Paris, where another chapter in Liverpool’s history beckons.
This year’s Champions League final could very well be yet another chapter in Liverpool’s book of European glory. In an incredible season, however, it is easy to become distracted by other successes and near misses. The team, and for that matter the fans, need to focus on one thing and one thing alone: achieving what PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City all thought they had done before falling at the very final hurdle, and that is beating Real Madrid. The Reds may well be the favourites to lift the trophy with the DraftKings sportsbook, but how can they succeed where those others teams failed so spectacularly?
When people talk about the game and, in particular, the reasons why Real Madrid are likely to come away victorious, they almost always focus on three elements. Here we will break each of those down and show that, far from them being an advantage for Madrid, all three can actually be seen as a benefit for Liverpool.
Real Madrid’s name is on the cup
Undoubtedly, all three of the Spanish giants’ ties provided tremendous drama. The fact that Real were dead and buried three times yet still managed to come back and triumph has somehow been seen as evidence that they will inevitably win the Champions League. Sorry to ruin anyone’s romantic vision of the world or the beautiful game, but it just doesn’t work like that. Those games, remarkable though they were, show that Madrid are eminently beatable. All three of their opponents put them to the sword for large parts of both games and, in reality, Madrid were only on top for a fraction of those six matches.
The defensive and mental fragilities that PSG and especially Man City picked out and exploited in the Madrid side will be ones the Liverpool front three (five/seven) will be licking their lips at. Unlike PSG and Man City, Liverpool and Klopp have the experience of being in and winning Champions League finals. They will not buckle and panic when Madrid inevitably assert some pressure. Football at that level is about decision making. In all three games where Madrid won, poor decisions born from tiredness, inexperience, and fear resulted in all three teams surrendering their advantage. Klopp and his boys are far better equipped to make the right decisions in those same situations.
Madrid will be better rested
Having won La Liga weeks ago, the players have been able to relax, Ancelotti has been able to rotate players and, as a team, they will be able to go into the final injury-free with their batteries charged. There is certainly merit to that, but on the flip side, momentum is a huge factor in football. It is incredibly hard to turn on and off a winning attitude or a game-hardened persona. Liverpool will come into the game fresh from battle. There are even precedents to be found that back this up, albeit from unlikely places.
Chelsea last year were in the role that Liverpool find themselves in now. Their opponents had already been crowned title winners and, as such, the advantage seemed to be with Man City. One of the reasons Tuchel attributed to their victory was the fact that they came from a Premier League battle of a game against Leicester, whereas Guardiola’s men were able to put their feet up the weekend before.
Benzema is unstoppable
The French striker has had a phenomenal last few games in the Champions League, however, in the second leg against Man City, he was largely anonymous and missed some very decent chances. The one thing people forget when talking about Benzema is that, in the final, he will be up against the world’s best defender in Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman not only speaks very well, but is also more than capable of eliminating any threat Benzema offers.
There’s also the prospect of a three-way battle between the Los Blancos hitman, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah for the greatest individual honour in the Ballon d’Or – an accolade Jamie Carragher reckons the No.10 would be well-suited for should the Reds clinch the Champions League title, as the former defender wrote in his Telegraph column (via Eurosport).
No one is saying the game will be easy, it shouldn’t be at this level, but the three areas that are repeated again and again regarding Madrid’s advantage over Liverpool just don’t hold up to scrutiny. And Klopp’s boys have shown repeatedly that they are capable of inflicting game-deciding damage on any team in the world.