Liverpool will face Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid as they eye Champions League glory.
The Champions League final will take place on Saturday this week. Real Madrid will look forward to defend their title for the second time, as they aim for European glory for the third consecutive season. Liverpool, on the other hand, eye their 6th Champions League title in club’s history.
Jurgen Klopp’s record in major cup finals isn’t inspiring, as he has lost in the last five he played in. His Borussia Dortmund side lost to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final. Zidane, on the other hand, will eye his third Champion League title with Real Madrid.
As the teams lock horn at Kiev this Saturday, what will be the key areas for both the sides? What are the players to look for, and where will the match be won or lost? theSportsRush looks at the five key battles from the final:
Mohamed Salah vs. Marcelo
Mohamed Salah has been a major revelation for the Reds this season. The Egyptian striker instilled belief in the Liverpool side. He became the highest scorer in the Premier League this season, breaking Ronaldo’s record of highest goals in a single PL season. Marcelo’s status as arguably the best left-back in the world will be challenged by Salah on Saturday.
Playing behind Cristiano Ronaldo has often left Marcelo exposed, but the left-back executes his defensive abilities efficiently. However, playing against Mohamed Salah might require a change-of-action on the left side.
Salah’s form throughout the season has turned Liverpool’s hopes into expectations, and this player battle will play a huge role in the outcome of the match.
Jordan Henderson vs Luka Modric
The Liverpool captain will look to silence his critics as he takes on Real Madrid’s midfielder. Modric is perhaps the most creative player in the Real side and he has created numerous chances for Ronaldo and co. this season. In the previous encounter between both the sides at Anfield, the midfield duo of Modric and Toni Kroos made life miserable for Henderson and the Liverpool side, as Real emerged 3-0 winners.
Henderson would want to forget the memory of that game as Liverpool takes the field on Saturday. It is going to take a mighty effort from Jordan Henderson to curb down the creative flow which Modric enthuses in the game.
Trent-Alexander Arnold vs. Cristiano Ronaldo
This final would perhaps be the biggest test of Trent-Alexander Arnold’s life, even when his career is just taking off. The young right-back has been impressive in his breakthrough season at Anfield, and will now face the biggest challenge of his career. He faces the five-time Balon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, against whom he considers an honour to play with.
Ronaldo has been majestic in the Champions League this season, scoring 15 goals in 12 games. During the campaign, he also broke the record of goals in most consecutive games previously held by Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Real Madrid will look to target Liverpool on the right-flank, as Ronaldo will attempt to expose youngster’s inexperience at the biggest level.
Roberto Firmino vs. Sergio Ramos
Firmino plays at the centre in Liverpool’s emphatic forward trio, and hence will be in direct conflict with the Real Madrid captain. Ramos comes with a vast experience in the European competition and has led Real Madrid to various domestic and continental honours. But Firmino has impressed in his debut season in the Champions League.
The Brazilian star has scored 11 goals in the Champions League this season. He spearheads the attack from the centre, alongside Salah and Sadio Mane. Liverpool has scored 46 goals in this season’s Champions League, which is the highest this season.
But Firmino faces a big test in Sergio Ramos, who can be considered a Champions League veteran. The Spanish defender will be aiming to lead Real Madrid to its third consecutive Champions League title on Saturday. Ramos is a harsh tackler and second-to-none in his aerial abilities.
Sadio Mane vs. Dani Carvajal
Sadio Mane’s pace will threaten the Real Madrid’s right-flank as Carvajal will aim to sustain the Senegalese forward. Carvajal still lacks sharpness in his game as he comes on the back of an injury, which he suffered during the semifinal of Champions League.
Sadio Mane gets ample space to create from the right as Salah and Firmino spearhead the goal-scoring job for Liverpool. Carvajal needs to ensure that he restricts the free-flowing gameplay of Sadio Mane, and this battle will prove crucial to the outcome of the game.