Blog

Next stop, Paris

Mo Salah's French redemption, Real Madrid's unstoppable knockout number 9 and a rematch of the 2018 final: Simon Hart is back with his final pre-match preview of the campaign

“They are veterans. We will outrun them.” These were the words of Vujadin Boškov, the then Real Madrid coach, before the 1981 European Cup final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Paris. As the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France, a similar argument can be heard – but applied the other way round.

Rafa Benítez, a coach who knows both clubs so well, has suggested that Liverpool’s “intensity” could be the undoing of a Madrid side with three key midfielders all in their thirties. Benítez, speaking to the Sunday Times last weekend, cited as evidence the almighty fright that Chelsea gave Real at the Bernabéu in the quarter-finals, jumping into a 3-0 lead before eventually losing out in extra time.  

Chelsea played with three players forward for most of that evening and Timo Werner’s pace caused no end of trouble as the London side accumulated 28 shots – more than any other team in any game of this season’s knockout stage. The speed of Liverpool’s own forwards and the intensity the Reds can generate hints at some stormy moments for the Madrid defence - albeit, if any team can weather a storm it is the Spanish champions.

Indeed what makes this final so hard to call is the other factor that emerged that night against Chelsea. As El País put it afterwards: “Football goes one way, Real another.” In other words, never underestimate the remarkable capacity of the Los Blancos to defy logic. Never mind Rocky coming off the canvas, their comebacks in this campaign have been more akin (warning: '80s pop culture reference) to Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas. Shot dead an entire season of the series earlier, but now very much alive. And freshly showered.

Reflecting on Madrid’s stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea, Roberto Martínez, one of UEFA’s match observers, told UEFA TV this week: “Real Madrid have got this incredible capacity that whatever happens in this game, that action is going to finish in the back of the net .. that piece of magic. Madrid go into these emotional power [moments] that they just brush you aside. There is not footballing reason…”

The beauty of Saturday’s final is that Liverpool have their own remarkable mindset. Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side were on the receiving end of that still hard-to-fathom fightback in Istanbul in 2005, will not need telling. “Mentality monsters” was the phrase Jürgen Klopp dusted off after his men overturned a two-goal deficit to win their semi-final second leg 2-0 at Villarreal. It is no exaggeration. They have won two domestic finals already this season on penalty shootouts and have lost just one of their 34 matches played so far in 2022.  

Moreover, Liverpool are now a team who can beat you in different ways. As Martínez added in that UEFA TV interview, they are “a team that can defend high, a team that can press straight away, a team that can defend the ball, a team that can hurt you in possession, a team that can hurt you in set plays”. On which subject, their total of eight set-piece goals in the 2021/22 campaign is the most of any side, their threat right across the pitch (and substitutes’ bench) highlighted by the fact that 11 different Liverpool players have got on the scoresheet on the road to Saint-Denis.

Liverpool player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has already put smiles on the faces of Reds followers by ending speculation about his future, as he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I am staying next season for sure.” His next job is to make amends for the pain of leaving the 2018 final defeat against Madrid injured. “It was a sad day for all of us and now it’s revenge time,” he said after collecting his Footballer of the Year award earlier this month. Salah, who ended a seven-game scoreless sequence with a goal against Wolves last weekend, converted a penalty against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. A goal against Madrid would doubtless taste doubly sweet.

Real Madrid player to watch: Karim Benzema

It is hard to look beyond this remarkable 34-year-old who scored hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea en route to the final and ranks first in this season's Champions League scorers’ chart with 15. He has an extraordinary nose for goal against Premier League opposition too, with 16 from 22 Champions League games against English clubs – including one against Liverpool in that 3-1 Kyiv final success. It is not just his goals either but his intelligent work outside the penalty box, drifting out wide to link up so effectively with Vinícius Júnior.

Key battle: Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinícius Júnior

Vinícius Júnior scored twice when Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s quarter-final. He could have a key role again if Los Blancos are to prevail, given his connection with Benzema (four assists for the Frenchman). There's also the threat he could bring with his speed in an area of the field where Liverpool do leave space, as Alexander Arnold pushes into the opposition half to attack.

The Liverpool right-back has four assists so far in this campaign and his offensive contribution extends far beyond his magnificent crosses and dead balls – illustrated by the fact that he has had the most touches of any Liverpool player (853 from eight matches), which is just 15 fewer than Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić has managed.  Back in 2019 Graeme Souness described Alexander-Arnold as a “false full-back” for his playmaking powers; the flipside on Saturday is that the players behind him as he pushes up – notably the pacy centre-back on his side, Ibrahima Konaté – will have to stay vigilant.

Numbers to note

5 – This is Ancelotti's fifth Champions League final as a coach and he is looking to become the first coach to win the trophy four times. For Klopp, meanwhile, it is the fourth final. Five is also the number of winners’ medals now within reach of Madrid squad members Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Modrić, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

7 – Liverpool are looking to join AC Milan on seven European Cups wins. As for 13-times winners Madrid, they have won their last seven finals. The last time they lost one? Against Liverpool in 1981 in Paris.  

“They are veterans. We will outrun them.” These were the words of Vujadin Boškov, the then Real Madrid coach, before the 1981 European Cup final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Paris. As the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France, a similar argument can be heard – but applied the other way round.

Rafa Benítez, a coach who knows both clubs so well, has suggested that Liverpool’s “intensity” could be the undoing of a Madrid side with three key midfielders all in their thirties. Benítez, speaking to the Sunday Times last weekend, cited as evidence the almighty fright that Chelsea gave Real at the Bernabéu in the quarter-finals, jumping into a 3-0 lead before eventually losing out in extra time.  

Chelsea played with three players forward for most of that evening and Timo Werner’s pace caused no end of trouble as the London side accumulated 28 shots – more than any other team in any game of this season’s knockout stage. The speed of Liverpool’s own forwards and the intensity the Reds can generate hints at some stormy moments for the Madrid defence - albeit, if any team can weather a storm it is the Spanish champions.

Indeed what makes this final so hard to call is the other factor that emerged that night against Chelsea. As El País put it afterwards: “Football goes one way, Real another.” In other words, never underestimate the remarkable capacity of the Los Blancos to defy logic. Never mind Rocky coming off the canvas, their comebacks in this campaign have been more akin (warning: '80s pop culture reference) to Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas. Shot dead an entire season of the series earlier, but now very much alive. And freshly showered.

Reflecting on Madrid’s stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea, Roberto Martínez, one of UEFA’s match observers, told UEFA TV this week: “Real Madrid have got this incredible capacity that whatever happens in this game, that action is going to finish in the back of the net .. that piece of magic. Madrid go into these emotional power [moments] that they just brush you aside. There is not footballing reason…”

The beauty of Saturday’s final is that Liverpool have their own remarkable mindset. Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side were on the receiving end of that still hard-to-fathom fightback in Istanbul in 2005, will not need telling. “Mentality monsters” was the phrase Jürgen Klopp dusted off after his men overturned a two-goal deficit to win their semi-final second leg 2-0 at Villarreal. It is no exaggeration. They have won two domestic finals already this season on penalty shootouts and have lost just one of their 34 matches played so far in 2022.  

Moreover, Liverpool are now a team who can beat you in different ways. As Martínez added in that UEFA TV interview, they are “a team that can defend high, a team that can press straight away, a team that can defend the ball, a team that can hurt you in possession, a team that can hurt you in set plays”. On which subject, their total of eight set-piece goals in the 2021/22 campaign is the most of any side, their threat right across the pitch (and substitutes’ bench) highlighted by the fact that 11 different Liverpool players have got on the scoresheet on the road to Saint-Denis.

Liverpool player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has already put smiles on the faces of Reds followers by ending speculation about his future, as he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I am staying next season for sure.” His next job is to make amends for the pain of leaving the 2018 final defeat against Madrid injured. “It was a sad day for all of us and now it’s revenge time,” he said after collecting his Footballer of the Year award earlier this month. Salah, who ended a seven-game scoreless sequence with a goal against Wolves last weekend, converted a penalty against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. A goal against Madrid would doubtless taste doubly sweet.

Real Madrid player to watch: Karim Benzema

It is hard to look beyond this remarkable 34-year-old who scored hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea en route to the final and ranks first in this season's Champions League scorers’ chart with 15. He has an extraordinary nose for goal against Premier League opposition too, with 16 from 22 Champions League games against English clubs – including one against Liverpool in that 3-1 Kyiv final success. It is not just his goals either but his intelligent work outside the penalty box, drifting out wide to link up so effectively with Vinícius Júnior.

Key battle: Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinícius Júnior

Vinícius Júnior scored twice when Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s quarter-final. He could have a key role again if Los Blancos are to prevail, given his connection with Benzema (four assists for the Frenchman). There's also the threat he could bring with his speed in an area of the field where Liverpool do leave space, as Alexander Arnold pushes into the opposition half to attack.

The Liverpool right-back has four assists so far in this campaign and his offensive contribution extends far beyond his magnificent crosses and dead balls – illustrated by the fact that he has had the most touches of any Liverpool player (853 from eight matches), which is just 15 fewer than Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić has managed.  Back in 2019 Graeme Souness described Alexander-Arnold as a “false full-back” for his playmaking powers; the flipside on Saturday is that the players behind him as he pushes up – notably the pacy centre-back on his side, Ibrahima Konaté – will have to stay vigilant.

Numbers to note

5 – This is Ancelotti's fifth Champions League final as a coach and he is looking to become the first coach to win the trophy four times. For Klopp, meanwhile, it is the fourth final. Five is also the number of winners’ medals now within reach of Madrid squad members Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Modrić, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

7 – Liverpool are looking to join AC Milan on seven European Cups wins. As for 13-times winners Madrid, they have won their last seven finals. The last time they lost one? Against Liverpool in 1981 in Paris.  

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

“They are veterans. We will outrun them.” These were the words of Vujadin Boškov, the then Real Madrid coach, before the 1981 European Cup final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Paris. As the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France, a similar argument can be heard – but applied the other way round.

Rafa Benítez, a coach who knows both clubs so well, has suggested that Liverpool’s “intensity” could be the undoing of a Madrid side with three key midfielders all in their thirties. Benítez, speaking to the Sunday Times last weekend, cited as evidence the almighty fright that Chelsea gave Real at the Bernabéu in the quarter-finals, jumping into a 3-0 lead before eventually losing out in extra time.  

Chelsea played with three players forward for most of that evening and Timo Werner’s pace caused no end of trouble as the London side accumulated 28 shots – more than any other team in any game of this season’s knockout stage. The speed of Liverpool’s own forwards and the intensity the Reds can generate hints at some stormy moments for the Madrid defence - albeit, if any team can weather a storm it is the Spanish champions.

Indeed what makes this final so hard to call is the other factor that emerged that night against Chelsea. As El País put it afterwards: “Football goes one way, Real another.” In other words, never underestimate the remarkable capacity of the Los Blancos to defy logic. Never mind Rocky coming off the canvas, their comebacks in this campaign have been more akin (warning: '80s pop culture reference) to Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas. Shot dead an entire season of the series earlier, but now very much alive. And freshly showered.

Reflecting on Madrid’s stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea, Roberto Martínez, one of UEFA’s match observers, told UEFA TV this week: “Real Madrid have got this incredible capacity that whatever happens in this game, that action is going to finish in the back of the net .. that piece of magic. Madrid go into these emotional power [moments] that they just brush you aside. There is not footballing reason…”

The beauty of Saturday’s final is that Liverpool have their own remarkable mindset. Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side were on the receiving end of that still hard-to-fathom fightback in Istanbul in 2005, will not need telling. “Mentality monsters” was the phrase Jürgen Klopp dusted off after his men overturned a two-goal deficit to win their semi-final second leg 2-0 at Villarreal. It is no exaggeration. They have won two domestic finals already this season on penalty shootouts and have lost just one of their 34 matches played so far in 2022.  

Moreover, Liverpool are now a team who can beat you in different ways. As Martínez added in that UEFA TV interview, they are “a team that can defend high, a team that can press straight away, a team that can defend the ball, a team that can hurt you in possession, a team that can hurt you in set plays”. On which subject, their total of eight set-piece goals in the 2021/22 campaign is the most of any side, their threat right across the pitch (and substitutes’ bench) highlighted by the fact that 11 different Liverpool players have got on the scoresheet on the road to Saint-Denis.

Liverpool player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has already put smiles on the faces of Reds followers by ending speculation about his future, as he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I am staying next season for sure.” His next job is to make amends for the pain of leaving the 2018 final defeat against Madrid injured. “It was a sad day for all of us and now it’s revenge time,” he said after collecting his Footballer of the Year award earlier this month. Salah, who ended a seven-game scoreless sequence with a goal against Wolves last weekend, converted a penalty against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. A goal against Madrid would doubtless taste doubly sweet.

Real Madrid player to watch: Karim Benzema

It is hard to look beyond this remarkable 34-year-old who scored hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea en route to the final and ranks first in this season's Champions League scorers’ chart with 15. He has an extraordinary nose for goal against Premier League opposition too, with 16 from 22 Champions League games against English clubs – including one against Liverpool in that 3-1 Kyiv final success. It is not just his goals either but his intelligent work outside the penalty box, drifting out wide to link up so effectively with Vinícius Júnior.

Key battle: Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinícius Júnior

Vinícius Júnior scored twice when Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s quarter-final. He could have a key role again if Los Blancos are to prevail, given his connection with Benzema (four assists for the Frenchman). There's also the threat he could bring with his speed in an area of the field where Liverpool do leave space, as Alexander Arnold pushes into the opposition half to attack.

The Liverpool right-back has four assists so far in this campaign and his offensive contribution extends far beyond his magnificent crosses and dead balls – illustrated by the fact that he has had the most touches of any Liverpool player (853 from eight matches), which is just 15 fewer than Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić has managed.  Back in 2019 Graeme Souness described Alexander-Arnold as a “false full-back” for his playmaking powers; the flipside on Saturday is that the players behind him as he pushes up – notably the pacy centre-back on his side, Ibrahima Konaté – will have to stay vigilant.

Numbers to note

5 – This is Ancelotti's fifth Champions League final as a coach and he is looking to become the first coach to win the trophy four times. For Klopp, meanwhile, it is the fourth final. Five is also the number of winners’ medals now within reach of Madrid squad members Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Modrić, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

7 – Liverpool are looking to join AC Milan on seven European Cups wins. As for 13-times winners Madrid, they have won their last seven finals. The last time they lost one? Against Liverpool in 1981 in Paris.  

Next stop, Paris
Blog

Next stop, Paris

Mo Salah's French redemption, Real Madrid's unstoppable knockout number 9 and a rematch of the 2018 final: Simon Hart is back with his final pre-match preview of the campaign

“They are veterans. We will outrun them.” These were the words of Vujadin Boškov, the then Real Madrid coach, before the 1981 European Cup final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Paris. As the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France, a similar argument can be heard – but applied the other way round.

Rafa Benítez, a coach who knows both clubs so well, has suggested that Liverpool’s “intensity” could be the undoing of a Madrid side with three key midfielders all in their thirties. Benítez, speaking to the Sunday Times last weekend, cited as evidence the almighty fright that Chelsea gave Real at the Bernabéu in the quarter-finals, jumping into a 3-0 lead before eventually losing out in extra time.  

Chelsea played with three players forward for most of that evening and Timo Werner’s pace caused no end of trouble as the London side accumulated 28 shots – more than any other team in any game of this season’s knockout stage. The speed of Liverpool’s own forwards and the intensity the Reds can generate hints at some stormy moments for the Madrid defence - albeit, if any team can weather a storm it is the Spanish champions.

Indeed what makes this final so hard to call is the other factor that emerged that night against Chelsea. As El País put it afterwards: “Football goes one way, Real another.” In other words, never underestimate the remarkable capacity of the Los Blancos to defy logic. Never mind Rocky coming off the canvas, their comebacks in this campaign have been more akin (warning: '80s pop culture reference) to Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas. Shot dead an entire season of the series earlier, but now very much alive. And freshly showered.

Reflecting on Madrid’s stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea, Roberto Martínez, one of UEFA’s match observers, told UEFA TV this week: “Real Madrid have got this incredible capacity that whatever happens in this game, that action is going to finish in the back of the net .. that piece of magic. Madrid go into these emotional power [moments] that they just brush you aside. There is not footballing reason…”

The beauty of Saturday’s final is that Liverpool have their own remarkable mindset. Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side were on the receiving end of that still hard-to-fathom fightback in Istanbul in 2005, will not need telling. “Mentality monsters” was the phrase Jürgen Klopp dusted off after his men overturned a two-goal deficit to win their semi-final second leg 2-0 at Villarreal. It is no exaggeration. They have won two domestic finals already this season on penalty shootouts and have lost just one of their 34 matches played so far in 2022.  

Moreover, Liverpool are now a team who can beat you in different ways. As Martínez added in that UEFA TV interview, they are “a team that can defend high, a team that can press straight away, a team that can defend the ball, a team that can hurt you in possession, a team that can hurt you in set plays”. On which subject, their total of eight set-piece goals in the 2021/22 campaign is the most of any side, their threat right across the pitch (and substitutes’ bench) highlighted by the fact that 11 different Liverpool players have got on the scoresheet on the road to Saint-Denis.

Liverpool player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has already put smiles on the faces of Reds followers by ending speculation about his future, as he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I am staying next season for sure.” His next job is to make amends for the pain of leaving the 2018 final defeat against Madrid injured. “It was a sad day for all of us and now it’s revenge time,” he said after collecting his Footballer of the Year award earlier this month. Salah, who ended a seven-game scoreless sequence with a goal against Wolves last weekend, converted a penalty against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. A goal against Madrid would doubtless taste doubly sweet.

Real Madrid player to watch: Karim Benzema

It is hard to look beyond this remarkable 34-year-old who scored hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea en route to the final and ranks first in this season's Champions League scorers’ chart with 15. He has an extraordinary nose for goal against Premier League opposition too, with 16 from 22 Champions League games against English clubs – including one against Liverpool in that 3-1 Kyiv final success. It is not just his goals either but his intelligent work outside the penalty box, drifting out wide to link up so effectively with Vinícius Júnior.

Key battle: Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinícius Júnior

Vinícius Júnior scored twice when Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s quarter-final. He could have a key role again if Los Blancos are to prevail, given his connection with Benzema (four assists for the Frenchman). There's also the threat he could bring with his speed in an area of the field where Liverpool do leave space, as Alexander Arnold pushes into the opposition half to attack.

The Liverpool right-back has four assists so far in this campaign and his offensive contribution extends far beyond his magnificent crosses and dead balls – illustrated by the fact that he has had the most touches of any Liverpool player (853 from eight matches), which is just 15 fewer than Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić has managed.  Back in 2019 Graeme Souness described Alexander-Arnold as a “false full-back” for his playmaking powers; the flipside on Saturday is that the players behind him as he pushes up – notably the pacy centre-back on his side, Ibrahima Konaté – will have to stay vigilant.

Numbers to note

5 – This is Ancelotti's fifth Champions League final as a coach and he is looking to become the first coach to win the trophy four times. For Klopp, meanwhile, it is the fourth final. Five is also the number of winners’ medals now within reach of Madrid squad members Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Modrić, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

7 – Liverpool are looking to join AC Milan on seven European Cups wins. As for 13-times winners Madrid, they have won their last seven finals. The last time they lost one? Against Liverpool in 1981 in Paris.  

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

“They are veterans. We will outrun them.” These were the words of Vujadin Boškov, the then Real Madrid coach, before the 1981 European Cup final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Paris. As the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France, a similar argument can be heard – but applied the other way round.

Rafa Benítez, a coach who knows both clubs so well, has suggested that Liverpool’s “intensity” could be the undoing of a Madrid side with three key midfielders all in their thirties. Benítez, speaking to the Sunday Times last weekend, cited as evidence the almighty fright that Chelsea gave Real at the Bernabéu in the quarter-finals, jumping into a 3-0 lead before eventually losing out in extra time.  

Chelsea played with three players forward for most of that evening and Timo Werner’s pace caused no end of trouble as the London side accumulated 28 shots – more than any other team in any game of this season’s knockout stage. The speed of Liverpool’s own forwards and the intensity the Reds can generate hints at some stormy moments for the Madrid defence - albeit, if any team can weather a storm it is the Spanish champions.

Indeed what makes this final so hard to call is the other factor that emerged that night against Chelsea. As El País put it afterwards: “Football goes one way, Real another.” In other words, never underestimate the remarkable capacity of the Los Blancos to defy logic. Never mind Rocky coming off the canvas, their comebacks in this campaign have been more akin (warning: '80s pop culture reference) to Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas. Shot dead an entire season of the series earlier, but now very much alive. And freshly showered.

Reflecting on Madrid’s stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea, Roberto Martínez, one of UEFA’s match observers, told UEFA TV this week: “Real Madrid have got this incredible capacity that whatever happens in this game, that action is going to finish in the back of the net .. that piece of magic. Madrid go into these emotional power [moments] that they just brush you aside. There is not footballing reason…”

The beauty of Saturday’s final is that Liverpool have their own remarkable mindset. Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side were on the receiving end of that still hard-to-fathom fightback in Istanbul in 2005, will not need telling. “Mentality monsters” was the phrase Jürgen Klopp dusted off after his men overturned a two-goal deficit to win their semi-final second leg 2-0 at Villarreal. It is no exaggeration. They have won two domestic finals already this season on penalty shootouts and have lost just one of their 34 matches played so far in 2022.  

Moreover, Liverpool are now a team who can beat you in different ways. As Martínez added in that UEFA TV interview, they are “a team that can defend high, a team that can press straight away, a team that can defend the ball, a team that can hurt you in possession, a team that can hurt you in set plays”. On which subject, their total of eight set-piece goals in the 2021/22 campaign is the most of any side, their threat right across the pitch (and substitutes’ bench) highlighted by the fact that 11 different Liverpool players have got on the scoresheet on the road to Saint-Denis.

Liverpool player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has already put smiles on the faces of Reds followers by ending speculation about his future, as he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I am staying next season for sure.” His next job is to make amends for the pain of leaving the 2018 final defeat against Madrid injured. “It was a sad day for all of us and now it’s revenge time,” he said after collecting his Footballer of the Year award earlier this month. Salah, who ended a seven-game scoreless sequence with a goal against Wolves last weekend, converted a penalty against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. A goal against Madrid would doubtless taste doubly sweet.

Real Madrid player to watch: Karim Benzema

It is hard to look beyond this remarkable 34-year-old who scored hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea en route to the final and ranks first in this season's Champions League scorers’ chart with 15. He has an extraordinary nose for goal against Premier League opposition too, with 16 from 22 Champions League games against English clubs – including one against Liverpool in that 3-1 Kyiv final success. It is not just his goals either but his intelligent work outside the penalty box, drifting out wide to link up so effectively with Vinícius Júnior.

Key battle: Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinícius Júnior

Vinícius Júnior scored twice when Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s quarter-final. He could have a key role again if Los Blancos are to prevail, given his connection with Benzema (four assists for the Frenchman). There's also the threat he could bring with his speed in an area of the field where Liverpool do leave space, as Alexander Arnold pushes into the opposition half to attack.

The Liverpool right-back has four assists so far in this campaign and his offensive contribution extends far beyond his magnificent crosses and dead balls – illustrated by the fact that he has had the most touches of any Liverpool player (853 from eight matches), which is just 15 fewer than Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić has managed.  Back in 2019 Graeme Souness described Alexander-Arnold as a “false full-back” for his playmaking powers; the flipside on Saturday is that the players behind him as he pushes up – notably the pacy centre-back on his side, Ibrahima Konaté – will have to stay vigilant.

Numbers to note

5 – This is Ancelotti's fifth Champions League final as a coach and he is looking to become the first coach to win the trophy four times. For Klopp, meanwhile, it is the fourth final. Five is also the number of winners’ medals now within reach of Madrid squad members Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Modrić, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

7 – Liverpool are looking to join AC Milan on seven European Cups wins. As for 13-times winners Madrid, they have won their last seven finals. The last time they lost one? Against Liverpool in 1981 in Paris.  

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

“They are veterans. We will outrun them.” These were the words of Vujadin Boškov, the then Real Madrid coach, before the 1981 European Cup final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Paris. As the teams prepare to meet in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France, a similar argument can be heard – but applied the other way round.

Rafa Benítez, a coach who knows both clubs so well, has suggested that Liverpool’s “intensity” could be the undoing of a Madrid side with three key midfielders all in their thirties. Benítez, speaking to the Sunday Times last weekend, cited as evidence the almighty fright that Chelsea gave Real at the Bernabéu in the quarter-finals, jumping into a 3-0 lead before eventually losing out in extra time.  

Chelsea played with three players forward for most of that evening and Timo Werner’s pace caused no end of trouble as the London side accumulated 28 shots – more than any other team in any game of this season’s knockout stage. The speed of Liverpool’s own forwards and the intensity the Reds can generate hints at some stormy moments for the Madrid defence - albeit, if any team can weather a storm it is the Spanish champions.

Indeed what makes this final so hard to call is the other factor that emerged that night against Chelsea. As El País put it afterwards: “Football goes one way, Real another.” In other words, never underestimate the remarkable capacity of the Los Blancos to defy logic. Never mind Rocky coming off the canvas, their comebacks in this campaign have been more akin (warning: '80s pop culture reference) to Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas. Shot dead an entire season of the series earlier, but now very much alive. And freshly showered.

Reflecting on Madrid’s stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea, Roberto Martínez, one of UEFA’s match observers, told UEFA TV this week: “Real Madrid have got this incredible capacity that whatever happens in this game, that action is going to finish in the back of the net .. that piece of magic. Madrid go into these emotional power [moments] that they just brush you aside. There is not footballing reason…”

The beauty of Saturday’s final is that Liverpool have their own remarkable mindset. Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side were on the receiving end of that still hard-to-fathom fightback in Istanbul in 2005, will not need telling. “Mentality monsters” was the phrase Jürgen Klopp dusted off after his men overturned a two-goal deficit to win their semi-final second leg 2-0 at Villarreal. It is no exaggeration. They have won two domestic finals already this season on penalty shootouts and have lost just one of their 34 matches played so far in 2022.  

Moreover, Liverpool are now a team who can beat you in different ways. As Martínez added in that UEFA TV interview, they are “a team that can defend high, a team that can press straight away, a team that can defend the ball, a team that can hurt you in possession, a team that can hurt you in set plays”. On which subject, their total of eight set-piece goals in the 2021/22 campaign is the most of any side, their threat right across the pitch (and substitutes’ bench) highlighted by the fact that 11 different Liverpool players have got on the scoresheet on the road to Saint-Denis.

Liverpool player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian has already put smiles on the faces of Reds followers by ending speculation about his future, as he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I am staying next season for sure.” His next job is to make amends for the pain of leaving the 2018 final defeat against Madrid injured. “It was a sad day for all of us and now it’s revenge time,” he said after collecting his Footballer of the Year award earlier this month. Salah, who ended a seven-game scoreless sequence with a goal against Wolves last weekend, converted a penalty against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. A goal against Madrid would doubtless taste doubly sweet.

Real Madrid player to watch: Karim Benzema

It is hard to look beyond this remarkable 34-year-old who scored hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea en route to the final and ranks first in this season's Champions League scorers’ chart with 15. He has an extraordinary nose for goal against Premier League opposition too, with 16 from 22 Champions League games against English clubs – including one against Liverpool in that 3-1 Kyiv final success. It is not just his goals either but his intelligent work outside the penalty box, drifting out wide to link up so effectively with Vinícius Júnior.

Key battle: Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinícius Júnior

Vinícius Júnior scored twice when Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s quarter-final. He could have a key role again if Los Blancos are to prevail, given his connection with Benzema (four assists for the Frenchman). There's also the threat he could bring with his speed in an area of the field where Liverpool do leave space, as Alexander Arnold pushes into the opposition half to attack.

The Liverpool right-back has four assists so far in this campaign and his offensive contribution extends far beyond his magnificent crosses and dead balls – illustrated by the fact that he has had the most touches of any Liverpool player (853 from eight matches), which is just 15 fewer than Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić has managed.  Back in 2019 Graeme Souness described Alexander-Arnold as a “false full-back” for his playmaking powers; the flipside on Saturday is that the players behind him as he pushes up – notably the pacy centre-back on his side, Ibrahima Konaté – will have to stay vigilant.

Numbers to note

5 – This is Ancelotti's fifth Champions League final as a coach and he is looking to become the first coach to win the trophy four times. For Klopp, meanwhile, it is the fourth final. Five is also the number of winners’ medals now within reach of Madrid squad members Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Modrić, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

7 – Liverpool are looking to join AC Milan on seven European Cups wins. As for 13-times winners Madrid, they have won their last seven finals. The last time they lost one? Against Liverpool in 1981 in Paris.  

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

To access this article, as well as all CJ+ content and competitions, you will need a subscription to Champions Journal.
Already a subscriber? Sign in
close
Special Offers
christmas offer
Christmas CHEER
Up to 40% off
Start shopping
50% off
game night flash sale!!!
Don't miss out
00
Hours
:
00
minutes
:
00
Seconds
Valid on selected products only. subscriptions not included
close