25 May 2018

Liverpool v Real Madrid 05.26.18

2:45pm ET, live in the US on Fox

CL results:
Liverpool: 2-4 Roma (a); 5-2 Roma (h); 2-1 City (a); 3-0 City (h); 0-0 Porto (h); 5-0 Porto (a); 7-0 Spartak (h); 3-3 Sevilla (a); 3-0 Maribor (h); 7-0 Maribor (a); 1-1 Spartak (a); 2-2 Sevilla (h); 4-2 Hoffenheim (h); 2-1 Hoffenheim (a)
Real: 2-2 Bayern (h); 2-1 Bayern (a); 1-3 Juventus (h); 3-0 Juventus (a); 2-1 PSG (a); 3-1 PSG (h); 3-2 Dortmund (h); 6-0 APOEL (a); 1-3 Tottenham (a); 1-1 Tottenham (h); 3-1 Dortmund (a); 3-0 APOEL (h)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Brighton (h); 0-1 Chelsea (a); 2-4 Roma (a)
Real: 2-2 Villarreal (a); 6-0 Celta Vigo (h); 2-3 Sevilla (a)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Firmino, Salah 11; Mané 9; Coutinho 5; Can 3; Alexander-Arnold, Oxlade-Chamberlain 2; Sturridge, Wijnaldum 1
Real: Ronaldo 15; Benzema 4; Marcelo 3; Asensio, Bale, Casemiro, Mayoral, Modric, Nacho, Ramos, Vazquez 1

Referee: Milorad Mažić (SRB)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Lovren van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Henderson Milner
Salah Firmino Mané

It's finally here. Gulp.

We know Liverpool's XI. It's been the same for a while now, both on form and fitness. Lallana and even Can could be available off the bench, which hey that helps, but they won't be in the XI. Liverpool's gonna dance with what brung them.

We mostly know Real Madrid's. My guess is Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco; Ronaldo, Bale. The one question is Bale or Benzema. Maybe there's a chance Real Madrid revert to 4-3-3, dropping one of the midfielders to restore the BBC, but it's been 4-Diamond-2 more often than not. And while Benzema's more established, and has played more, I guess I'm more afraid of what Bale's pace can do.

But either way, and more importantly, we know what Real Madrid are capable of. Cristiano Ronaldo remains the best pure goal-scorer in the world. Benzema, Bale, or both ain't bad either. That midfield is *gulps, tugs collar* a blend of creativity, dynamism, and steel. Marcelo is one of the world's best playmakers from left-damn-fullback. Sergio Ramos just does things in the biggest matches on the biggest stage, at both ends of the pitch.

All that pace and that scoring and that creativity and that individual brilliance and that history against Liverpool has kept me up at night for at least a week now.

Real Madrid have won the last two Champions Leagues. Three of the last four. They won the league last season, but finished third – 17 points behind Barcelona – in this one. It's been an unstoppable parade to the European Cup, no matter their form in other competitions. Cosmically ordained. This is their competition.

But we also know what Liverpool are capable of. Especially that front three. As Porto, City, and Roma have found out in this competition, let alone what Salah, Mané, and Firmino have done in the league. But it's been a team effort in Europe. Liverpool's best performances have seen the midfielders midfield, the defenders defend, and the full-backs do a bit of everything. When Liverpool don't get that from everywhere, you get Roma and City's almost-comebacks, both legs against Sevilla, etc, no matter what brilliance that front three conjures.

In theory, Liverpool match up as well with Real Madrid as Real Madrid match up with Liverpool. The players to press Madrid into turnovers and create good chances, as both Bayern Munich and Juventus did in previous rounds, but with the players to potentially convert the chances that Bayern and Juventus didn't. A midfield that can swarm diminutive players into relative silence when at their best and on full rest. And a defense that actually can increasingly defend, even if still prone to errors then collapses.

And this is also Liverpool's competition. Yes, this will be against the team that's won it more than any other, but we've won it five times. Liverpool winning this big, lovely trophy has been cosmically ordained before as well. We all remember Istanbul. We all have felt like this felt in 2004-05.

It's the Champions League final, in Jürgen Klopp's third season. Before this side's even been fully built. Having won their group despite *issues*, having decisively beaten the Portuguese league winners and the Premier League winners, having narrowly got past Serie A's third-best side despite taking 5-0 and 6-1 leads.

It's been a hell of a ride. Up and down and down and up and up and down and up. And it's not over yet.

Allez allez allez.


Anonymous said...

Allez Allez Allez!!!

Anonymous said...

Allez Allez Allez!!!

Georger said...

I'm going to miss the game for a funeral. The person died a damn year ago what are the odds.

Balfy said...

Send a bouquet man!

David Whitmore said...

Thanks for another great year of writing Nate. Love your site.