Champions League Final Preview: Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
After another long season of European soccer, we again have arrived at arguably it’s most important day.
Yup that’s right folks, we have arrived at the Champions League Final.
It’s going to a matchup of David vs. Goliath as an upstart Liverpool team face off against a Real Madrid team who seem to play well in the Champions League these days. If Carlo Ancelotti is hailed as a “knockout specialist” when it comes to managing teams to trophies, Real Madrid should be regarded in a similar way. Los Blancos are entering into this match and could walk away with their 3rd straight Champions League title. It’s an amazing accomplishment but Liverpool are looking to spoil the party. After upsetting England’s best team in Manchester City in the quarterfinals, it looked as if Jurgen Klopp’s side were a team on destiny. Led by the Premier League’s best player in Mo Salah, Liverpool’s potent attack has dissected opposing defenses left and right. They are one of the scariest teams offensively in all of Europe and combine it with Real Madrid’s front three, we are in for some fireworks in Kiev.
For this preview, we are going to do something a little bit different. Instead of just telling how both of these teams got here, we are going to take a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into the match. Let’s go.
Marcelo vs. Salah
Jurgen Klopp reportedly said the weakness in Real Madrid’s defense is the left back in Marcelo. While Klopp is technically wrong in doubting the rate at which both Real Madrid fullbacks can get up and down the pitch. Not to mention how good Casemiro has been at eating up space left vacated around him. While it might not look like it, Real Madrid have been a pretty cohesive unit at the back and when the going gets tough, they come up with timely blocks.
But Klopp’s also right in that against Bayern Munich, Joshua Kimmich scored two goals from the left side of the Real Madrid defense which is suppose to be Marcelo’s area. You need a winger who has a lot of pace and can keep it up for 90 minutes against Marcelo. Many times we see wingers with more technical skills get eaten by Marcelo cause he can always beat them to their spots while also zooming right past them in attack.
So it will be interesting to see if Salah can be the man to break Marcelo. He certainly has the pace and all it takes is one overstep from Marcelo and Salah is zooming right past him.
How much will Real Madrid’s midfield dominate?
If there ever was a huge gap in talent when looking at these two teams on paper, it has to be when you look at the two midfields of the teams. Even at their old age, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will run the show in this match. Compare that to the midfield Liverpool will likely throw out (Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum) and it’s tough to see the Reds really controlling the match.
However if Liverpool is able to press just right and make life uncomfortable for Kroos, it could lead to some chances on the other end. Force Kroos to move the ball quicker than he likes and don’t give Modric the space to run around and find killer passes to fire between your backline. It’s a lot more easier said than done. I don’t know if the Liverpool midfield is up for that challenge.
Can Liverpool’s back line control Ronaldo?
While it’s fair to question Madrid’s back line at times, it’s also valid to look at Liverpool’s defense in the same lens. Real Madrid have seemed to get a lot of contributions out of their attackers, but as always, everything still goes through Cristiano Ronaldo. And with this being a final, you would expect him to show up.
He did against Juventus, scored the winning penalty against Atletico, and will probably give Virgil Van Dijk nightmares in this game. Ronaldo typically shows up in this game so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get on the score sheet. The only hope for Liverpool is to hopefully force him to take long distance shots and miss some sitters. Because given Liverpool’s defense, he’s going to get a chance and there is an even greater chance he takes it.
I really want to say Liverpool has a chance in this match but this Madrid team was built for matches like this. If Klopp and company even want a chance in this match, they are going to need to strike early and often. Salah and Mane need to make life crazy for the defenses. But I don’t think this will happen. Real Madrid are too powerful.
3-1 Real Madrid