Champions League Final – It’s do or die for Liverpool in Kiev

With only hours until kick-off in the 2018 Champions League final, the pressure is well and truly on for Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.

Whilst some might have considered the roles to be reversed, as only a minority would have envisioned Liverpool reaching this stage, the eyes of the world are on Mohamed Salah and his teammates, and this may play right in to Zinedine Zidane’s, and Real Madrid’s, hands.

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Frenchman Zidane is heading to Kiev hoping to guide ‘Los Blancos’ to their – and his – third successive Champions League title, while Liverpool are playing in theirs for the first time in 11 years.

Zidane is admittedly not the most tactically astute manager, but for what he lacks in that department, he more than compensates for with his motivation and adaptation.

True, Madrid have not been in the most scintillating form this season, finishing 17 points behind eventual La Liga winners Barcelona, and their defence has looked vulnerable at times in this competition, but one of the greatest goalscorers in football history lead their line, and I’m sure he is relishing the thought of going up against the opposition defence.

The entire Liverpool backline – including the goalkeeper – are participating in their first European cup final, and for what they lack in experience, they certainly do not make up for in quality.

Aside from Virgil Van Dijk, there is not one other defender who, when you think of him, brings the word quality to mind. Lovren can be atrociously bad at times, Robertson can leave big gaps in behind, and Trent Alexander-Arnold – who has got massive potential – has yet to celebrate his 20th birthday.

Considering how much Roma exploited the latter’s inexperience, it is worrisome to think what might happen when you replace Džeko and El Shaarawy with Ronaldo and Bale.

Liverpool’s midfield is an (slight) improvement on their defence, but still pales in comparison to Madrid’s.

Jordan Henderson and James Milner have somehow guided their side to the final, with the latter registering the most assists in the competition this season, but are nowhere near the quality of Toni Kroos, Luca Modrić and Casemiro, and if Zidane decides to replace Karem Benzema with another midfielder, be it Isco or Asensio, things could get even worse.

If Liverpool are to win in Kiev, they need their star man, Mohammed Salah, to play the best game of his career to date.

The last time Salah came up against the side from the Capital, captain Sergio Ramos effectively marked him out of the game, but this is not the same Salah from two seasons ago at Roma.

The Egyptian has been in the form of his life since joining last summer, and has even outscored his rival, Ronaldo, domestically this season, but when it comes to the Champions League, there is only one winner. Salah has managed ten goals in club football’s biggest competition.

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Ronaldo has managed five more, including a wonderful bicycle kick in the quarter-finals against Juventus, at the Allianz stadium, in Turin.

This Madrid side are at their weakest and most vulnerable when they are up against it and their backs are against the wall, as was evident in the second leg of their quarter-final second leg against Juventus, when, were it not for a Ronaldo penalty, they would have been taken to extra-time, and possibly penalties.

For Liverpool, Toni Kroos’s recent comments, in which he stated that his side will be ‘‘up against 11 animals’’, must turn out to be true.

If Liverpool do not get out of the blocks quickly, and allow the games tempo to slow down, Ronaldo will get more chances against a slowing defence, and the advantage will be in the corner of Real.

Something which, if it occurs, may be irreversible for Liverpool.

Author Details

Robert Barter

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