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Champions League Final: Real Madrid V Liverpool

This year’s final is a repeat of the 1981 final

European royalty goes head-to-head this Saturday when 12 times winners Real Madrid take on five-times winners Liverpool for Europe’s most prized trophy.  Alan Kennedy scored the winner for Liverpool when the two sides met in the 1981 final at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Vicente del Bosque and Laurie Cunningham were among the Real Madrid side on that day.

It’s no surprise to see Real Madrid in this year’s final. Los Blancos will make their 4th appearance in five seasons and they will be looking to lift the trophy four an impressive third year-on-the-bounce.  Liverpool have surprised many by reaching the final but Jürgen Klopp will tell you that he had belief in his side from the first kick in Hoffenheim, where, Trent Alexander-Arnold announced his arrival in European football by scoring a fantastic free kick. Real Madrid have had a disappointing season in La Liga, finishing behind Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. There are similarities in the way the two teams play. Both teams are susceptible at the back but like to hit the opposition on the break. Liverpool went on to score more Champions League goals than any other English club in a single season.

Even though we went ahead in the first half it was really hard to contain their (Liverpool) pace, especially wide, and they play a very vertical style which we couldn’t get on top of for a long while,” (Eduardo Berizzo, Sevilla coach via eufa.com).

The Road To Kiev

Real Madrid highlights

Santiago Bernabéu

Spurs away

Tottenham Hotspur reached the last 16 by beating Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley. Spurs put on a fantastic display, sending Zinadine Zidane back to the Madrid with a head ache. Delli Alli scored two goals on the night and he had a hand in Cristian Eriksen’s goal. Spurs’ third goal caught Real Madrid sleeping. Sergio Ramos and company won’t want to give Liverpool the same oppoturnities in Kiev.

PSG away

Unai Emery’s side were hopeful of turning around a two-goal deficit. PSG’s targets for the season were the Ligue 1 championship and Champions League title. Dani Alves and company couldn’t do anything to prevent the defending champions from doing what they do best, creating chances and winning games. PSG were reduced to 10 men on the night. The visitors won by an aggregate score of 5-2.

I respect all the players, including Gareth Bale. He wasn’t a starter in either leg, but he’s a very important player who causes lots of trouble to the opposition. We have to stay united, as we were tonight. Zinadine Zidane via (marca.com).

Juve away

Cristiano Ronaldo scored two including a brilliant bicycle kick as he steered Los Blancos to a comprehensive 3-0 win in Turin. Real Madrid were beginning to find their form. Ronaldo did what Ronaldo does best, steps up and delivers. His performance earned him a standing ovation from the Juventus fans. Keylor Navas made a crucial save at 1-0. Zidane’s players began to dream about another European final.

Juve home

Juventus were never going to get back into the tie, where they? Mario Mandžukić scored a well-worked goal after just two minutes to give Juve a lift. Real Madrid went in search of an equaliser but they were unable to beat Gianluigi Buffon. Juve pressed for a second and Mandžukić scored a well-timed header on the back post to leave the Bernabéu stunned. If Buffon was a safe pair of hands at one end, Navas had a nightmare at the other. The Real Madrid keeper spilt a Douglas Costa’s cross and Blaise Matuidi’s blistering pace allowed him to get on the end of the loose ball to tap in an unlikely equaliser.

If there wasn’t enough drama at the Bernabéu,  Real Madrid were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time. Buffon was sent off for his protest and Ronaldo stepped up to score, breaking Juve’s hearts and sending the home supporters into a frenzy.

Liverpool highlights

Porto away

Sadio Mané scored a hat-trick at the Estádio do Dragão as Liverpool hammered Porto 5-0. Mané’s second goal of that game characterises Liverpool’s ability to counter-attack with blistering pace. Liverpool’s fourth goal saw them outnumbering the Porto defence. Firmino was on hand to finish off a fine move to slot home after a James Milner cut-back.

Sevilla away

Liverpool went into the away leg knowing that away goals were vital. The Reds took a three-goal lead but Eduardo Berizzo’s side pulled it back to 3-3. If Liverpool were fantastic at Porto they were ‘indifferent’ at Seville. A well-worked corner was tucked away by Firmino inside three minutes.  Mané scored an almost identical goal 20 minutes later. Firmino’s close-range effort on 30 minutes looked to have destroyed Sevilla’s resolve but the hosts had other ideas. A Ben-Yedder brace in the second half had Liverpool well and truly on the back foot. Guido Pizarro’s injury-time equaliser wasn’t enough to salvage Sevilla’s Champions League hopes. If Liverpool have dreams of collecting another European title they must avoid the type of display produced in the second half in Seville.

Manchester City home

Three first-half goals from Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mané left City with too much to do at the Etihad. Liverpool played without fear and killed the game off early. Klopp’s side were just too good on the night.

Manchester City away

City turned up the heat from the kickoff, it took them two minutes to score when Virgin Van Dijk gave the ball away. Vincent Kompany’s killer pass split Liverpool’s defence and Raheem Sterling’s cut back was slotted home by Gabriel. City threw the kitchen sink at Liverpool but they couldn’t convert chances into goals. Liverpool equalised on 56 minutes courtesy of Salah’s exquisite chip. Nicolas Otemandi’s mistake let in Firmino who put the tie beyond City’s reach. Leroy Sané and  Sterling chased the cause for 90 minutes but it wasn’t enough.

Semi-finals

Roma V Liverpool (6-7 aggregate)

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich (4-3 aggregate)

Both semi-finals produced plenty of drama and great attacking football. A Karim Benzema brace in the second leg was decisive enough to fend off Bayern Munich’s onslaught. Navas once again proved his worth in the Real Madrid net. Spanish newspaper Marca likened the game to the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.

“But just like in life, ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ counts for nothing in football,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

Liverpool looked to cruising to Kiev but they squandered a five-goal lead when Roma scored two late goals at Anfield. Two late goals from Radja Nainggolan weren’t enough in the second leg as Liverpool saw out Roma’s challenge to reach their third Champions League final since 2005.

After the celebrations Klopp will have to dwell on his team’s sloppy defending, Jason Burt, Telegraph

Saturday’s final promises to be a goal feast. It will be a tense affair for anyone associated with either club. Most of England will arguably be rooting for Los Blancos, most of Spain will arguably be rooting for the Red Men. Sit back and enjoy the game, it could be one the greatest Champions League finals in the modern era.

Images property of In The Stand Sport – Courtesy of @DanRawly & @P7Owl

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