Real Madrid and Liverpool are set to face off in the 2022 UEFA Champions League final tonight. The match is set to kick off at 3:00 p.m. ET, in Paris at Stade de France.
Even though some of his teammates tried to play his words down since, it’s obvious Salah has unfinished business against Real Madrid and it has been bugging him for four years. He could hardly have hoped for a better opportunity to get it over it himself after what happened in Kyiv.
Having won the La Liga title, Real Madrid did great things on the way, knocking out the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City to get where they are in this competition, all in most remarkable ways.
On the other hand, after taking out Inter Milan in the round of 16, Liverpool may have thought they would be facing Ajax, Juventus or Bayern Munich in the following rounds, but it was Benfica who took out Ajax and stood against the Merseyiders in the quarterfinals, and then Villarreal in the semis, after the Spanish side beat both Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Unlike Real, Liverpool failed to win the domestic league title this season. For the second time in four years, they lost the race by a single point to Manchester City. The last time that happened, they were spurred on and triumphed emphatically a year later, but City have won it twice again since. On the other hand, City are still chasing that elusive Champions League trophy, which they’ve never ever won, while the 2019 victory was Liverpool’s sixth European crown.
Jurgen Klopp’s team won four of their last six matches, drawing the other two. They beat Villarreal away in the second leg of the semifinal by 2-3, drew 1-1 at home against Tottenham Hotspur, beat Aston Villa at Villa Park by 1-2, played a goalless draw in the FA Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea and won the trophy on penalties, beat Southampton away by 1-2, and eventually came back from a goal down to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers at home by 3-1 on the final day of the Premier League campaign.
As much as Liverpool may feel the desire to get revenge for 2018, Real Madrid will feel the Merseysiders might’ve developed a psychological problem about facing them. Not only did Real beat them in Kyiv, but they also triumphed over them in the 2020-21 quarterfinals over two legs, and beat them twice in 2014-15 in the group stage. It should, though, be said that only Henderson remains in the Liverpool team since those days.
It should also be said that Real are not exactly the same team themselves, even compared to the match in Kyiv. There’s no more Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks, or Sergio Ramos, or Raphael Varane, and even Bale doesn’t get any game-time these days. It remains to be seen what the likes of Vinicius Junior, Eder Militao, Nacho Fernadez, and either Rodrygo Goes or Marco Asensio can do in such an important match as this. Judging by what they’ve shown so far this season, they can do a lot.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team has one big advantage over their Premier League opponents – they secured the La Liga title some time ago and have had plenty of time for their players to rest and recover. Match rhythm aside, they should be in a better physical shape than the Merseysiders. They also have a psychological advantage, with their morale surely boosted by the title, whereas that of Liverpool must’ve been shaken by coming just short of the league triumph.
Real’s last-six run begins with a 4-0 home win over Espanyol, followed by that remarkable comeback against Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu when they scored twice in the final minutes to win within the 90 by 2-1, and they added a third to wrap the victory up in extra-time and secure a place in this final. Then they lost the Madrid derby away to Atletico by 1-0, smashed Levante 6-0 at home, drew 1-1 away to Cadiz in the game that secured them the league title, and eventually played a goalless draw at home against Real Betis. Interestingly enough, Ancelotti did not rest anyone but started the trivial match with his arguably strongest lineup with the exception of David Alaba.