There's a bit of history waiting to be rewritten, some revenge ready to be served cold, and of course, the little matter of footballing royalty hoping to live up to lofty expectations – all of which are on the agenda this evening in Paris.
Saturday evening will pit European footballing royalty, Real Madrid, and one of English football's biggest teams, Liverpool, against each other in what is expected to be an absolute spectacle in the UEFA Champions League final at the Stade de France.
Between the two teams, there are 19 Champions League titles, with the Spanish giants having won 13. Since the tournament was redesigned as the UEFA Champions League in 1992, Real Madrid have won all the seven finals they have played, including a 3-1 win over Liverpool in 2018. The Anfield club can win their seventh European Cup, a tally that would see them level with AC Milan and leave only Real Madrid with more victories.
On their way to the final, Real Madrid have recovered from losing positions to pack off Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea, and English champions Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool had a slightly easier route, seeing off the challenges from Inter Milan, Benfica, and Villarreal in the knockout rounds.
Liverpool Seem Stronger...
On paper, the team from Anfield appear stronger, with Alisson in under the sticks, Virgil van Dijk marshalling the defence, and Mohammad Salah and Sadio Mane leading their attack. Of course, who can forget the marauding full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson!
They also have the added incentive of revenge, as Salah spelled out in the recent past. He and Liverpool have not forgotten Sergio Ramos’ tackle on the Egyptian. Salah wanted Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League, and he got it. Can he now walk the talk?
Liverpool will be their usual physical and hostile self and Klopp wants his side to be an uncomfortable opponent for Real Madrid in Paris. They truly Never Walk Alone in that Red kit, and the ambition and greed to succeed and assert themselves are what characterise Liverpool.
This is Liverpool's third trip to the final in the past five years; their opponents Real Madrid have won it four times in the past eight campaigns. Liverpool have landed in the final on the back of winning the FA and League Cups, and finishing runners-up in the Premier League. And Trent Alexander-Arnold says he is hungrier than ever to win more!
But Can Carlo Ancelotti and Karim Benzema Have Their Say?
Real Madrid have had a campaign like no other in the Champions League, and that’s a line of thought that can be associated with more than just this season in the tournament for the Los Blancos.
On the verge of elimination, the team in white have been resilient and relentless in their pursuit of glory, and lo behold, they are in the final! Almost makes you wonder how you had the temerity to question the most decorated side in the competition! Sheer self-belief has been one of the standout themes this year for Real Madrid, and we expect to see more of it on Saturday.
Vinicius will look to turn on the afterburners at every possible chance and Luka Modric is likely to make you think of the adage, aging like fine wine, yet again. Karim Benzema will look to surprise the opponent in his own inimitable way, and if Thibaut Courtois has his way, Salah will head back to England with nothing but disappointment.
Benzema, Modric, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos have all won the Champions League 4 times already and have the chance to equal the Real Madrid legend Alfredo de Stefano tally of 5 titles. The Argentine is credited with being one of the main architects of the Real Madrid myth with a unique winning streak from 1956 to 1960.
Klopp will be his usual maniac-like self on the touchline as he hopes to return with his second Champions League title, while Ancelotti may or may not raise that eyebrow as he aims for medal number 4, more than any other manager in the history of the game.
The scene is set for a spectacle as two of the best teams in the continent meet for the biggest prize in men’s club football in Europe. Eighty thousand fans will fill up the stands at the Stade de France.
Will past glory propel Real Madrid to write yet another storied tale or will Salah get his revenge, though there’s no Sergio Ramos?
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