Familiar foes Real Madrid and Liverpool will take part in UEFA’s showpiece event at the weekend, The UEFA Champions League final. These two sides have faced each other often in recent times. They met in the famous (infamous for Liverpool fans) 2018 Champions League final.
Some incredible gaffes from Liverpool’s goalkeeper, Loris Karius, highlighted that match. It is also remembered for a sensational appearance off the bench by Welsh footballing legend Gareth Bale.
The two sides also faced each other at the quarter-final stage of last year’s competition. Real Madrid won that tie against a Liverpool side with a severely depleted defense. Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips were the center-back pairing, just for some context.
It wasn’t the center-backs that hurt Liverpool in the decisive first leg, however. Although their level and experience had some impact, it was a tremendous performance from Real Madrid attacker Vinicius Jr. that proved the difference between the two sides. He capitalized on Liverpool right back Trent Alexander Arnold’s nightmare of a defensive performance, scoring two goals in the 3-1 victory for Los Blancos.
Alexander-Arnold is a much better defender this season, so that should give Liverpool fans some hope that history won’t repeat.
2018 vs 2022 Squad Comparisons
UEFA Champions League Final FYIs
TV/Streaming: CBS Sports’ coverage kicks off on Saturday, May 28 (1:30 PM, ET)
Broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and streaming live on Paramount+.
Liverpool-Real Madrid kicks off at 3:00 PM, ET.
Starting XI Predictions: Real Madrid Liverpool
Result Probability: Real Madrid 29% Liverpool 45% Draw 26%
Odds: Real Madrid +230 Liverpool +115 Draw +260
Starting XI Prediction
On the other side of the coin, Vinicius Jr. is a much better player this season too. That will give Madristas some confidence that he can repeat the dose.
This Real Madrid side should not be discounted. They have an almost perfect blend of youth and experience. Looking at both sides line for line, it is hard to pick a noticeable advantage for either team. With that in mind, let’s have a look at who starts for Madrid in Paris on Saturday.
In goals, Thibaut Courtois starts. The Belgian remains one of the best goalies in the world. It would surprise me if he didn’t start.
The defense has a slight question mark surrounding it. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has assured everybody that David Alaba will start.
He will play alongside Brazilian Eder Militao. The two have struck up an incredible understanding since Alaba’s move to Spain this season. Dani Carvajal will start at right-back, with Ferland Mendy starting at left-back.
Real Madrid likes to play with two holders in midfield. And what a pair they have to start this matchup. Brazilian powerhouse Casemiro and German legend Toni Kroos will play next to each other in those roles.
Luka Modric will start just ahead of them in a more attacking role from the center of midfield.
Karim Benzema will spearhead the attack for Los Blancos. The Frenchman is aging like a fine wine, as evidenced by his incredible return of 44 goals and 15 assists across all competitions this year. That is almost 60 score involvements for those keeping score at home. Vinicius Jr. will start on the left.
The Brazilian has had a break-out year at the Santiago Bernabeu.
On the right, it could be a few different options. I am going with Uruguayan Fedi Valverde; the Uruguayan has proven himself more than handy when playing this position.
I have agonized over this prediction. I have tried super hard to be objective, although objectivity is not a thing I believe in. There can be no doubting Liverpool’s superiority heading into this fixture. Their squad is just a touch better than Madrid’s. And they are in incredible form. Liverpool has lost just once in the entire calendar year of 2022.
The Reds also have that winning feeling, having secured a domestic cup double already this season. But…Liverpool is playing in their 63rd match this season and it has been showing in recent weeks. The fixture pile-up is, not unexpectedly, taking its toll on the squad.
They have looked leggy in their last two fixtures against Southampton and Wolves. When you play with a high defensive line, you really need to be at peak fitness. Particularly so when you are up against this Real Madrid outfit.
So all that considered, and as much as it pains me to say, I think Real Madrid will win this one. It won’t be as one-sided as 2018, but I still think Los Blancos will win 3-2 after extra time.
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