Two of the most successful sides in European Cup history meet this weekend when Liverpool face off against Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have impressed European audiences with their attacking brilliance this season, while Zinedine Zidane’s defending champions have shown time and again that their ability to find a way to win in almost any circumstance is unrivalled.
Real will go into the match as favourites as they look to bag their fourth Champions League title in five years, but how do the two sides stack up side by side?
Keylor Navas (Real Madrid). Navas put in a great performance against Bayern in the semi-finals, but the last eight second leg clash against Juventus was one he’d rather forget. All things considered, the Costa Rican has been a strong performer for Real this year and a level above Loris Karius (though that gap is narrowing at both ends).
Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid). Carvajal will be on Sadio Mane duty in Kiev, and should have a better time of it than Marcelo vs. Mo Salah at the other end. Carvajal provides better coverage to the defence than the Brazilian left back while maintaining the ability to bomb forward at will. That said, Klopp could do worse than target that position.
Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool). Van Dijk has been a colossus in the Liverpool defence since arriving in January. The defensive display agaisnt Manchester City at Anfield was a terrific performance from the Duthcman, and even his mere presence provides greater balance and confidence to the other defenders around him.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid). Prolific at both ends of the pitch, a potential difference-maker on Saturday. Ramos has an unyielding habit of scoring important goals, while his presence was sorely missed against Juventus in the last eight. He does have a short temper, however, which could play into Liverpool’s hands if they frustrate him.
Marcelo (Real Madrid). Brilliant going forward, can be caught at the back. Marcelo tends to have free reign of the left flank but could find himself pinned back if Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah can build up a head of steam. That said, he is dangerous and the opposite also applies to the young English right-back.
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid). A terrific passer of the ball and capable of puling the strings at the centre of the pitch. The creative hub of this Real team and one who is quite capable of dominating that whole section if Liverpool give him an inch.
James Milner (Liverpool). A left-field choice, admittedly, but it’s hard to ignore the player who has set a record for assists in the competition this season. Milner’s nine assists in this campaign have seen him emerge as an unlikely creative force in Europe for Liverpool, and one whose talents will be needed in Kiev.
Luka Modric (Real Madrid). In Kroos and Modric, Real possess two of the best passers in Europe to grace their midfield. Modric’s ability to glide past opponents makes him the perfect foil for his German teammate and a nightmare for the opposition. Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum will need to be at the absolute top of their game.
Mo Salah (Liverpool). What can be said about Liverpool’s Egyptian king that hasn’t already. 44 goals in 51 games in all competitions for Salah is a remarkable return on the Reds’ investment, and his performance against Roma in particular was a masterclass controlling a game. Klopp’s star player and the biggest hope to their success in the final.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid). Ronaldo’s post-Christmas form has been nothing short of miraculous, and has been a huge part in guiding Real to another final. The Portuguese forward has scored 44 goals in 43 games this season, a feat that, amazingly, feels ordinary for the superstar now.
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool). Underrated by many for so long, this was the season that Firmino finally made Europe sit up and take notice. With 25 goals and 14 assists in all competitions this season, the Brazilian has shown his ability to both score and create goals time and again.