The UEFA Champions League of 2017-18 has reached its crescendo. The finals between defending champions and 12-time winners Real Madrid and five-time champions Liverpool promises to be a cracking affair. Madrid appear in the final for a record-breaking 16th time. The Spanish team is on the hunt for its third successive Champions League title. Liverpool, meanwhile, turn up to contest their seventh final. Here is a look at the talking points of this thrilling contest between two of Europe’s famous clubs.
Real Madrid’s journey to the final was nothing short of dramatic. After blanking out Paris Saint-Germain, they squeaked past a spirited Juventus by a 4-3 aggregate in the quarter-finals. An away win at Bayern Munich helped the team sneak into the final. Liverpool, by contrast, beat Porto and Manchester City comfortably to reach the semi-finals. A strong home performance against Roma saw the team reach the finals despite a 2-4 loss in the second leg.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s talismanic forward, has been the main reason for the club’s form. With 15 goals from 12 games, he has stamped his authority all over the competition. For Liverpool, the trio of Roberto Firminio, Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah have been the success story this season. Liverpool will look to Salah to provide them with an early breakthrough up front. The Egyptian striker has played 12 games scoring 10 goals.
Zinedine Zidane, the manager of Real Madrid, has already won two consecutive UEFA Champions League titles and two back-to-back FIFA Club World Cup with Los Merengues. His Liverpool counterpart, Jürgen Klopp, began his coaching career at Mainz before moving to Borussia Dortmund in 2008. Klopp signed with Liverpool as their coach in 2015. In his first year at the club, the team finished as runners-up in the UEFA Europa League.
Former playmaker Zidane is known for bringing out the best in his players. Though he prefers the 4-4-2 formation, the French coach is known to harness players’ natural gifts to determine their position on the pitch. Jürgen Klopp’s philosophy, in contrast, centres on out-performing the opponents physically. His tactics include cleverly timed counter attacks and fluidity in the team that make positions interchangeable. He emphasises on team effort rather than depend on superstars.
Real Madrid has an unenviable record in the Champions League. They have reached the finals 15 times and won it on 12 occasions. Liverpool has played the finals on seven occasions and won it five times. The last time they were in the finals was 11 years ago when AC Milan bested them. Madrid and Liverpool have faced each other in the 1981 final. Liverpool managed to beat the Spanish side with a margin of 1-0 with Alan Kennedy scoring the winner.