Final. Photo: Peter Byrne/dpa.

Real Madrid approach Saturday's Champions League final in winning form but also refreshed, while a weary Liverpool head to the Stade de France on the back of narrowly missing out on the Premier League title.

It is a repeat of the 1981 final Liverpool won 1-0 - also in Paris but at the Parc des Princes -, and more recently that of 2018 - the last of Madrid's record 13 wins.

But Liverpool are a very different proposition to four years ago given they took the trophy themselves in 2019 and have a more reliable goalkeeper between the sticks.

German Loris Karius had a nightmare in Kiev during Madrid's 3-1 victory four years ago. Brazilian Alisson is now Liverpool's first-choice and has been a major reason for them adding a sixth European crown as well as a first English title in 30 years in 2020.

But they failed to match the feat last weekend as Manchester City pipped them to the championship by just a point after coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Aston Villa on a dramatic last day of the season.

Liverpool had already won the League and FA Cup this season but coming so close to Premier League glory and a possible quadruple really hurt for a side spearheaded by Egypt forward Mohamed Salah.

Now though, the focus is very much on the Stade de France which was chosen after St Petersburg was stripped of hosting the game following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"It was not the best outcome for us, but we are already over it," coach Jürgen Klopp said, well aware of the might he faces in the shape of Madrid.

"It’s always tough because, first and foremost, they are a world-class team, a world-class club, and they know how to win football games."

Klopp also has big injury worries over midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who faced Madrid many time for Barcelona, as the wear and tear of an English season threatens to blunt his side for the world's most watched individual annual sporting event.

Brilliant Benzema

In contrast, Madrid have been able to take their foot off the gas of late with the Spanish title sealed at the end of April thanks partly to the recurring brilliance of striker Karim Benzema.

Their only recent blow was the decision of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe to decide to stay in the French capital and not move to Madrid next season.

"It’s very clear for us that we have to think about our own things," said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose side pulled off a late miracle to beat Manchester City in the semi-finals.

"We’ve never talked about players from other squads. We respect everyone, every decision, every club. We have to do our own job. It’s very clear and obvious what we have to think about, which is to prepare for the final."

The Italian lifted the Champions League with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007, the latter success coming against Liverpool after they had humiliated his side two years earlier when coming back from 3-0 down to win the 2005 edition.

He also prevailed in his first stint at Madrid in 2014 and is looking to be the first coach to claim the trophy four times - in the same year he became the first to win all five of Europe's top leagues.

Madrid to meet Liverpool in tasty final after contrasting build-ups