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The quadruple dream is over for Liverpool. Having already lifted the League Cup and FA Cup trophies, for a time on Sunday it looked like the Reds would win the Premier League title too. Trailing Manchester City by one point going into gameweek 38, Liverpool watched with delight as Aston Villa took a 2-0 lead at the Etihad Stadium.
The Reds were being held 1-1 by Wolves at the time, but goals from Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson earned them a 3-1 victory at Anfield. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klopp’s side, City scored three times in six minutes to turn their game against Villa on its head. A 3-2 win for Pep Guardiola’s side meant they were crowned champions of England for the fourth time in five years.
It was a disappointing outcome for Liverpool, but one they would have expected at the start of the day. Jurgen Klopp’s side must dust themselves done quickly and prepare for Saturday’s Champions League final, when they will attempt to avenge their defeat by Real Madrid in the 2018 edition of this match. The Reds might have missed out on the Premier League crown, but victory this weekend would secure a brilliant cup treble and give Liverpool the edge over City in terms of overall accomplishments in 2021/22.
The Reds have had a relatively kind run to the final. They edged out Inter in the round of 16, winning 2-1 on aggregate, before overcoming Benfica by six goals to four across 180 minutes of quarter-final action. Liverpool suffered a scare in the second leg of their semi-final against Villarreal but bounced back to win 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate. They will now be striving to win this competition for the seventh time in the club’s illustrious history.
It has been an eventful week for Real Madrid, but not because of anything that happened on the pitch. In fact, Carlo Ancelotti’s side had a low-key end to their title-winning campaign in La Liga, drawing 0-0 with Real Betis on the final day. The real drama came the day before that match, when Kylian Mbappe contacted the Madrid president Florentino Perez to inform him that he would not be joining the club after all.
It had seemed inevitable that Mbappe would be at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu at the start of next season, but at the eleventh hour the France international decided to extend his contract with Paris Saint-Germain instead. Madrid could hardly hide their disappointment, with La Liga even releasing its own statement in which it argued Mbappe’s new deal “attacks the economic stability of European football”.
Madrid cannot afford to let that off-field disappointment affect their preparations for the Champions League final. Given the experience within the squad, it is unlikely to. Madrid have shown tremendous character – and no shortage of quality – to get past PSG, Chelsea and Manchester city in the knockout stage. They will feel it is their destiny to win this tournament, just as they have done on 13 occasions in the past.
Most people who have watched a significant chunk of Liverpool and Real Madrid’s matches this season will have been more impressed by the Premier League side. The Reds are unstoppable on their day. Their pressing is coordinated and ferocious. Their possession play is much better than it was when they last won the Champions League in 2019. Their defensive solidity does not always get enough credit.
Madrid, by contrast, rarely put together dominant 90-minute performances against top opposition. Against each of PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Champions League, the Blancos had spells where they were distinctly second best. They won each tie by hanging on in there and producing moments of magic at decisive phases.
It is possible that they could do so again in the final. In Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, Madrid possess two of the best forwards in world soccer. Luka Modric is one of the finest midfielders of his and any generation. He is one of several Madrid players who knows what it takes to win this competition.
On balance, though, it is worth backing Liverpool to win. Madrid have relied upon the Bernabeu crowd to mount several comebacks in this competition, and at a neutral venue they could struggle to deal with Liverpool’s energy and intensity. Go for Klopp’s men to beat Ancelotti’s side on Saturday.
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|Liverpool vs Real Madrid Information|
|Teams||Liverpool vs Real Madrid|
|Location||Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France|
|Time||Saturday, 28 May 2022, 3.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||CBS|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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