Date: Saturday 28th May, 2022
Time: 8:00 pm
Stadium Stade de France
Referee Clement Turpin (France)
Forty-one years on from their inaugural battle in the beautiful city of Paris, Liverpool and Real Madrid reconvene just north of the French capital in Saint-Denis for the 2021-22 Champions League final on Saturday.
The Reds have a seventh title in Europe’s primary competition in their sights this weekend, while continental veterans Los Blancos are aiming to get their hands on the trophy for a record-extending 14th time.
Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal have been sent packing by Jurgen Klopp’s side en route to the Stade de France, while Carlo Ancelotti’s men have dumped out a trio of heavyweights in Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.
Having started to string together a consistent run of matches and improve his fitness levels, the luckless Thiago Alcantara headed straight down the tunnel before the end of the first half against Wolves after sustaining an Achilles injury.
Klopp was initially pessimistic about his chances of featuring in the final, but the Reds boss has since changed his tune, and there is renewed hope over Thiago’s availability for the contest – whether he can play the full 90 or 120 minutes is another question entirely.
On another bright note, Fabinho’s hamstring injury is expected to let up in time after he returned to team training on Wednesday, while Joe Gomez should also be a part of the squad after bouncing back quickly from an ankle knock.
Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were both fit enough for places on the bench last weekend after their FA Cup final knocks and will expect to return to the first XI here, with the latter bagging the Reds’ second to share the Golden Boot with Son Heung-min.
Diogo Jota is sure to make way for Salah, while Ibrahima Konate was largely at fault for Wolves’ quickfire opener at the weekend, but the Champions League regular will aim to hold his spot over Joel Matip for the final.
However, cult hero Divock Origi has played his last game for the club after sustaining a muscular problem in training, meaning that there will be no farewell 2019 moment for the celebrated Belgian ahead of an anticipated free transfer to AC Milan.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz
In stark contrast, Real boss Ancelotti will hope to have everyone fit and available for his side’s 17th European Cup/Champions League final, with David Alaba making his return to training in midweek following an adductor issue.
Alaba was absent from the squad to face Betis but should take his rightful place in the first XI here barring any setbacks – demoting Nacho Fernandez down to the bench in the process.
Champions League veteran Marcelo has also shaken off fitness woes to make himself available but will once again play second fiddle to Ferland Mendy, while Eder Militao will expect to hold his spot despite calls for the Brazilian to be dropped.
As impressive as Eduardo Camavinga has been off the bench during Real’s run to the final, the 19-year-old would only edge out Casemiro, Toni Kroos or Luka Modric should one member of the midfield trio pick up an injury before Saturday.
The Liverpool high line is made for the likes of Vinicius and Rodrygo to run in behind, but the latter’s incredible impact as a substitute may tempt Ancelotti into continuing with Federico Valverde slightly further forward.
Another hat-trick for Benzema in the showpiece event would see him break the record for the most Champions League goals in a single campaign – currently held by Cristiano Ronaldo’s 17 in 2013-14 – while he only needs to make the net ripple once to becoem the outright third-highest goalscorer in the competition as he sits level with Robert Lewandowski on 86.
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
Head To Head
Real Madrid and Liverpool have previously met on eight occasions in European competition, with Los Blancos picking up four wins compared to a trio of successes for the Reds, while the most recent encounter ended in a draw.
Alan Kennedy’s winner propelled Liverpool to the European Cup over Real Madrid in the 1981 final, which would kickstart a run of three consecutive wins for the Merseyside club after a 5-0 aggregate success in the 2008-09 last-16.
However, Liverpool have since lost four and drawn one of their last five against the Spanish champions, including the 2018 final – remembered for all the right reasons by Gareth Bale and all the wrong reasons by Loris Karius.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-2 Real Madrid (A.E.T – Liverpool to win on penalties)