Liverpool is seen as a big club all over the world, but the club is yet to secure a Premier League trophy. Although this may be true, the club is famous for its ability to do well in cup competitions. Since 2000, Liverpool has won two major European titles: the Europa League (formerly known as the UEFA Cup) in 2001 and the Champions League in 2005. It’s obvious, Liverpool can grind out good results in cup competitions so is the 2018 Champions League Final the arena for the club to do this once again.
Every football fan knows that the 2005 Champions League Final is a special part of Liverpool’s football history. AC Milan scored three goals in the first half and it looked like they were going to win the title. Then in the second half, the Liverpool team scored three goals in under ten minutes. How they managed it? Only they will ever know. The team that night showed the determination needed which led them to a win that night. Without the experience of the 2005 squad, which had the likes of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, and Xabi Alonso, it will be a tough fight on the 26th May.
Since this night in Istanbul, Liverpool has had two chances for European silverware. The club reached the Champions League Final in 2007 but lost to AC Milan. The Reds had the chance to win the Europa League in 2016 but they came up short in the match against Sevilla. Two seasons have passed and it is clear that the Liverpool squad has developed since this disappointing night in 2016.
Now, the Liverpool squad contains three top scorers: Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Although Firmino featured in the 2016 Europa League Final, he has played like a different player this season.
In the last six Champions League matches (against FC Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma) Mane, Firmino and Salah have scored a total of fifteen goals. In each of these matches at least one of the aforementioned players have scored. There is one exception to this goal scoring statistic and that is the second-leg against FC Porto. In this match, the goal scoring trio did not score a single goal, however, by this point, Liverpool was already 5-0 up on aggregate courtesy of Mane, Firmino and Salah.
The gifted trio will be Liverpool’s advantage against Real Madrid on the 26th May. This will, however, not be easy; the Real Madrid squad is full of experience. The likes of Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Luka Modrić and Marcelo Vieira da Silva were in the starting line-up for Real Madrid in the 2016 and 2017 Champions League Final victories. These players alongside the rest of the 2018 squad know how to score and defend against the best teams in Europe.
However, the Real Madrid defense is not indestructible. The Real Madrid team has only managed one clean sheet in the Champions League since February. Mane, Firmino and Salah will try to exploit this and do what Bayern Munich tried to do against Real Madrid, in the semi-final but failed.
Liverpool is not known for being a defensive team, however, since the addition of Virgil van Dijk to the Liverpool squad, their defense has appeared stronger. Since February, the Liverpool team may have conceded seven goals in the Champions League, but the squad has managed three clean sheets. A strong defense will be necessary to keep the likes of Gareth Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema from scoring.
Jürgen Klopp claimed that having a positive ‘mentally [and] character’ was necessary for the Liverpool team, when they played against AS Roma on the 2nd May 2018. The Reds did enough, in the second-leg against AS Roma, to get to the final and went through on a 6-7 aggregate. The Liverpool team has proven that they have these characteristics time and time again in the competition this year.
In the lead up to the final, Liverpool was victorious against FC Porto and Manchester City. Both of these teams are the league champions of the Primeira Liga and English Premier League respectively. Maybe this was the perfect preparation for a final against Real Madrid.
Will Liverpool experience another night like in Istanbul or will the match against Real Madrid be a repeat of the Europa League Final in 2016? We’ll all find out on the 26th May 2018.