It is the Champions League night we all have been waiting for! For the final time this season, two fierce European rivals are going to clash for the “most priced for silverware”. It is Liverpool versus Real Madrid, in the Final of the 2021/22 UCL.
It is the European Royalties against the Mentality Monsters, the Mighty Reds against the Royal Whites- and it cannot get any better than this! When we say a UCL final should be of some substance, some sort of a rivalry or another- well Liverpool vs Real Madrid is one of those spectacles, as the 13 times champions take on the 6 times champions from England. Each of the two giants will look to one-up the other. While Klopp’s mentality monsters will be looking to close the trophy gap to 6, Carlo Ancelotti’s warriors will look to increase the gap up ahead by winning their 14th.
Although, there isn’t much to separate the two sides on paper. However, given the recent surge of supremacy, Klopp’s men go in as favourites to win but not by much difference in the odds.
While Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti know the importance of such fixtures, and will not just go by the stats or even by the odds. Even more so, both of the managers have a great ball knowledge to know for a fact that run of forms don’t matter coming into the final showdown- and specially in the final of the UCL. Champions League football is much awaited for a reason. Here, underdogs have a tendency to upset their much-favoured opponents.
The Reds, however, are one of the 3 teams to finish at the top of the pile in the group stages with a 100% record. On the other hand, the Royal Whites finished at the top of Group D after the 6 games, conceding only a single loss.
HISTORY OF THE CLASH
Meanwhile, many viewers are said to have been believing it as a Replay of the 2018 Final, between the two sides- when the Spanish giants beat the English side, 3-1, in the infamous horror show from Karius at the back. Hence, viewing this fixture as revenge for Jurgen Klopp and co.
But, what remains unheard of is the fact that it actually might be the other way around. Yes! You heard me correct- it might be revenge for a thousand of the Madridistas around the globe, for something that takes us way back in time. For context, Real Madrid have won the last 7 finals out of the 7 appearances in the Champions League showdown. They hold the best record of appearing in the finals of the elite European competition, as well as winning it, with the Spanish giants winning it 13 times out of the total 16 times they have appeared.
However, coming back on the topic, Real’s latest UCL final loss is dated way back in the 1980/1981 season. On the 27th of May, 1981, in a packed Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris- Madrid lost the final by just a solitary goal scored by none other than Liverpool’s star man at the time Ian Rush.
So, indeed, it is 50-50 on the basis of who can get the revenge on the other; considering it was the Reds who beat them last in the final, Madrid fans might feel a payback is due while the Kopites will cling on the fresh memories from the 2018 final- where they were left distraught by an out of sorts Keeper.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue – Parc des Princes.
Date – Saturday, 28th May 2022.
Time – 8 PM GMT.
CONTEBALL: MADRID UNDER DON CARLO HAVE BEEN BACK IN THEIR SUBLIME FORM
Firstly, we have to know that Madrid and the Santiago Bernabeu are no strangers to the tactical tweaks of their revered Italian Coach, Carlo Ancelotti aka Don Carlo. The first time was very special, indeed- and you know it because Madrid and Perez trusted him with another shot to mark his return at the helm in 2021, after his departure in 2015.
He was at the heart of the things, in the infamous La Decima (the tenth) UCL title victory for the Spanish giants. And yet again, the so-called CarloBall seems to be working for Real Madrid. So, what is it that has triggered such a massive change in the side’s performances from the last season?!
The main thing Carlo Ancelotti has to offer is the promise of a fluid football. Since he was appointed as the successor to Jose Mourinho, in 2013, he changed the formation style from 4-2-3-1 to the more modern 4-3-3. And even now, we can see that the Royal Whites lineup in the same way. But the difference to the Italian’s 4-3-3 is the fact that the in-match positions of each of the players just change accordingly.
Recent spectacle of the same was seen in the remarkable comeback against Manchester City, in the semi-finals of the Champions League this season. Madrid started in the same 4-3-3 fashion, but until the City goal- scored by Mahrez- the formation kept changing from 4-1-1-1-3 to 4-1-2-3. With Kroos being the player to be able to shift between the two positions in the midfield, covering for Casemiro at times.
However, the Italian manager saw that something big was required as the time was running by, so he brought on Rodrygo, Asensio and Camavinga for the 3 experienced midfielders- Kroos, Casemiro and Modric- in the span of just 7 minutes. Many Madrid fans accepted that they were furious when the 3 maestros were subbed-off, but at the same time, they were stunned that those were the moves that led to a remarkable comeback.
As we go deep into it, we can clearly see that for the last 10 minutes of the 90 minutes Madrid lined up in a full attacking formation of 4-1-4-1- that later turned into 4-1-5 to cramp up the City box. The sole purpose of it was to suffocate their opposition’s defence, leading to the loss of possession in the final thirds and hitting them on the break. In short, it was a masterclass from Carlo Ancelotti- but one that did not come as a surprise as the Italian has got the skillset to pull it off.
Going into the Final on Saturday, the former Italian player turned coach, Ancelotti will urge his players to be composed at the back and attack on will using the prowess of the phenom, i.e., Karim Benzema- as has been the case all season long.
As the world now knows the heavy metal pressing tactics of the Reds, since Jurgen Klopp introduced gegenpressing, the Royal Whites cannot even let this Liverpool side have the slightest of openings. Rather, Don Carlo would want them to play to their strengths and lure the visitors into committing mistakes.
THE GERMAN COUNTERPART MIGHT STICK TO THE USUAL, SEEING HIS TEAM’S RECENT FORM
Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, has nothing new to add to what his team has been doing lately. Gegenpressing when out of possession; Pass and play when in possession; Take it to the wider areas, whip a cross in and score! The instructions are predictable, so the question pops up: How are Liverpool sides still unplayable every time they set out to play? To be clear, the play might be predictable. But the in-game instructions, during the course of the game, is the USP to success for the German coach. Moreover, the recent developments have spoiled the threat for many oppositions.
At the start of this season, Liverpool’s gameplay was criticised. The main reason was the amount of crosses each of the fullbacks, Trent & Robertson, whipped inside the box during the course of a single game. Adding to this, there was no flow to the play from the middle. Jurgen Klopp, however, has marshalled his players now- in a way that there is a rhythmic flow to the ball movement. Though the intensity of the crosses per game is still high, it does not affect the overall complexion of the play.
In the second half of the season, specifically, Liverpool have been just phenomenal. From coping with the absence of Salah and Mane due to AFCON to making sure everyone remains fit for almost the entirety of the season- where they are on course to play the maximum amount of games in a season available to them, following their clash against Real Madrid on Saturday.
While, in the final third, Liverpool players have looked to resort to the two touch passing, players like Thiago, the new signing in Luis Diaz, and Mane have all stepped up during the hectic period of the club. This has looked to help them pass and move the ball, even in the tighter defensive areas.
However, in the last 3/4 games the Reds have looked fatigued- and why not! When you have to shuffle a limited squad, to compete successfully around 4 tough competitions. It ought to get difficult at times! But Kudos to the whole LFC team, including the staff, what a relentless season they have had.
The German coach, Jurgen Klopp will expect no less than a similar performance again from his in-form players. Keeping in mind that they cannot afford even a moment of distraction throughout the course of the Final, as the in-form players like Benzema, and Vinicius, will all latch on to it and score. And in the final, any team who concedes first would feel the psychological pressure mounting up.
It is not just a final between the two fierce European rivals, but also it is a tactical battle between the coaches. Italy vs Germany; it is Don Carlo vs Jurgen Norbert Klopp – who will triumph? Just 3 Days to go!
Liverpool are coming off from another frustrating league loss to rivals, Manchester City- losing the title on the final day by a solitary point. However, their focus lies clearly in the final match-up against Madrid, in Paris on Saturday.
But, in light of an amazing season, where Klopp’s men have been doing well domestically as well as in European wise- it seems that some players might have been fatigued due to their overexertion on the pitch. We saw it for Fabinho, how he clutched onto his hamstrings against Aston Villa in the Premier League, 2 weeks ago. While Mo Salah and Van Dijk both were subbed off in the FA Cup final triumph over Chelsea.
Meanwhile, the trio is set to make a full appearance in the final of the UEFA Champions League on Saturday. However, Thiago, their unsung hero this season has been ruled out of it! During the final matchday of the Premier League, against Wolves, the Spanish master passer of the ball experienced a tension in his Achilles tendon- that saw him limp off the field in agony. No doubt it is a big blow for Jurgen Klopp, seeing how influential Thiago’s presence in the midfield has been.
Other than that, the German will go in with full strength from back to front. With a successful new front three in Salah, Mane and Diaz expected to be unleashed for the last time this season.
As for Real Madrid, they have been given some leverage of rest over their opponents. The Spanish giants were crowned the La Liga Champions with 4 games left to spare, so Ancelotti did not have to take risks in playing a full squad a week before the showdown in Paris.
The Spanish giants have no major concerns going into the UCL final, aside from a minor doubt about their Brazilian ace Marcelo. Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that the players are well-rested, and are ready to take on the challenge. So, we might see the usual playing XI that has been doing so well throughout the season, being laid out against the Reds.
In addition to that, Eden Hazard could be seen on the bench after successfully recovering from his injury, alongside Bale – who might get a few minutes in his final game, in Royal White Jersey.
Liverpool predicted XI vs Real Madrid: Alisson; Trent, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Mane, Diaz.
Real Madrid predicted XI vs Liverpool: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.