Liverpool vs Real Madrid: Comparing UCL Final Squads of 2018 & 2022: Attack

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Champions League Final fever is going into overdrive as we head into the biggest match of the European football season. This weekend will see Liverpool taking on Real Madrid at the Stade de France in UEFA’s showpiece event. This is not the first time these two clubs have faced off in the battle for Ol’ Big Ears.

Incredibly, this is not even the first time they have faced each other in a final in France. All the way back in 1981, Liverpool captain Phil Thompson lifted the most coveted trophy in club football at the Parc des Princes as Liverpool defeated Real Madrid 1-0. And that was the last time Real Madrid suffered defeat in a European Cup Final.

2018 vs 2022 Squad Comparisons

Attack    Midfield     Defense     Goalkeeping

Fast forward some 35 odd years and the two sides were at it again. This time contesting the final at the Kyiv Olympic Stadium. That time around, Real was looking to become the first side to complete a three-peat in the Champions League era. They would be successful, as Sergio Ramos and company would lift the trophy that night with Los Blancos defeating Liverpool 3-1.

Now, just four years later, they face each other again. And given that there has been such a short time since their last UCL final battle, I thought it’d be fun to compare each side to the sides we’ll see walk out on Saturday night.

For this exercise, I’ll be using the starting XI’s that Sportsbank Liverpool writer Will Willems & I have predicted for the upcoming matchup.

ATTACK

Real Madrid

In 2018, Los Blancos lined up with a front two. And what a front two it was. The attacking duo comprised Karim Benzema, and arguably the best player we have ever seen, Cristiano Ronaldo. CR7 wouldn’t trouble the scorers on the night, but his mere presence gave the Liverpool defenders nightmares.

His partner in attack Karim Benzema would get the ball rolling on the night. The Frenchman capitalized on part one of the Loris Karius horror show, to put Madrid in the ascendancy.

In 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo no longer wears the famous white shirt of Real Madrid. His partner, Karim Benzema, still does, and what a season he is having in the Champions League. He has scored 15 goals in 11 UCL appearances and continues to score crucial goals for Real. He also put himself in the history books when he scored back-to-back Champions League hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea in the knockout rounds of this year’s competition. 

Brazilian Vinicius Jr. is having a career-best year in the famous white kits as well. He will probably start on the left flank and ask some serious questions of Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold.

The right-hand side is a bit of a mystery with Fedi Valverde, Marco Asensio, and Rodrygo all playing the role at different points this season. Whichever option Real Madrid goes with, they will have a world-class front three at their disposal, yet again.

Liverpool

The 2018 season saw the emergence of Liverpool’s feared and famous front three.

Of course, I am talking about Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah. Firmino was perfecting his false nine role. Mane was adapting to the switch to the left flank, and Salah was scoring bucket loads of goals from the right flank. We all know the story of how the night ended for Salah.

Madrid defender Sérgio Ramos took him out in a move some WWE superstars would be proud of. Firmino had his influence severely hampered by the Egyptians’ substitution after starting brightly and Mane gave Reds fans a glimmer of hope, equalizing after Loris Karius’ first howler. 

The 2022 frontline has a ‘same but different’ vibe about it. Mohamed Salah will start on the right of the Liverpool attacking trident, much the same as he did in 2018. Although he hasn’t scored as many goals as his 2018 self, the general feeling is he is a much better player than he was back then. Sadio Mane has had another positional change, and now he occupies the center forward position. The Senegalese is much more dangerous in front of goal than he was in the 17/18 season.

Colombian Luis Diaz is the new kid on the block. He plays on the left wing and is the only difference to the Liverpool forward line in terms of personnel. The skillful former Porto winger has quickly become the x-factor in Liverpool’s attack since his move to the club in January.

ADVANTAGE: LIVERPOOL

I agonized over whom to give the advantage to when comparing these two forward lines. And I very much can see an argument for Real Madrid. Particularly when you consider Karim Benzema’s incredible season and the development of Vinicius Jr in the Los Blancos attack. Ultimately, I had to go with the Red’s attacking trident.

I think they are better than they were in 2018, and they were pretty damn good then, too.

I think these comments from Jamie Carragher ultimately convinced me of my choice:

“Liverpool are better than they were [in 2018] and Real Madrid are not as good as that [their 2018] team. Liverpool have lost just 3 games out of 62 this season, which is just an incredible record”

Stuart Kavanagh is a sports journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Along with being the owner of the sports and entertainment website thepyrrhic.com, he is the co-host of the ‘After Extra Time’ podcast. Football mad, he is always down for debate and discussion at @stueyissickofit on Twitter.

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