Champions League final: Real Madrid face Liverpool for historic third consecutive title
Most will level to a footballing legacy left behind or the variety of trophies received. The present Actual Madrid aspect actually boasts the latter.
Although, regardless of continued European success which has introduced the membership to the brink of an unprecedented third consecutive Champions League title, many nonetheless retain doubts about bestowing the title of “nice” on Zinedine Zidane’s group.
The sense that particular person high quality and moments of brilliance get them by, fairly than tactical nous and performances as a cohesive unit, persists.
Zidane himself admitted as a lot.
“Tactically I am not the very best coach, the press say it themselves,” the Frenchman instructed reporters on the membership’s media day. “However I’ve the drive and fervour and meaning loads.”
Making historical past
It is nearly an ideal description of what this Actual aspect has develop into in Europe over the previous 5 years; not at all times the very best group on the pitch however by some means at all times discovering a strategy to win.
Final season, they grew to become the primary group since AC Milan in 1990 to retain the European Cup, and the primary in Champions League historical past to take action.
It’s important to go all the best way again to 1976 — to a really nice Bayern Munich aspect which contained the likes of Gerd Müller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer — to discover a group that received in three consecutive years.
The group standing in the best way of an historic “three-peat” is Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, arguably the antithesis of this Actual aspect.
“These are type of, I would not say dysfunctional groups, however these are groups which have a really uneven steadiness of high quality,” German soccer journalist Raphael Honigstein instructed CNN Sport of this 12 months’s finalists.
“Actual Madrid have a unbelievable midfield, have nice guys up entrance and still have some fantastic gamers on the again, however collectively do not actually play that nicely collectively.
“They’ve very excessive particular person high quality, barely low collective high quality and barely low tactical high quality as a group.”
Liverpool’s power, conversely, comes from the group being higher than the sum of its elements.
Gamers, equivalent to Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and Loris Karius, who had beforehand struggled considerably for Liverpool, at the moment are excelling in Klopp’s system.
“Collectively they’re fairly sturdy and so they play in a means that makes pretty peculiar gamers fairly efficient,” Honigstein says. “However they’re missing high quality in key areas.
“They’ve the standard all up entrance, so I feel that type of uneven distribution will solely profit the sport as a spectacle.”
Ronaldo vs. Salah
Ronaldo and Salah have been central figures within the two most prolific attacking groups in Champions League historical past.
This season, Liverpool’s entrance three of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have scored a document 29 objectives, eclipsing the earlier better of 28 set by Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema throughout Actual’s victorious 2013-14 marketing campaign.
However whereas Liverpool’s attacking trio have shared the load in entrance of purpose this season — Salah and Firmino have 10 objectives and Mane has 9 — Actual are closely reliant on one man.
Ronaldo has 15 objectives for Los Blancos on this season’s competitors, with Benzema a distant second on 4. Left-back Marcelo is the group’s third-highest scorer with three objectives.
“Liverpool have a extra even distribution of objectives than Actual Madrid have,” Honigstein says. “They clearly have a method of scoring and that is by Cristiano and if he is not there, they need to work a little bit bit tougher.
“Whereas with Liverpool they’ve a range with the three guys up entrance.
“So I do not essentially suppose will probably be a straight shootout between Salah and Cristiano, however in fact if one among them has sport then it turns into instantly harder for the opposite group to win.”
Salah, Mane and Firmino have terrorized opposition defenses, each domestically and in Europe, all season, enjoying a scintillating model of attacking soccer that has drawn reward from all around the world.
Few groups have been capable of face up to the dizzying exchanging of passes, or hold monitor of the fluid interchanging of positions and Honigstein believes the lethal trio are like nothing Actual’s protection has confronted this time period.
“I feel Liverpool are very, very arduous to defend in opposition to,” he says. “The gamers are type of uncontrollable once they begin working at you so I feel they may pose the type of questions and issues that Actual Madrid haven’t come up in opposition to this season, with maybe the slight exception of the PSG sport and two video games in opposition to Barcelona.
“However even this Barcelona should not fairly as fluid as this Liverpool group are once they assault.
“It is one factor to look at these guys however when you’re up in opposition to it there shall be a second of sharp consumption and Actual Madrid considering: ‘Oh my god, what’s going on right here?’
“And whereas they might not panic, perhaps they will unsettle them sufficient to maximise their alternative.”
Whatever the consequence on Saturday, the talk as as to whether this Actual aspect need to be added to the pantheon of greats will proceed.
However ought to they win their fourth Champions League title in 5 years, it should develop into more and more troublesome to disclaim them a spot.