Liverpool's big night will be the Real thing
Kop boss Jurgen Klopp could witness the biggest party he has ever seen if Liverpool can topple 12-times European champions Real Madrid in Kiev on Saturday eveningJurgen Klopp described Liverpool's journey to the Champions League final as 'a crazy ride', but that will pale into insignificance compared to the madness which would accompany the club's sixth victory in the competition.
The Reds are in their first European Cup final for 11 years and, with fans descending on Kiev in their thousands by any means necessary, the party will be long and loud should they triumph in Ukraine.
However, the task ahead of them is a considerable one with 12-time winners Real Madrid, bidding to make it four successes in five years, their opponents in the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium.
The fixture is a repeat of the 1981 European Cup final, won 1-0 by Liverpool in Paris thanks to Alan Kennedy’s goal.
Incredibly that was Real’s last defeat in the final of this competition, being successful six times since then.
This has been billed as Cristiano Ronaldo versus Mohamed Salah, European royalty against the Egyptian King, but there is far more to it than those two stand-out performers.
Real may have the Champions League’s all-time leading goalscorer in Ronaldo, but they are up against the side with the most firepower in the competition this season.
It promises to be an explosive meeting, with goals surely guaranteed.
Klopp’s side have blown away opponents in the knockout stages, scoring 17 of their 40 goals in six games since progressing from their group, including dispensing of Manchester City and Roma in the quarter and semi-final respectively.
Salah (10), Roberto Firmino (10) and Sadio Mane (nine) are the competition’s three highest scorers behind Ronaldo (15), who has dominated Real’s goalscoring, with next-best team-mate Karim Benzema trailing a long way behind with just four.
To put that in perspective, Philippe Coutinho, who left Anfield for Barcelona in January, has five Champions League goals for Liverpool this term.
The key to Liverpool’s success is their belief in Klopp’s philosophy of positive and attacking football, never settling for what they have and always wanting more.
That was highlighted in Rome where, despite holding a 5-2 first-leg lead, they scored twice in the opening 25 minutes.
It is something Real – who have saved their best performances for the Champions League having been well off the pace domestically – will be wary of as they have managed only three clean sheets on their run to the final…and two of those came against Cypriot minnows APOEL in the group stage.
But, despite not being at the level of the 2013-14 or 2016-17 sides who won their finals 4-1 against Atletico Madrid and Juventus respectively, Zinedine Zidane’s squad have big-game experience in bucketloads. Talisman Ronaldo is looking for his fifth personal Champions League victory – as many as Liverpool as a club have managed – while wily campaigner Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Isco are all three-time winners.
In contrast, the only survivors of Liverpool’s 2016 Europa League final defeat to Sevilla expected to start in Kiev are Dejan Lovren, James Milner and Roberto Firmino.
But Klopp’s current team not only have different personnel but a vastly different mentality.
They are fearless, ferocious and do not concern themselves with reputations – potentially the perfect mix with which to topple the serial Champions League winners.