Will Trent Alexander-Arnold be able to handle flying striker Vinicius Jr.? Can Mo Salah finally ignite the big finale? and is there any chance to stop Karim Benzema in front of the goal? Six burning questions that will decide the Champions League final
- Here, sports mail watch the key battles ahead of the Champions League final
- Trent Alexander-Arnold’s duty to celebrate Vinicius Jr promises to be exciting
- Mo Salah said he wants revenge and could ignite another ending
- No. 9 Karim Benzema has been great this season for Real Madrid.
Liverpool and Real Madrid meet again in today’s final and it’s a classic matchup.
As both teams know each other well from their previous encounter in the 2017/18 Champions League final and their encounter last season, this match promises to be exciting.
Here, sports mail looks at the key issues and decisive battles that will decide the competition at the Stade de France.
Liverpool and Real Madrid will face off in the Champions League final on Saturday night.
Madrid’s fresh legs to let the Reds get around?
Real Madrid have not played significant matches for three and a half weeks. Liverpool were on their feet in pursuit of four trophies. Real Madrid won La Liga by beating Espanyol 4-0 on 30 April. They then beat Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals a few days later.
Since then, Carlo Ancelotti has used their stars in dead rubbers, but it remains to be seen if they can get their competitive juices up again against a Liverpool team that has been at full speed every game.
Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson said yesterday: “They had a relaxed preparation and were able to play at a slower pace. We wanted to fight for everything and it was hard on our bodies, but we are in better shape.”
Real Madrid could have had an advantage over Liverpool by resting in recent weeks
Will Salah finally ignite the big finale?
Without a doubt, Salah remains Liverpool’s most dangerous player. Despite the contributions of Luis Diaz, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota this season, the Egyptian is the striker in Liverpool’s ranks that Real Madrid will worry about the most.
After leaving the pitch injured in a 2018 loss to Real Madrid, Salah scored an early penalty against Spurs a year later. But he hasn’t been able to reach his peak in either game and he lacks form in this game.
Watching Salah come on as a substitute last Sunday against Wolverhampton was a snapshot of his recent troubles. For the first time in his career, Salah lacks confidence. But he still managed to score…
Can Trent handle the Flying Brazilian?
Of all the problems Real have given City in their incredible semi-final, no one has caused more than winger Vinicius Jr. Only 21 years old, the Brazilian is still raw, but his speed and directness make him a dangerous weapon.
Tonight, the marking job falls to Trent Alexander-Arnold. Questions were asked about the Alexander-Arnold defense and Vinicius harassed him when Liverpool lost in Madrid in last season’s quarter-finals.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Vinicius Jr. (right) battled for possession last season
Former Liverpool and Real Madrid winger Steve McManaman said this week: “Real can use this area because Trent likes to go forward.” Liverpool will have to watch this ball fly into space.”
Alexander-Arnold said: “The battles will be all over the field. We have a game plan.
Can Benzema continue his hitting streak?
The Frenchman will play in front of a home crowd that still shares his opinion. What is undeniable is the impact he has had on this competition.
The Real Madrid striker has scored 15 Champions League goals this season, including hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, and two in that first match against City on the Etihad swing.
So Benzema’s form is sensational, but whether he can carry that threat against a centre-back of the caliber of Virgil van Dijk is another matter. Benzema, 34, can be both hot and cold, and Van Dijk’s regular defensive partner Joel Matip said this week: “We’ve faced a lot of good players in the past and we’ll try to protect him as a team. There is nothing to be afraid of. We are ready.
Karim Benzema is the top scorer in the Champions League this year with 15 goals.
Are Bayern a distraction for Mane?
Jurgen Klopp was optimistic about this yesterday. “It’s not the first time that Bayern Munich has appeared before a decisive game for me,” he said, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m not sure why this is happening, but it’s not a problem. Wherever Sadio plays next season, he will be a big player. Definitely.’ Mane has been cryptic about his future in the past few days and we can be sure that Klopp is not as relaxed about the intentions of one of his star players as he seems.
But the peculiarity of football players is that they are able to put such things in the background and play as if their life depended on it.
Mane is a free and natural football player, as well as a fierce opponent. It would be a huge surprise if he didn’t put all his effort into this game.
Are Liverpool better than when Real beat them in 2017/18?
Mo Salah was forced off the field due to injury in the Champions League final against Madrid back in 2018.
Yes, without a doubt. This week, Klopp made an eloquent comment about Salah getting injured in that game. “We couldn’t replace him that night,” he said.
In Kyiv, Adam Lallana came on for the Egyptian and the other substitute that night as they chased the game was Emre Can for James Milner. Liverpool’s attacking reserves are much deeper these days.
Jota, Diaz and Roberto Firmino are sure to be starters in most European teams. “You have to learn how to win,” Klopp said last night. “But the boys have grown a lot in recent years.”
It’s hard not to agree.