Liverpool vs.Real Madrid
Forty-one years on from their inaugural battle in the beautiful city of Paris, Liverpool and Real Madrid reconvene just north of the French capital in Saint-Denis for the 2021-22 Champions League final on Saturday.
The Reds have a seventh title in Europe’s primary competition in their sights this weekend, while continental veterans Los Blancos are aiming to get their hands on the trophy for a record-extending 14th time.
Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal have been sent packing by Jurgen Klopp’s side en route to the Stade de France, while Carlo Ancelotti’s men have dumped out a trio of heavyweights in Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.
EFL Cup? Check. FA Cup? Check. Premier League? Close but no cigar. It would not have been a final weekend in the English top flight without some twists here and some turns there, but the Anfield faithful must now rethink their plans for a quadruple trophy parade.
While Man City were busy being rocked to the core by Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard – hoping to help his former club achieve something that he never did during his days in the red jersey – a plucky Wolverhampton Wanderers side would frustrate Klopp’s side and their disgruntled supporters.
The double cup winners ultimately did what they needed to do with a 3-1 success, but the Citizens’ astounding turnaround against Villa ensured that the Premier League crown would remain in the grip of Pep Guardiola and leave Liverpool to rue what could have been.
Ending such a promising campaign with only two cups in the cabinet would not prove to satiate the travelling Liverpool party, and they were forced to navigate a scare against European specialist Unai Emery and his giant-killing Villarreal side in the semi-finals, but no white flags were waved at La Ceramica.
Saturday’s encounter will mark the 10th time that Liverpool have appeared in the final of the European Cup/Champions League, and some may argue that they have enjoyed a relatively favourable run to the showpiece event, but as Klopp will surely stress, there are no easy fixtures in this competition.
While Inter Milan did shut out the Reds in a 1-0 Anfield win that ended up proving inconsequential, Liverpool have scored at least twice in the rest of their Champions League fixtures this term – no mean feat amid the unforgiving schedule that Klopp always has plenty to say about.
Having started to string together a consistent run of matches and improve his fitness levels, the luckless Thiago Alcantara headed straight down the tunnel before the end of the first half against Wolves after sustaining an Achilles injury.
Klopp was initially pessimistic about his chances of featuring in the final, but the Reds boss has since changed his tune, and there is renewed hope over Thiago’s availability for the contest – whether he can play the full 90 or 120 minutes is another question entirely.
On another bright note, Fabinho’s hamstring injury is expected to let up in time after he returned to team training on Wednesday, while Joe Gomez should also be a part of the squad after bouncing back quickly from an ankle knock.
Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were both fit enough for places on the bench last weekend after their FA Cup final knocks and will expect to return to the first XI here, with the latter bagging the Reds’ second to share the Golden Boot with Son Heung-min.
WAR IN PARIS -UEFA Champions League Final