Real Madrid vs Liverpool: Comparing the two Champions League finalists

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Two of European football’s most successful clubs will meet in the Champions League final when Real Madrid face Liverpool in Kiev.

The defending champions and 12-time winners Real are bidding for their third successive title while Liverpool are seeking their sixth in their history.

Here, we assesses the two teams.

Road to the final

Zinedine Zidane’s side won their first two games but a home draw with Tottenham followed by a loss at Wembley meant they finished second in their group.

Despite failing behind to Paris St Germain at the Bernabeu, they won 5-2 on aggregate in the last 16 then overcame an almighty scare against Juventus, advancing thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp penalty despite a 3-1 home loss.

A semi-final first leg victory in Munich proved pivotal as a 2-2 draw with Bayern in Spain got them over the line.

Liverpool had to come through a qualifying round against Hoffenheim and then drew the opening two games in their group.

They also threw away a three-goal lead against Sevilla in a 3-3 draw but thumped both Maribor and Spartak Moscow to finish top of Group E.

They beat Porto 5-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie, won both legs in the all-English clash with Manchester City and then saw off Roma 7-6 on aggregate following a 5-2 first-leg win at Anfield.

REAL MADRID-BAYERN MUNICH

Star men

Real have the current Ballon d’or winner. Liverpool may have the next one. Cristiano Ronaldo is the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer – with 120 goals, Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer and a four-time winner of the competition. Ronaldo, who turned 33 this year, has scored 42 club goals this season.

Yet Mohamed Salah has already exceeded that tally. The former Roma winger has enjoyed an incredible first season at Anfield, becoming just the third player in Liverpool history to score 40-plus goals in a single season and winning a slew of personal accolades. If he can outshine Ronaldo in Kiev, the ultimate individual prize may be next.

Liverpool ace Mohamed Salah.

Managers

Zidane and Jurgen Klopp have experienced contrasting fortunes in finals. The former has won both of the Champions League finals he has been involved in as a boss.

Meanwhile, Klopp has lost his previous five finals as a manage, including in the Europa League against Sevilla two seasons ago.

Zinedine Zidane is going for a hat-trick.

Tactics

Real have not been as dominant as previous seasons, when their BBC (Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo) strikeforce was in full flow and Luka Modric and Toni Kroos ran the midfield.

This team is more pragmatic. Centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane and defensive midfielder Casemiro form a strong spine and Zidane can usually rely on Ronaldo for a moment of magic.

Klopp’s gegenpressing style has been used to devastating effect this year thanks to the relentless front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Liverpool will pin their hopes on that trio and their harassing style.

Key men for Liverpool: Sane and Firmino.

History

This is a meeting of the two of the most decorated clubs in the competition’s history. No team has won more European Cups than Real Madrid’s 12. Los Blancos won five in a row between 1956 and 1960 and last year they become the first club to retain the title in the Champions League era.

Only Real and AC Milan have won more European Cups than Liverpool. The five-time winners’ most recent success came in an astonishing 2005 final against AC Milan, who exacted revenge in the 2007 final. The Reds also beat Real in the 1981 final when Alan Kennedy scored the winner.

Both teams are rich in history.

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Mohamed Salah turns in quiet display on return to Roma as Liverpool survive scare

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Salah had a quiet game on his return to Roma.

The big story when the draw was made for the Champions League semi-final was Mohamed Salah playing against former team Roma. His old side nearly handed him a shocking defeat on his return to his old stomping ground, beating Liverpool 4-2 on Wednesday but losing 7-6 on aggregate.

Here’s a closer look at how Salah performed on his Stadio Olimpico return.

KEY STATS

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 3

Shots on target – 1

Pass accuracy – 91%

Key Passes – 1

Dribbles – 2

Touches – 21

30-SECOND REPORT

On his much-anticipated return to Rome, Salah rarely gave his old fans any moment to rue his departure – though he had done enough in the first leg. Roma were better set up to handle the threat of their former star on this occasion, and it led to a strangely quiet night for the man who has been unstoppable this season.

GOT RIGHT

For once, not much. This was a quiet display from Liverpool’s talisman, who didn’t get on the game as much as he would have expected, especially given the Reds were playing on the counter. His value on Wednesday was largely just in being there, occupying the Roma defence, which allowed Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino space and time on the ball.

A moment of madness from Roma's keeper was the closest Salah came to scoring.

A moment of madness from Roma’s keeper was the closest Salah came to scoring.

GOT WRONG

On a couple of occasions Salah missed chances to play in his teammates in scoring positions, opting for safer passes. He also rarely got on the ball in space, which meant he couldn’t drive at the defence with his usual dangerous running. A subdued performance overall, summed up by the fact that he had only one shot on target.

KEY MOMENTS

81st minute, CHANCE: A moment of madness from Roma keeper Alisson, who charged out to try to hold Salah off and usher the ball out. The two duelled for the ball and Salah just failed to carve out a chance.

VERDICT

It was a strangely ineffective performance from Salah, who for once was outshone by his two attacking colleagues. Much is owed to Roma’s significantly improved defence, as Kostas Manolas and Federico Fazio marshalled him well. At least he wasn’t faced with the trauma of scoring at his former home ground and breaking his former fans’ hearts. On to the final.

RATING – 6/10

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Edin Dzeko turns in star display, but he and Roma fall short of Champions League final

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Edin Dzeko came just short of leading Roma to the Champions League final.

Roma fell just short of pulling off another miracle, beating Liverpool 4-2 in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final but losing the tie 7-6 on aggregate.

Edin Dzeko was instrumental in his side’s win on the night, turning in another starring display and giving them hope with an early second-half goal.

Here’s a closer look at his performance.

KEY STATS

Goals – 1

Assists – 0

Shots – 9

Shots on target – 2

Pass accuracy – 61%

Key Passes – 2

Dribbles – 3

Touches – 43

30-SECOND REPORT

Dzeko was a menacing presence throughout the game, engaging the Liverpool defence, finding pockets of spaces, and providing the aerial threat that he always does. His goal was just reward for an immense performance, albeit one that wasn’t enough to help his side to another miraculous comeback. He also made a game-defining error that led to a Liverpool goal.

GOT RIGHT

His goal was one of those classic, cleverly simple strikers’ finishes. It seemed like an easy chance, slotting home a rebound, but he had to go back across his body and lift it over a converging Liverpool defence.

Dzeko gave that rearguard a torrid time all night long, finding spaces where he could do damage and engaging in bruising battles.

Dzeko scored a goal that gave Roma hope of pulling off their comeback.

Dzeko scored a goal that gave Roma hope of pulling off their comeback.

GOT WRONG

Dzeko is usually such a reliable defensive presence on set pieces. On Wednesday he was left to rue an uncharacteristic error, with his poor attempted clearance setting up Liverpool’s second goal. The game was 1-1 before that and Roma were starting to hope.

Given that they ended up winning 4-2, that moment effectively cost them a place in the final.

KEY MOMENTS

25th minute, ERROR: Dzeko attempted to clear a corner, but his header ended up being flicked backwards, straight into the path of Georginio Wijnaldum to score Liverpool’s second on the night.

52nd minute, GOAL: A classic poacher’s goal. Liverpool keeper Loris Karius could only parry Stephan El Shaarawy’s shot into Dzeko’s path, and the striker clipped a smart finish to give Roma hope.

80th minute, SHOT: Dzeko found space on the left side of the box and had another chance to score. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get enough purchase on the shot, and it rolled tamely into Karius’ hands.

VERDICT

It was a nearly game for Dzeko. He got one goal and could have had a couple more, which would have made for a famous hat- trick given Roma ended up being one goal short of levelling the tie.

Instead, Dzeko’s performance mirrored that of his side – falling just short of a miraculous result, instead settling for a glorious defeat.

RATING – 8/10

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