Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann believes Real Madrid are favourites to win the Champions League final later this month but the Kop club should not be ruled out given the attacking talent Jurgen Klopp’s team possess.
Hamann, who was part of Rafael Benitez’s 2005 side that went on to lift the trophy after a thrilling comeback and penalty shootout win against AC Milan in Istanbul, also feels Los Blancos may lack the appetite to win a fourth European Cup in five years – something that could potentially tip the balance in Liverpool’s favour.
Speaking to Sport360 ahead of his participation in the Swing Against Cancer at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday, the German said: “It’s the old ageing boxer up against the new kid on the block who wants to knock him off his perch.
“I think the question will be are Real Madrid as hungry as they were two years ago.”
Holding a 5-2 lead from the first leg, Liverpool were cruising after going 2-1 up in the return in Rome.
But Roma equalised after the interval and scored twice in the final moments of a dramatic tie which set a Champions League semi-final goal record.
Reds captain Henderson conceded Liverpool had made it more difficult than necessary as Jurgen Klopp’s side set up a final showdown with holders Real Madrid on May 26.
“We never do it the easy way unfortunately. We could have done better in this game but we’ve made it through to the final,” Henderson told BT Sport.
“Overall we handled the situation well apart from the last 10 minutes. We need to stop that but I’m delighted we’re in the final.
“We knew it was important to score and get one early on. It was an amazing effort.
“We have another important game on the weekend against Chelsea and then we have Real Madrid in the final. We will go there with confidence.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 2, 2018
After a 5-2 first-leg win last week, a 4-2 defeat on the night could not prevent the five-time champions from reaching their first final since 2007.
Jurgen Klopp’s men built on their Anfield victory with first-half strikes from Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum sandwiching an unfortunate James Milner own goal.
Needing four unanswered strikes to force extra time, Roma piled on the pressure in the second half, but failed to repeat their incredible quarter-final comeback against Barcelona despite Edin Dzeko finding the net and a late double from Radja Nainggolan.
Liverpool will take on holders Madrid in the final at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on May 26, in a repeat of the 1981 decider which the English side won 1-0.
FRONT THREE READY TO JOIN THE GREATS
From Di Stefano-Puskas-Gento to Benzema-Bale-Cristiano, Real Madrid have history when it comes to great attacking triumvirates claiming the European title.
Now, Liverpool potentially have one of their own and it is fitting that with BBC off the air, the Reds’ terrorising trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have an opportunity to legitimately hoist themselves alongside some of the greatest front threes ever.
Granted, it’s crucial to guard against a case of recentism with the Messi-Suarez-Neymar triad likely the best we’ll ever see.
But Liverpool’s route to the Champions League final has been powered by their forward’s individual quality, married and meshed to the collective.
Firmino brings fluidity between No9 and No10, Salah a frightening finishing ability and Mane piercing pace.
Together they have plundered 29 goals in the Champions League this campaign, aptly beating the BBC’s 2013/14 mark of 28 goals to become the highest goalscoring trio in a single season in the entire history of the Champions League.
If Jurgen Klopp is the conductor and Salah-Firmino-Mane provide the instruments then together their exploits create the sweet sound of an ebullient Liverpool fan base.
Of course, before this season, few in the Reds’ squad possessed Champions League experience – nevermind the pedigree of a Madrid side which has absurdly reached three straight finals.
Yet, their manager has been there before with Borussia Dortmund and the travelling Kop to Kiev will have a direct line to Istanbul. Guided by their attack, history is there for the taking.
A FALLIBLE FINAL
Liverpool’s remarkable run to Kiev has obviously been dominated by the success of their fearsome attack, but they still conceded six goals across the two legs against what was in reality a ragged Roma.
Madrid should be licking their lips just as Liverpool themselves salivate at the thought of a sixth European triumph. Klopp, though, should be particularly alarmed by the performance of right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in Rome.
The 19-year-old is a classy operator and, as he proved in the two legs with Manchester City in the quarter-finals, he can stand up to a bombardment.
But in the second-leg, he looked errant, frequently dragged out of position, uneasy under the high ball and awkward with his last-ditch clearances – he should have been punished with a penalty for a clear handball, too.
It’s hard to criticise too harshly given he has flourished for much of the season in a role which is unnatural to him. He looked far more comfortable in midfield against Stoke last weekend.
However, Liverpool are in a Champions League final against one of the most-dominant teams in Europe. Reality does not care for caveats.
Conversely, Los Blancos have their own fallibilities. Zinedine Zidane has guided his side to Kiev through the gravitas of dynasty rather than dynamism.
They were ultimately poor over two legs against Bayern Munich, dragging the German giants into the chaos of tactical desertion.
But Liverpool do not just embrace disorder but thrive on it also and both right and left Madrid look incredibly susceptible. If one early prediction can be made, it’s that 0-0 is improbable.
ROMA GO DOWN FIGHTING
All credit to the Giallorossi, true to their gladiatorial ancestry they did not go without a fight.
When Roberto Firmino capitalised on a suicidal pass inside from Nainggolan to feed Mane for the opener, they could have crumbled.
Yet, within the cauldron of noise provided by their own Colosseum, they roared back first with fortune through Milner’s own goal and then through sheer will despite Wijnaldum’s header.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest they could have scored five in the second half alone. But in the end they left themselves far too much to do and just like in 1984, heartbreak has been inflicted by Liverpool.
A 4-2 victory and the English outfit’s first defeat in the competition this season is a commendable final act.