Liverpool vs Real Madrid: A Preview for the Game of the Season
Come Saturday, history will be made. As Liverpool host Real Madrid in Paris, the Champions League final assures guaranteed drama. The game not only promises two of the most historic sides of this competition, but also stars who can win the ultimate trophy, the Ballon d’Or for the splendid season they have endured.
It’s the Scousers vs Los Blancos. It’s Merseyside versus Madrid. It’s Karim Benzema against Mohamed Salah. It’s Jurgen Klopp versus Carlo Ancelotti. Does it get any bigger than this?
With Liverpool losing the Premier League title by a fine margin of not just 1 point, but a matter of ten minutes, Klopp’s men would be hungry to win their third trophy of the season. On the other hand, we have the perennial mammoths of this race, Real Madrid with the experienced trio of Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Carlo Ancelotti all pulling strings together for the one last dance.
Liverpool and Real Madrid combine for a total of 19 Champions League trophies, a combination which can be only beaten if Madrid takes up AC Milan anytime in the near future. When the two sides take to the field on Saturday night, we could witness at least 18 of the 22 players who have lifted this ultimate title in the past.
The two sides met back on the same day in 2018, as Real Madrid lifted their third consecutive European honour by beating the Reds by three goals to nil. But as infamous as the clash is, it was scarred by individual mistakes and a phenomenon named as Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema (BBC). It also saw Mohamed Salah hurting his (and Egypt’s back) as he missed the World Cup in the summer too.
With no major injury concerns, nor any excuses this time around, it is expected to be a huge showdown in Paris. Let’s dive into the details as we dissect this clash bit by bit.
If this was written probably a couple of years ago, the scenario would have been quite different. For the first time going into a Champions League final, Real Madrid remain slight underdogs in front of Liverpool.
Liverpool have been carrying the same energy that they possessed in the 1980s as the wonderful collaboration with Jurgen Klopp brings about the best attacking football, second to none. The free-scoring trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and newcomer Luis Diaz is supported by the experienced midfield of Fabinho, Thiago and Jordan Henderson. The defence which wasn’t any less than world class under Virgil Van Dijk’s leadership, is now bolstered by new signing Ibrahima Konate. At last, there is the generational talent of Trent Alexander-Arnold complemented by the hunger of Andrew Robertson. With Alisson Becker between the sticks, this is Liverpool’s dream squad in the history of the club.
The English giants play a four-man backline, which usually transcends into a two-man defence as Robertson and Alexander-Arnold bulk up the midfield on both offensive and defensive duties. Fabinho offers defensive cover, giving Thiago and Henderson the creative freedom. Lastly, Mane and Salah’s speed and finishing needs no introduction. Liverpool are expected to not hold back even a bit for a single moment on Saturday.
Coming to Madrid, it’s the towering Thibaut Courtois in goal. With Sergio Ramos long gone, David Alaba brings his Bundesliga and Champions League experience to a backline which seems little fragile. Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal offer the width to the side in terms of defending, while Casemiro is the fifth defender whenever the team is under the bus. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos do not seem to age, and like fine wine, continue to pull Madrid into immortality. The Brazilian duo of Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior offer the much-needed pace, while the man of the moment — Karim Benzema — scores goals for fun. For fun, and we mean it.
Overall, Madrid have sat back and attacked on the counter due to most of the side being in their late twenties or early thirties. The Los Blancos have relied on their ability to counter and finish with pin point accuracy, while having the ball for less than 45% of game-time. It has worked wonders as the experience of Modric, Kroos, Alaba and Benzema means that a 2–0 lead in the 90th minute amounts to no certainty of a win. Ask Manchester City, who lost the game and the tie after leading by two goals on aggregate in Madrid in the 88th minute.
The game should be decided on whether Madrid cracks first or whether Liverpool concedes on the counter.
The Players to Watch & the Players on the Watch
While most of the Madrid camp has been recovering very well due to their premature La Liga triumph, Liverpool have had some sore legs amidst the starting eleven.
Virgil van Dijk, who is considered to be the difference between a win or a loss for the Merseyside faithful, is currently recovering from an injury picked up in the FA Cup final against Chelsea. Though Big Virg is expected to recover by Saturday and start the game, a slight knock could turn the game upside down during the matchup.
Another big missing for Liverpool could be Thiago Alcantara. The Spanish midfield legend was seen in some pain against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the Premier League closing day. With his Brazilian team-mate, Fabinho, just recovering from an injury just for this final, Thiago’s absence could be pivotal to the tie as Madrid’s midfield is something which needs some doing.
Real Madrid fortunately has no injury concerns ahead of this game of the season. The only concern remains Marcelo, who is way past his prime and would not have been selected by Ancelotti in the starting eleven anyway. This Madrid side is hungry.
While these above-mentioned players remain on the watch, the players to watch are quite obvious! While each and every one-v-one battle is important on the pitch, given the magnitude of the clash, there are some clashes which could literally be game-changing.
The first and foremost being, Vinicius Jr going up against Trent Alexander-Arnold. The generational English right-back will have loads of running to do on Saturday, as his usually higher position up the pitch will be well exploited by his Brazilian counterpart on the night. Alexander-Arnold has been criticized for his defending in most of these small past records, but if he manages to keep Vinicius quiet, it would silence the critics once and for all.
Mohamed Salah versus David Alaba could be a similar clash, but on the other end of the pitch, albeit on the same flank. The Premier League Golden Boot winner scores at will, as has been observed in the recent past, but does not have a single goal for Liverpool in any final he has played. Does that change on Saturday? With Alaba, probably not. The Austrian defender who rose to fame with Bayern Munich has been Madrid’s savior in defense — and this could be his one final bow for them this season.
The last, but the biggest of all — Karim Benzema up against Virgil Van Dijk is the clash the world deserves to watch. The world’s best striker in the world against the best defender at the moment could not only be an entertaining watch, but also could decide the fate of this game. Benzema has scored 56 goal contributions this season in Spain and Europe combined and has one hand on the Ballon d’Or. The only man who can stop him? Big Virg from Holland, who is yet to lose a single game with Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. Big names, big records, big stakes.
Where will be the game won or lost?
The numbers don’t lie.
And the numbers reflect the Real Madrid have been really poor in aerial duels this season. Enter Liverpool, who have the tallest combined height length of centre-backs in the Premier League with the likes of Konate, Matip and Van Dijk. This could be a huge problem for the Madridistas as a corner situation or an attacking set-piece near their goal could be 1–0 to Liverpool any time, within a blink of an eye. But, this also means that Real will have to focus on converting direct attacks instead of winning corners, which they cannot score.
Another area where the game could be won or lost is the midfield. With Thiago and Fabinho nursing injuries ahead of the final, the supply to the pacey forward line of Salah, Mane and Diaz could be lacking. On the other hand, this gives the keys in the hand of the midfield Maestros — Luka Modric and Toni Kroos — who have eight Champions League medals within themselves! Add youth French sensation Eduardo Camavinga to the mix, and we have some serious trouble for the Merseyside Reds here.
Last but not the least, the Liverpool back-line has been risking too much all season long, and it took the Yellow Submarine from Villarreal to showcase it to the entire world. The Reds’ back-four play a very high line to add numbers to the middle, which leaves ample space behind for the likes of Vinicius and Rodrygo to exploit. Madrid and Villarreal could exchange a few notes here too, thanks to the Spanish connection!!
At Mighty Tips, we try to analyze all such factors of where the game could be won or lost and put the same into the betting perspective. Through this analysis, our team of professional tipsters has led the gambling communities to big highs, making it a 40k community of daily audience.
Well, the heart says Madrid, while the mind says Liverpool. By God’s grace, we are not trying to find parallels here but do check out our Mighty Tips Betting Preview of this Champions League final for who we think will win the ultimate prize.
Nevertheless, as fans of the beautiful game, this 29th May 2022 brings about a probable addition to the games of our lives. By the end of Saturday, Real Madrid and Liverpool combined would have 20 Champions League trophies within themselves. Karim Benzema would either win the Ballon d’Or or hand a fourth trophy to Sadio Mane in the last 5 months.
Irrespective of any result, we would see 11 men stamp their names into immortality. That is all that matters in football. Gamble Responsibly!