Liverpool and Real Madrid will face off in the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp’s side aiming to end the season with a trophy treble as the Spanish giants look to Karim Benzema to inspire them to win their 14th European Cup.
As Liverpool and Real compete for the most prestigious award in European club football for the second time in five years, 80,000 people will gather at the Stade de France for the kickoff at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT).
After a brief defeat to Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title, Liverpool promised a better season for the European season than winning a second Champions League in four seasons. They have already won the English League Cup and the FA Cup.
“If you’re a footballer, you know what my guys have done so far this season was exceptional,” Klopp said Friday.
“But we all know that after a game you are judged by the color of the medal.
“I am just happy and proud of what we have done so far. I would feel better if we could win the game and that’s what I’m concerned about, Klopp added.
The Germans have been encouraged by reports that midfielder Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara are fit to play.
The final is being held in Paris only after Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was dropped from the game in St. Petersburg.
Up to 60,000 Liverpool supporters have traveled to the French capital, mostly without tickets.
About 20,000 supporters from each side could take part in the final, but Paris authorities have created an area east of the city where 40,000 Liverpool fans can watch on the big screen.
Bitter memories of 2018
Liverpool could win their seventh European Cup, which would take them to the level of AC Milan and leave only Real with more wins.
The Anfield club have bitter memories of losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in Kiev in 2018, when Mohamed Salah was injured in the first half after being challenged by outgoing Sergio Ramos.
Gareth Bale scored twice for the Spaniards and a mistake by goalkeeper Loris Carius undermined Liverpool’s challenge.
Madrid are looking to win their fifth Champions League in nine seasons and, unfortunately, have won all of their last seven finals.
While Liverpool lost to Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal in the knockout rounds, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real made a series of memorable comebacks to beat Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and then Manchester City.
“It simply came to our notice then. We know the needs and history of this club very well, but coming here is too big for us, “said Ancelotti.
“We’re sure the season has already been very, very good but now we’re very close to getting the big one.”
Eyes on Benzema
Liverpool seem to be the strongest team in the paper, with Goal Allison, Virgil Van Dyke marshalling their defense and Salah and Sadio Mane leading their attack.
Yet Real have pinned their hopes on Benzema, the 34-year-old Frenchman who has scored 15 goals in the competition this season.
He has scored a total of 44 goals this season to help Real win the Spanish title and the Ballon d’Or.
“He is definitely one of the best players in the world, probably the best forward in the world and I am sure he is the most underestimated player in history,” UEFA President Alexander Seferin told AFP on Friday.
Ancelotti said of Benzema: “Now he has more personality and leadership on and off the field, but what hasn’t changed is his quality and he’s as humble as ever.”
Ancelotti could be the first coach to win four Champions League titles since winning his first spell with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 and with Real Madrid in 2014 – he currently has three wins with Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley.
This will be the third final between the clubs, which met in Paris in 1981, when Alan Kennedy’s goal at the Parc des Princes won the English team.
Get the hottest sports news right in your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to access Philippine Daily Inquirer and 70+ other headlines, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download by 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.