Liverpool will need to bounce back swiftly from their Premier League agony if they are to win the Champions League Final this weekend against Real Madrid.
The Reds’ quest for an unprecedented quadruple came to an end on Sunday, when Manchester City won their sixth Premier League title.
Liverpool completed their job by defeating Wolves 3-1, but City’s 3-2 victory over Aston Villa was enough to secure City the title.
However, as Europe’s most prestigious competition nears its conclusion, Jurgen Klopp’s side still has a chance to win the prize that their league’s rivals crave the most.
If Liverpool win the Champions League for the 7th time in the club’s history this weekend, the Premier League club would end the season with three titles having won the FA Cup and EFL Cup this season.
However, defeating European powerhouse Real Madrid will be difficult. Recall that Gareth Bale led Los Blancos to a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final. Hence, the football world waits to see if there would be a repetition of the 2018 final this year.
The 2022 Champions League final will be held in the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, May 28, with a kick-off time of 8 p.m. UK time.
The event was initially scheduled to take place at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, but UEFA decided to change the venue when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Note that since 2006, France has not hosted a UEFA Champions League final.
Liverpool advanced to the final after defeating Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate in the semi-final stage.
Then came an all-time classic between Real Madrid and Manchester City, with the Spanish giants winning 6-5 on aggregate.
Thiago Alcantara, who had begun to put together a steady run of matches and increased his fitness level, was forced to leave the game against Wolves before the end of the first half after suffering an Achilles injury.
Klopp was initially gloomy about Thiago’s chances of appearing in the final but has since altered his mind, and there is renewed optimism about his availability for the match – whether he can play the full 90 or 120 minutes is a different matter entirely.
On a more positive note, Fabinho’s hamstring ailment is anticipated to improve with time after he rejoined the team training on Wednesday, and Joe Gomez is likely to return to the squad after recovering fast from an ankle injury.
Following their FA Cup final knocks, Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were both fit enough to sit on the bench last weekend and will hope to return to the starting XI. Note that Salah scored a goal on May 22 against Wolves to end the league season as a joint top scorer. Hence, Salah will almost certainly replace Diogo Jota in the final this weekend.
While Ibrahima Konate was to blame for Wolves’ quickfire opening last weekend, the Champions League regular will fight to keep his place ahead of Joel Matip in the final.
However, cult icon Divock Origi has played his final game for the club after suffering a muscle injury in training, meaning the famed Belgian will not have a farewell 2019 moment ahead of his expected free transfer to AC Milan.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, on the other hand, will hope to have everyone healthy and available for his side’s 17th European Cup/Champions League final, with David Alaba returning to training in midweek after an adductor issue.
Alaba was not in the squad for the match against Betis, but if there are no setbacks, he should take his rightful place in the starting XI, demoting Nacho Fernandez to the bench.
Marcelo has recovered from his fitness problems to make himself available, but will once again play second fiddle to Ferland Mendy, while Eder Militao is expected to keep his place despite outcry from critics to be dropped.
Eduardo Camavinga has been impressive off the bench during Real’s march to the final, but if one of the midfield trio suffers an injury before Saturday, the 19-year-old would only be able to beat Casemiro, Toni Kroos, or Luka Modric.
The Liverpool high line is designed for players like Vinicius and Rodrygo to rush in behind, but Rodrygo’s remarkable impact as a substitute may push Ancelotti to keep Federico Valverde somewhat more forward.
With another hat-trick in the showpiece event, Benzema would beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 Champions League goals in a single season, while he only needs to make the net ripple once to become the competition’s indisputable third-highest goalscorer, level with Robert Lewandowski on 86.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Head To Head
Real Madrid and Liverpool have met eight times in European competition, with Los Blancos winning four times to the Reds’ three, and the most recent meeting ending in a draw.
After a 5-0 aggregate victory in the 2008-09 last-16, Alan Kennedy’s winner propelled Liverpool to the European Cup final against Real Madrid in 1981, kicking off a run of three straight wins for the Merseyside club.
However, Liverpool has lost four and drawn one of their last five matches against the Spanish champions, including the 2018 final, which Gareth Bale will remember for all the right reasons and Loris Karius will remember for all the wrong reasons.
Liverpool 2-2 Real Madrid (A.E.T. predicts Liverpool to win on penalties.)
What a difficult game to predict. Keeping the likes of Benzema, Vinicius, Salah, and Mane at bay for 90 or 120 minutes is nearly impossible, and the Reds’ attackers, in particular, should be confident of scoring a few goals against a shaky Blancos defense.
Real’s risky defensive stance will always leave them open to the quickness and cunning of Ancelotti’s two Brazilian starboys, and Benzema only needs one half-chance to restore parity for Real.
We believe that Liverpool’s recent experience from 12 yards will help them get their hands on Europe’s biggest prize for the seventh time and end the Real fairytale. Having Thiago and Fabinho fit to start the game would be a massive boost for Klopp, whose side may be taken all the way to spot kicks again.