By Roberto Morales
Paris, May 27 (EFE).- Four years on from that fateful night in Kyiv, Real Madrid and Liverpool meet again in a Champions League final with the Spaniards hoping to don their 14th crown as the kings of Europe against a team with a score to settle.
The iconic Stade de France in Paris will set the scene for what promises to be a dramatic final as Jürgen Klopp’s high-pressing team looks to cap off an almost perfect season against Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, whose persistence this year has marked something of a turnaround.
Real Madrid won LaLiga comfortably and demonstrated grit and determination to make it to this year’s Champions League final following a campaign of comebacks over Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and, most dramatically, Manchester City.
Real Madrid legend Alfredo di Stéfano once said: “Finals are not to be played, they are to be won.” Curiously, Real Madrid have not lost a European final since 1981. Their opponents then: Liverpool. The host city: Paris.
The last time the juggernauts of football met in a Champions League final was in 2018 in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. It was a night to forget for Liverpool, whose then goalkeeper Loris Karius made two blunders against Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale and whose star player, Mohamed Salah, was taken down by a rough tackle from Sergio Ramos, culminating in a dislocated shoulder.
Liverpool, however, went on to win the following campaign, their sixth overall.
Benzema will be crucial in Saturday’s final if Real Madrid are to live up to their nickname. The French striker has underpinned the team’s recent successes, always finding himself in the right place at the right time.
His 44 goals in 45 games, 15 of which he netted in the Champions League, make him an odds-on favorite for this year’s Ballon D’Or.
Benzema’s sharp-shooting is built on the team’s expertise across the pitch— the Thibaut Courtois-shaped wall in goal, the tenacity of Vinicius on the wing, the eternal youth of Luka Modric and the emergence of Rodrygo as a young talent.
Liverpool, however, are equipped with their strongest team in recent history and despite losing the Premier League title to Manchester City on the final day of the season, they are still in with a shot of becoming only the third British team to win a triple after Celtic in 1967 and Manchester United in 1999, albeit a slightly lesser one without a league title.
The 63 games the team has played is an impressive record but also a weakness.
Tiredness begets injury, and some of the team’s big-hitters have been afflicted by physical issues including Salah, Fabinho, Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago, and Divock Origi.
Their desire for revenge could ultimately negate those concerns. EFE