Match Preview: Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final 2021/22
Liverpool and Real Madrid stand toe-to-toe for the greatest prize in European football once again. Liverpool bidding for number 7, Real for number 14. This is a game of football as good as they come really, it is an opportunity to relish and to make history for the players down there. For us fans, it’s just another episode of enthralling football that will leave us on the edge of our seats once again.
Liverpool come into this on the back of a gruelling, tiresome season. They’ve won their last 10 games in all competitions (barring a 1-1 draw vs Spurs), and have played at unbelievable levels of intensity. This gives them more momentum, but less of a settling sentiment. Real Madrid on the other hand, come on the back of a season that ended far before their Champions League semifinal against Manchester City.
It’s felt a lot like pre-season for the Merengues over the past month but they do come into this game with the assurance of knowing that the incredible football they’ve played all season will not have gone in vain. Liverpool of course lost out on a Premier League title they really could’ve won. LaLiga Santander was wrapped up well before the final matchday for Real. Ancelotti’s team have preserved energy for the big day, and Klopp’s men simply do not show any signs of running out of steam.
What to Expect:
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool are on the finishing end of an incredibly long season, one in which they’ve contested for four trophies to the very end. The major criticisms of this Red’s team have come from the fact that they’ve played way too much good football this season, and that their squad seems to be running out of energy.
That is quite literally a massive strength for a team like this. Continuity boosts them on, and be forever assured that Klopp’s side will start and finish tonight’s game at an incredible intensity.
Their structure with and without the ball, pressing rhythms and tendency to overload the wide areas of the pitch will all remain thoroughly the same. The point I’m trying to make here is that approach-wise, Liverpool will not step a foot away from what they’ve been doing all season.
Real Madrid on the other hand, have aspects of tactical and strategic importance that need looking at. While in no way are they expected to play to a plan that fits the way this Liverpool team presses and counter-presses, it does help to remain varied and that is what Ancelotti will hope to gain from watching the Merseyside club.
Real Madrid’s camp is where the instability lies then. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can make them vulnerable or incredibly difficult to predict depending on the circumstances. Certainly they will have to play neatly from the back. Liverpool press a lot higher and in waves when compared to City’s pressure which is more central and tends to come a lot later in the build-up.
Toni Kroos will be central to countering this, and so will David Alaba who returns to the team. Controlling the centre of the park is something Real ought to do, and Liverpool can only attempt to do. Their best bet for tonight should be to give Thiago as much space against the likes of Modrić and Kroos.
For the Spaniard to ping wingers Mane and Salah through would be of great help against Madrid who still deploy a relatively high back-four (that might be pushed further back tonight). Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson too, have attacking tendencies and these are ones that Real can expose going the other way.
Vinícius Júnior’s pace is destructive, and Liverpool will have watched what he did to Fernandinho at the Etihad last month. Federico Valverde is a real game changer in midfield and in spaces on the right flank. For him to run directly at Liverpool on the break would create loads of space elsewhere.
Off the bench, Real Madrid can rely on the likes of Eduardo Camavinga and Rodrygo Goes to change the complexion of tonight’s game. Camavinga of course can do the dirty work and is an excellent carrier of the ball. Rodrygo has now, much like Camavinga — changed multiple decisive Champions League games as a second-half substitute. To some Madridistas’ delight, Los Blancos might even see Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale grace the pitch in the second-half.
On Liverpool’s end, the bench does seem bleak but the likes of Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are never to be counted out. Then again the quality they’ve already got on the pitch with Mane, Salah and Diaz. Bar that, expect Klopp to remain reserved in terms of changes to his eleven.
One cannot expect either team to run away with a fixture like this, but with Real Madrid and Liverpool involved you cannot expect even a final to be a cagey affair. As is always the case in the Champions League, Real Madrid will need to pick their moments and punish Liverpool for the errors they make. Be that by playing keep-ball, or pinning their wingers down or by booting the ball forward at every opportunity — the final objective is to win and finals are there to be won.
Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard have both returned to regular training in the past week, and are expected to make the bench. David Alaba has also returned, and normality will be restored in midfield with Kroos, Casemiro and Modrić. Real Madrid have travelled to Paris with a complete squad.
Liverpool fans have the comfort of knowing that Mo Salah is fit and ready for this clash, but the fact that his form has dipped in the past week or two must worry them. Thiago Alcantara is a major doubt in midfield, one that literally makes the difference between glory and grief for Liverpool tonight. One should anticipate Klopp bringing him on in the second-half for Naby Keita who hasn’t played much all season but something about this points towards Thiago starting tonight. Uncertainty lingers over the Liverpool XI.
📋 Squad list for Saturday’s Champions League final. VAMOS 💪
— Real Madrid News (@onlyrmcfnews) May 26, 2022
Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy
Valverde — Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos
Benzema — Vinicius
Alexander-Arnold — Konate — Van Dijk — Robertson
Henderson — Fabinho — Thiago
Salah — Diaz — Mane
Player to Watch:
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. Nueve changes games. He changes big games, and a final is no exception. It is imperative that Real Madrid score and do so in abundance, not knowing how many will go in on the other end. Los Blancos’ best bet is to pitch the ball Benzema’s way, regardless of what strategy Ancelotti ends up using. One thing I am afraid of however, is Benzema being an out-and-out centre forward tonight. For him to drop deep and circulate the ball on occasion is crucial, more than you believe.
Liverpool: Sadio Mane. I really wanted to say Thiago Alcantara but seeing as how he might not start through injury, Mane it is. The safest choice really. He’s done this before, having played through many finals and scored in aplenty. Luis Diaz is new to the stage, all young and exciting but this is his first European final. Mane I believe has the potential to strike the telling blow for Liverpool, in what might possibly be his final game for them.
Real Madrid 2-1 Liverpool.
Can’t go wrong with a few facts. Liverpool are most dangerous early on in the game but will take a more settled approach as time goes on. Real Madrid will look to remain in the game, passing the ball around looking for opportunities. Both sides are obviously very well suited to pick their moments but Madrid are well known to turn the afterburners on beyond minute 70′, sometimes even later. To say that the result reflects how either team has performed all season would be a dishonour given the struggle to get here.
And it’s been there for the world to see — Real Madrid going down each time, and coming right back up. Liverpool being steady as ever beating team after team in their bid to a Quadruple, coming ever so close to winning the Premier League title. However, the Champions League final is a completely different avenue, and the season’s proceedings may or may not prove to be irrelevant in tonight’s context.
Finals are not meant to be played, finals are won.
We make history tonight.
Hala Madrid Y nada Mas!!!⚪️