Waiting for Quad-o? Alas, Liverpool’s entertaining bid to land an unprecedented quadruple was not to be.
But that’s not to say the season is ending in Beckettian anti-climax for the Merseyside team. After all, Jurgen Klopp and co could still finish their campaign with a pretty good treble.
Champions League final preview: Liverpool vs Real Madrid
Liverpool face off against Real Madrid at Paris’ Stade de France on Saturday night; another narrative strand reaches its apogee, the English team seeking to beat the side that trampled over their dreams four years ago.
When Liverpool clinched their place in the Champions League final earlier this month, Mo Salah admitted he hoped his opponents would turn out to be Real Madrid.
These two sides previously met in the 2018 final. On that occasion a Sergio Ramos challenge forced Salah to leave the field with less than half an hour gone, with Real going on to win 3-1.
Since then, Ramos has moved on to Paris Saint-Germain, of course – but Salah has made clear his desire to make up for the disappointment of that night.
Liverpool seem a stronger and more complete unit
No matter that Liverpool went on to win the trophy the next year – the Egyptian King clearly still considers there to be unfinished business between Liverpool and Real.
Liverpool are looking to land their seventh Champions League trophy. They face a Real side who have won this tournament 13 times. Four in the previous decade alone.
With Klopp’s team missing out on the Premier League by just one point (again) against Pep Guardiola’s monied Manchester City, Liverpool seem a stronger and more complete unit than the Real team that appear to have progressed in this tournament even when they seemed to be flailing.
Real finished their own domestic league as champions, though there have been some definite wobbles from Ancelotti’s side – notably the 4-0 loss to Barcelona at the Bernabeu in La Liga back in March.
In the Champions League, Real beat a Chelsea side 3-1 at Stamford Bridge – then very nearly collapsed against the same team in their home fixture. Chelsea looked set to turn the tie around, 3-0 up with 10 minutes left, when Rodrygo levelled the aggregate score – and then Karim Benzema plundered a winner in extra time.
Benzema has been Real’s inspiration this season
It’s fair to say the French forward has been Real’s inspiration this season. At the age of 34, Benzema has never seemed more important to the Spanish side; he scored 27 goals in 31 appearances in the league, and has 15 Champions League goals this season.
Will Benzema add to that tally on Saturday? In sport, final scenes don’t always tie in with the story that’s come before. That’s the beauty of it, that unpredictability that throws up the most dizzying of plot twists.
Yet if Real are to reign supreme in Paris, surely it’s the Frenchman who will burn brightest in his nation’s capital. This should be a dream final in theory, two attack-minded sides that can each be relied upon to keep fighting even when the odds seem hopeless.
Real have more experience in turning round brutal situations; just look at that comeback against Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year. Real were two goals down with half an hour to play, and a Benzema hat-trick swung the game in his side’s favour.
Yet Liverpool have been the more accomplished side overall this season, losing just three games in all competitions across the entire season.
For Karim the Dream, will it be the stuff of nightmares?
It’s possibly a fool’s errand to try to pick a winner when two teams like this come together. Real have shrugged off so many setbacks, how can you possibly bet against them? Yet Liverpool’s own excellence is undeniable.
You can, however, look at Liverpool’s most recent performances and detect a touch of fatigue creeping in. In two of their last three league games, they have conceded a goal in the third minute. Liverpool fought back to win both those games, of course.
As for Real, they drew their last two league games having already coasted to glory in La Liga. Both teams should shake off any weariness for a prize that elevates either side’s season from great to glorious.
This one is wide open. But it’s difficult to forget the storylines that have been building here. Certainly for Real, this season has been all about Karim the Dream. Surely it won’t be the stuff of nightmares on Saturday?
Back Benzema to score at any time at 7/5. And it could be worth looking at over 3.5 goals in the Total Goals market at 9/5. Both these sides’ games have been notable for goals at each stage of the tournament. This could turn out to be a Champions League blockbuster for the ages.
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