The last few decades saw a shift in the status quo in European football. The likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City – who were not particularly the big guns in the continent – rose to prominence, while many established rulers saw their kingdoms being turned to dust.
However, despite all of that being true, the 2021/22 edition of the UEFA Champions League has been something the fans of “football heritage” will be proud of. Battling for the ultimate crown will be two of the most decorated teams in Europe – Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Real Madrid have 13 Champions League titles in their cabinet, while Liverpool have six. Besides that, it also has to be noted that these two sides have combined played 25 Champions League finals, and will hence know everything about the mega event – from controlling nerves to executing game plans.
Let us have a look at the in-depth analysis of what to expect from this fixture.
LIVERPOOL IN THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SO FAR THIS SEASON
Liverpool had an excellent group stage campaign, as besides AFC Ajax and Bayern Munich, they were the only team who won all of their six group phase matches. The Reds defeated Italy’s AC Milan, Portugal’s Porto, and Real Madrid’s noisy neighbours Atletico Madrid on two occasions each.
In the round of 16, Jurgen Klopp’s men were up against Inter Milan. They did well to win the first leg 2-0, that too, play away from home at San Siro. While the Nerazzurriwere the outright better side in the second leg at Anfield and registered a 1-0 win, Liverpool qualified for the quarter-final based on the aggregate score.
Facing another Portuguese side in Benfica, the Reds produced a fine performance in the first leg to win 3-1. The second leg show was not as convincing as they were held to a 3-3 stalemate, but it did not matter in the broader scheme of things.
The Reds faced Villarreal in their semi-final tie, where they won the first leg 2-0. Here as well, they did not look too impressive in the second leg and were once 2-0 down in the game with the scoreline being 2-2 on aggregate. However, three goals in the second half helped them seal a place in the final.
PREDICTED LINEUP AND TACTICS AGAINST REAL MADRID
Liverpool does not have major injury concerns ahead of this fixture. Divock Origi is the only player who will not be available, but he was not expected to start in any case. However, Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara limped off in the last game against Wolverhampton Wanderers and he now faces a race against time to regain fitness ahead of the final.
Jurgen Klopp is expected to stick to his preferred 4-3-3 formation for this match. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, and Andrew Robertson are likely to comprise the four-man backline, operating ahead of Alisson Becker in goal.
Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho might form the midfield contingent, but if Thiago is not fit, Klopp might have to play Naby Keita. As for the front three, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane’s places are certainly nailed on, while Luis Diaz is expected to get the nod ahead of Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.
Probable Playing XI (4-3-3): Alisson Becker; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Andrew Robertson; Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz.
REAL MADRID IN THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SO FAR THIS SEASON
Though they were not as flawless as their opposition, Real Madrid too had a decent group stage outing where they won five of their six matches. They won one of their two outings against Sheriff Tiraspol, but besides that, they defeated Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk on two occasions.
Since then, it has been an extended fairytale for Los Blancos. They met Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 and lost the first leg 1-0, but produced an epic comeback in the second leg to register a 3-1 win.
The Spanish giants were then up against Chelsea in the quarter-finals, where they won the first leg 1-3 but Chelsea closed the deficit down in the second leg. However, an extra-time goal from Karim Benzema helped them get into the semi-finals.
In the semis, Real Madrid were up against Manchester City and they lost the first leg tie 4-3. In the second leg, City scored first and the scoreline was 5-3 on aggregate till the 89th minute, but what happened later was beyond magical as Carlo Ancelotti’s team scored thrice in a span of less than 10 minutes to make it to the final.
PREDICTED LINEUPS AND TACTICS AGAINST LIVERPOOL
Like Liverpool, Real Madrid boasts of a nearly full-strength squad as well with only Miguel Gutierrez ruled out with a muscular problem. Besides that, Marcelo is recovering from an injury and like Thiago, he will face a race against time to get fit.
Countering Klopp’s system, Carlo Ancelotti too is expected to go with a 4-3-3 set-up for this match. Thibaut Courtois will be the last line of defence, with Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, David Alaba, and Ferland Mendy comprising the back four.
Los Blancosboasts of a fantastic midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, while as for their front three, the semi-final hero Rodrygo Goes could get a chance alongside Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.
Probable Playing XI (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, David Alaba, Ferland Mendy; Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric; Rodrygo Goes, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior.
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