MIt really is the toughest month. For Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, there is something so brutal and funny about the current string of finals and final days, those ultra-thin margins at the end of a glorious and arduous year.
Liverpool played 62 games this season and lost only three games. They now have one thing left, the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday night in Saint-Denis, a match that has been postponed twice and in the Bourne franchise’s tour of the enchanting places of the UEFA region, Munich has been pushed to St Petersburg. Finally to Paris.
And while it might sound ridiculous, reckless and completely wrong to say that the season will be decided by win or loss at the Stade de France, nine months of something close to sporting perfection and two awards already count as a huge success. fail through a one-time play; Well, that may also be true.
This is the beauty of elite sport as well as its evil. It is also a sign of the ultimate quality of this mature team. By reasonable standards, Liverpool really does exist. This team won the Champions League. You have these lower tones, textures, and rejuvenation of every surface of the racket’s surface. However, a final like this, a true one-on-one game, could be what Liverpool need.
With all the hikes up to this point, there is still a sense of loneliness that has yet to find its final form to experience its own signature summit. This is often just a matter of dropping matches. The Champions League Final win over Tottenham Hotspur was decisive and undeniable; But the bottom line is also the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur. Winning the league by 18 points was a remarkable achievement, but also an experience marred by quarantine conditions.
Paris on Saturday is something else, at least in terms of momentum. This is a chance to show the world how good this team is, in one of the most cinematic encounters. Big teams tend to have moments like this, from Barcelona disbelieving AC Milan in the height of the Capello transfer years, to Manchester United’s bouts against Bayern Munich, to Barcelona’s awful perfection in Pep’s 2011 Wembley era.
This is more than just theater. For Klopp, there is a more immediate tactical clue to the possibility of facing opponents of this nature. Liverpool are the favorites by a narrow margin. At best, they are a more cohesive and powerful team. With some early winds behind them, they should probably be able to walk into Madrid.
But there is a caveat here, too. Liverpool’s recent record against the best teams is their only major weakness. Why didn’t they win the championship this season? The most obvious answer is that they have drawn in six matches and conceded no goal in six matches against the other members in the top four. They beat reduced Manchester City 3-2 in the FA Cup. The last time Liverpool defeated a recent Champions League winner other than a 2-0 penalty shootout against Chelsea was in September 2020.
In the past two months, Real Madrid won Chelsea and City. They also beat Liverpool last year, although the details of that match could be key to Saturday’s performance.
Finals are usually won in midfield. Often these are deep games, which test your ability to catch the ball, to establish your own rhythm under pressure. Here Madrid maintained its superiority in this competition. Modric Kroos Casemiro is an era of his own, footballers of such quality, intelligence and great skill levels that they can find ways to win, they can spend half an hour going through but still know their special moments are coming.
Toni Kroos in particular these days looks exhausted from the first minute, a footballer who seems to be walking through wet sand but knows he still has the ability to impact the match at that level.
It was the Madrid midfield that had the advantage over Liverpool. Luka Modric and Kroos seemed to play in the light air in the first hour at Alfredo Di Stefano last season, as they dominated possession and found time to make passes in the red zone behind the defenders. That gap was even more pronounced in the 2018 final when Kroos had 99 touches, Modric 90 and Liverpool midfielders Jenny Wijnaldum, James Milner and Jordan Henderson, who appears to be Modric’s favorite footballer, spent the night.
There are several reasons to suspect that this can now be reversed. First, all of Madrid’s greats are much older. Kroos should not play if Carlo Ancelotti prefers the active presence of the great Eduardo Camavinga. Secondly, Liverpool can bring back on Saturday Thiago Alcantara, their only midfielder of the degree to which he can face the kings of speed and touch. His presence – and there is great doubt – would be a huge step forward.
Third, the Liverpool team that featured last year had Ozan Capac and Nat Phillips in defence, a quality dilution that affects every aspect of their play.
Much was made of Liverpool’s high defense, and the way their central defenders are unafraid to hold this position allows Klopp to be assertive in the match and make the press a chore. Madrid will have to deal with this pressure. And in this middle third, the game can be won and lost.
The most notable element of Liverpool’s struggle against the best teams is the way their opponents attacked the space behind their full backs with quick passes from midfield. The head-to-head confrontation between Vinicius Jr and Trent Alexander-Arnold is the most obvious pressure point here.
Both players will try to find an advantage on this wing. Alexander-Arnold – this is a tactic – deliberately leaving spaces by pushing forward as an attacking playmaker is really just a red flag when midfield can no longer control to prevent a player like Kroos from finding his space. Klopp has a choice: push his right-back into his usual front spaces, trusting process and cover; Or sit back and know that Vinicius and Karim Benzema offer the most razor-sharp blade in Madrid. However, much of this stems from the position of the center.
There are other interesting points. Real Madrid played an important match in the past four weeks, beating City at home. Since then, Benzema and Modric have played less than 180 minutes. Liverpool is somewhat overwhelmed, exhausted by the recent chain of events and moments of crisis.
It’s not likely to matter much. It is noteworthy that there is no rematch here, and that the progress of Real Madrid depends on dragging themselves into those relationships. But such a final is the second final. It’s the extra time, the endgame, the moment you’re pinned to the wall and left struggling, every decision, every doubt, every trace of weakness plays out at the brightest glance.
Liverpool kind of paid off at the end of the day in Paris. For Madrid, this is their comfort zone, the place they have been trying to get to all season. The only question now is: Who is blinking in this light?