Six-time winners Liverpool take on record 13-time winners Real Madrid at the Stade de France for the 2021/22 Champions League final on Saturday.
Forty-one years on from the first battle between the two sides, the 2022 edition serves up the trilogy with Liverpool, and particularly Mohamed Salah, eager to take their revenge.
Liverpool have defeated Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal en route to the final, while Real Madrid have prevailed against a trio of European heavyweights after sending Chelsea, PSG and Man City packing against the odds.
Liverpool have secured two out of the three available trophies so far this season, winning the Carabao and FA Cups and just narrowly losing out on the Premier League title following a dramatic late City comeback on the final day of the season.
The double winners came back from an early Pedro Neto goal to run out 3-1 victors against Wolves at Anfield, only to see Pep Guardiola’s side come from two goals down against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa to earn the Citizens back-to-back titles.
While few Liverpool fans would have turned their nose up at two trophies at the beginning of the season, the consistent performances produced by Klopp’s side have left many feeling a treble would be more than deserved.
Liverpool were made to do it the hard way against semi-final opponents Villarreal and European specialist Unai Emery, coming from two goals down at the Estadio de la Ceramica to win 3-2 on the night (5-2 on aggregate).
This will be the 10th time Liverpool have appeared in the final of the European Cup/Champions League and Klopp’s side will be keen to make amends against Los Blancos for the 2018 final defeat.
Liverpool have won 10 of their 12 Champions League matches this season (D1, L1). The only English side to win more in a single campaign were Man City in 2020/21 (11).
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has taken on Real Madrid more times than any other opponent in the UEFA Champions League (9), winning just three of those matches (D2, L4). Among teams he has faced at least three times in the competition, his win percentage of 33% against Madrid is his lowest.
At Dortmund, he reached the 2012/13 Champions League final at Wembley against Bayern Munich, ultimately edged out by a last-gasp Arjen Robben winner to lose 2-1.
Klopp has won an impressive 12 trophies across his time managing at Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, including the 2018/19 Champions League title.
In terms of injury news, Reds fans were understandably worried about Thiago Alcantara’s inclusion after heading straight down the tunnel against Wolves due to a first half injury. However, beIN SPORTS’ Carrie Brown has confirmed the Spaniard is available for action.
Liverpool will also hope to welcome back Fabinho who returned to team training Wednesday, while Joe Gomez should also make the squad. Virgin van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were restricted to places on the bench last weekend but are expected to return to the first XI.
Diogo Jota is expected to make way for Salah, while Ibrahima Konate will be looking to cement his place ahead of Joel Matip following his fine performances in Europe’s premier club competition.
Liverpool Predicted Team:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz
Real Madrid have consistently defied the odds throughout the 2021/22 Champions League campaign. Carlo Ancelotti’s side managed to overturn a two-goal deficit against PSG, defeated reigning champions Chelsea after going 3-0 down at the Bernabeu and even went on to overcome Man City after letting in four goals at the Etihad.
The forms of front men Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior have played a large part in propelling Los Blancos to yet another Champions League final. However it was an inspired Rodrygo substitution that has made it all possible.
Man City held a two goal, 5-3 aggregate lead in the semi-final second leg following Riyad Mahrez’s opener – however Rodrygo netted twice in two minutes with full-time fast approaching to force an additional half hour of extra time.
It was Benzema’s penalty which proved decisive, leaving Pep Guardiola’s side wondering how on earth they had not made the final.
Real Madrid are aiming to win the European Cup/UEFA Champions League for a record-extending 14th time, which would then be twice as many as any other team (7, AC Milan).
This would also mark the first Champions League title since veterans Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos left the club, potentially ushering in a new era of success for the tournament’s most prestigious club.
Real Madrid have scored 2+ goals in nine of their last 10 UEFA Champions League matches, including each of their last five in a row. The only side in the competition’s history to score 2+ goals in six consecutive knockout stage games in a single campaign were Man City last season.
Karim Benzema has enjoyed his most prolific campaign to date. He has hit 44 goals across all competitions and is the leading Champions League goalscorer with 15 strikes. 10 of those goals came during the knockout stages, equaling former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo’s record set in the 2016/17 season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have failed to keep a clean sheet in this season’s Champions League knockout stages but will be confident in a one-off clash where Real Madrid’s European pedigree has been bolstered time and time again.
In terms of injury news, Ancelotti will be hoping the majority of his squad will be available for selection ahead of his side’s 17th European Cup/Champions League final.
David Alaba returned to training in midweek and should start barring a late setback. Marcelo should also make the bench with Ferland Mendy the preferred option.
Despite an impressive cameo, Eduardo Camavinga is expected to start from the bench with the veteran midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric the preferred three.
Real Madrid Predicted Team:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
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