No doubt, this season’s Uefa Champions League has been an amazing campaign. It came with a lot of surprises such as Arsenal not qualifying for the first time in 21years, Sevilla knocking out Manchester United, A.S Roma doing an almost impossible comeback to eject Barcelona from the competition and despite all these during the course of the campaign, two clubs- Liverpool and Real Madrid made it through to the finals in grand style.
With Liverpool getting back to Europe’s most prestigious club competition for the first time in years and with a front trio- (Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino) that could destroy the best of defence lines, the Reds cruised all through the competition.
Breaking different goal scoring records of the competition’s history, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool had scored a whopping 49 goals all through the 2017//2018 Uefa champions’ league campaign. From making it out of the group stages, to defeating FC Porto in the round of 16 and dismantling Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the last 8 before arrowing down the comeback kings, A.S Roma in the semis, the reds have been so good with putting the ball at the back of their opponents’ nets.
Despite been so good in front of goal, same cannot be said of the reds’ defence as they keep leaking in goals in every match. The defence despite having a 75million pounds Dutch player, Van Dijk leading it has been suspect which makes the club rely only on its attacking prowess.
With finals against an experienced side in Real Madrid, who are also the defending champions, looking to win the league three times in a row, Klopp has a lot of work to do if his team’s defensive woes are not to be exposed on the night.
For the men from the Santiago bernabeu, it has been re-invigorating an almost dead season for them with the bad start to the season in all competitions. From losing tabs with the La Liga title and crashing out easily from the Spanish Cup, and almost crashing out of the group stages of the Uefa Champions League, the Galacticos came back stronger in the new year and have never looked back.
Knowing fully well, the UCL was their last hope of silverware this season, Real Madrid have been sensational in the knock out stages. From plotting PSG’s downfall home and away to controversially knocking out Juventus in the last 8 and calmly dispatching Bayern Munich in the last 4, Real inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo’s 15 goal tally no doubts have proven critics wrong.
With a coach in Zinedine Zidane yet to be defeated in the knockout stages since he got appointed and also winning the Cup twice consecutively with a third looming, Real Madrid look more of a favourite going into the finals with experienced legs like Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Lukas Modric, Marcelo and the goal scoring touch of the world’s best football player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Head to head
With Liverpool being the most successful club from England in the Champions league and Real Madrid the most successful club in the competition, these two finalists have a history in the competition having met twice. And judging from these meetings, Real Madrid have never scored against Liverpool and neither have they won any game against the Reds.
The first meeting between these two clubs was in 1981 with both clubs having to endure a disastrous season that year. Liverpool managed to finish fifth in the league and managing to qualify for Uefa Cup after defeating West ham United in the League Cup finals. On the other hand, Real Madrid lost the La liga to a last minute goal that earned Real Sociedad the trophy that year. All was set for an entertaining European Cup finals in Paris, France with both clubs looking to salvage their woeful season.
At the end of 90 minutes, Liverpool came out tops courtesy of a lone goal from Alan Kennedy to win her third European Cup.
2009 was the second time, the Reds clashed with the Galacticos again. This time in a two legged affair of 2009 UCL Round of 16 with Liverpool travelling to Spain with lots of troubles having lost tab with the EPL title race after 2 wins in 6.
The then manger, Rafa Benitez was on the brink of leaving with skipper, Steven Gerrard missing the game to injury, Liverpool had lots of work to do.
Real Madrid on their part looked set for a double victory. With players like Arjen Robben, Raul, Higuain in the Madrid squad and playing in front of 85,000 fans at the Santiago Bernabeau, it all looked like Madrid’s day. But then, Liverpool had other ideas as they were well organised defensively, managing the shape and causing troubles with the counters through Fernando Torres.
Things got worse for the reds as Torres pulled up with an ankle injury and Gerrard not fit enough to feature in the game.
10 minutes left on the clock, Yossi Benayoun headed home from an expertly taken Aurelio free-kick. Bernabeu went silent as Liverpool took the lead and Madrid were losing to Liverpool again.
Slim victory it looked heading into the second-leg in Anfield, Madrid still had a chance in the tie. But if wishes were horses, Liverpool ran riot over a fragile Madrid team with Torres starting the goal scoring, returnee captain, Gerrard made it two from the spot before adding a second after good work from Ryan Babel and Dossena rounded up the scoring as Liverpool thumped Real Madrid 4 nil.
In two outings against the reds, Real Madrid have neither won nor scored.
But come Saturday, in Kyiv, we will know if Liverpool’s good record will continue or Madrid with the calibre of players they have got, will break the jinx and be crowned Champions for a third time in a row.