The biggest game in world club soccer is finally here, as Real Madrid and Liverpool will battle it out to be called the European champions in the Champions League final on Saturday. It will be the second time in four years that the two rivals have clashed, as Real Madrid beat the Reds 3-1 in the Champions League final in 2018. Will the Premier League runners-up be able to get revenge on the recently crowned LaLiga champions, or will history repeat itself in Paris? You can find out in this Champions League preview.
When & Where is the 2022 Champions League Final?
The culmination of the European season was originally meant to take place at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. However, it was announced earlier this year by UEFA that the location would be changed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Stade de France in Paris was announced as the new host of the UEFA CL Final 2022, as the stadium hosts the final for the third time. This year’s final will kick off at 3:00 p.m ET.
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Overview of Liverpool’s Campaign
Liverpool FC will go into Saturday’s showpiece final as the favourites in the betting, but they will be looking to put their Premier League disappointment behind them. The Reds were narrowly denied the English top-flight title on the final day of the season by Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola’s side scored three late goals to snatch back the crown.
Regardless, it has been a good season for the Reds, and they already have two pieces of silverware locked away in the forms of the EFL Cup and the FA Cup. However, many see this final as the big one from their perspective, as their season as a whole could be judged on whether they win the Champions League.
Liverpool’s Champions League Run
Jurgen Klopp’s side faced a tougher test than most in the group stages of the Champions League this term, as they were drawn alongside Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, and AC Milan. However, in that first test they came through with flying colours, winning all six games and scoring 17 goals. In the following round, they made easy work of Inter Milan in the away leg, winning 2-0 at the San Siro, before being edged out back at Anfield.
In the quarterfinals, they faced a relatively straightforward tie against Benfica. Once again, the heavy lifting was done in the opening leg, with the Reds winning 3-1 in Lisbon. The decision to rest Virgil van Djik for the second leg almost backfired spectacularly, as the Reds narrowly played out a 3-3 draw. Liverpool came up against Villarreal at the semi-final stage, and the tie looked done after a 2-0 win at Anfield. However, they squandered that advantage in the first half of the second leg. Ultimately though, goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane booked their ticket to Paris and a showdown with Real Madrid.
Overview of Real Madrid’s Campaign
There was a real sense at the start of the 2021-22 campaign that this was the dawn of a new start. Real was going into the campaign without Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, while Zinedine Zidane also departed the club after two successful spells in charge. Carlo Ancelotti was tasked with finding a way to get Real back on top, both domestically and in Europe. He certainly hasn’t fallen short in one regard, as Real was dominant throughout the campaign in LaLiga. They reclaimed their prize as the top dogs in Spain in a very commanding fashion, but how strong the league is this season is very much up for debate. Despite falling short in the Copa del Rey, a success in the Champions League for the 14th time would be enough to keep fans onside.
Real Madrid’s Champions League Run
Real Madrid’s run in the Champions League this season could make for a gripping Hollywood film. When the Spanish giants lost to Moldovan minnows Sheriff in September, very few would have predicted that they would end up in this position. Still, they finished top of their group to set up a tie against Lionel Messi’s PSG. Defeat in the first leg, coupled with going 1-0 down after 40 minutes in the second leg gave Real Madrid a mountain to climb. However, Karim Benzema would be the man for the big occasion, as he scored a stunning 17-minute hat-trick to stun the pre-tournament favourites. The Frenchman’s performances throughout this Champions League campaign have been world-class, and he once again displayed that in the quarterfinals with another hat-trick in Real’s first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
However, back in Madrid, there was a feeling that the tie was getting away from for the Spanish giants, as the Blues raced into a 3-0 lead. But, the never-say-die attitude in this team came to the fore again, with Rodrygo levelling the tie, before Benzema netted the winner in extra time. A Champions League classic was played out in the semi-finals, with Manchester City eventually edging a 4-3 win at the Etihad. However, in the second leg, Real clawed back from a 5-3 aggregate scoreline to force extra time with two goals in additional time. Step forward Benzema again to produce the big moment to book their spot in the final.
Key Match Trends
Real Madrid and Liverpool have met on nine previous occasions in the European Cup/Champions League, and the Reds are winless in their previous four since 2009. It will be the third time that the sides have met in the final, with Liverpool winning the clash in 1981, before Real won the recent meeting in 2018. Real Madrid’s record in the final of this competition is also staggering, as they have won in their previous seven appearances in the European final. Meanwhile, Liverpool has lost two of their previous finals, with defeats coming against Real in 2018 and AC Milan in 2007.
Latest Team News & Probable LineUps
Real Madrid has no fresh injury issues after resting many of their first-team stars in their final LaLiga fixture of the season. Marcelo is the only doubt for the Spanish giants. Liverpool is sweating on the fitness of Fabinho ahead of the final, while Mohamed Salah returned to action in their final Premier League fixture of the season. Virgil van Dijk wasn’t risked in their last league fixture.
Liverpool 4-3-3: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Keita, Fabinho, Salah, Mane Diaz
Real Madrid 4-2-3-1: Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy, Casemiro, Kroos, Valverde, Modric, Vinicius, Benzema
True North Casino's Champions League Final Prediction
It should be a thrilling battle between two of the best club sides on the planet this weekend. There is no doubt that Liverpool will be the bookies' favourites, but their performances towards the end of the Premier League season were looking more tired as the challenge of playing in four competitions was catching up to them.
There is a feeling that Real Madrid’s name could be on the trophy this season, as they have somehow managed to get through every challenge despite not being at their best. The additional rest time that the Spanish giants have had could also be key, especially as we could see this fixture going into extra time and beyond. We have a feeling that Real picks up the Champions League this weekend after another dramatic winner from Benzema in extra time.