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
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.
The goalkeeping situation for 2018 will need no reminding for anyone who watched in this game. Neither goalie kept a clean sheet, but one ‘keeper certainly had a better game than the other. Costa Rican legend Keylor Navas was between the sticks for Real in 2018, but he isn’t the story here. The Liverpool goalie, sadly, became the story of the 2018 Champions League final. Of course, I am talking about German gloveman Loris Karius.
He had a nightmare of a game, handing Madrid the impetus by rolling the ball out to Karim Benzema for him to knock it past Karius. He has also been criticized for Madrid’s other two goals on the night as well.
In 2022, the goalkeeping situation has vastly improved for both clubs. Both Liverpool and Real Madrid can proudly line up with goalkeepers who would show up in most people’s top 5 current goalies in the world. For Real Madrid, they have Belgian superstar Thibaut Courtois and for the Reds it’s Brazilian shot-stopper, Alisson Becker.
With world-class custodians protecting both goals, it would surprise me if goalkeeping howlers decided this year’s Champions League final.
Peter Schmeichel had this to say about the goalkeeping situation heading into the Champions League final:
“Well there’s one big difference I’d like to point out and that’s Liverpool has a better goalkeeper this time. When you get to this stage of this tournament, one person can change the outcome”
There is no doubting that both sides have upgraded their goalkeeping situation since Kyiv. I don’t think there can be any argument that Liverpool’s upgrade is much more significant. In Alisson Becker, they have a gloveman who is one of the top two in the world.
Thibaut Courtois is a tremendous goalie as well, but he is just not quite at that top, top level. Therefore, the advantage has to go to Jurgen Klopp’s men.
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.Follow paulmbanks