Champions League Final Preview
By Michael Hamby
Champions League Final
Die Meister, Die Besten, Les grandes équipes, The CHAAAAAAAMPIOOOOOONS. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it is time, and if I am being honest I could not be happier. Liverpool are playing defending champions Real Madrid, after both teams survived scares in their respective second legs. This matchup should be exciting, with some of the best offense in the world going at it in Kyiv. Without further ado, I am Michael Hamby with WPTS Radio, and here is my preview for the Champions League Final.
Before we get into the meat of the matchup, let us first take a look at how these two teams got here. Starting with the defending champs, Real Madrid has come into the final getting better every week. After barely surviving the group stages, Real had a tough draw in PSG, who they dispatched relatively easily. Then, they faced Juventus, the team that lost to them in the finals last year. Juventus put up a crazy fight in the second leg, and it seemed as though the series was destined for extra time, until a questionable penalty call in the 97th minute gave Real the win. This game exposed some of the holes we have seen in Madrid this season: poor defending mixed with lackluster possession in the midfield. This allowed Juve to push and make it a fight at the end and certainly showed that Madrid is human. Finally, in the semifinal, Real took on the favorites to win the title, Bayern Munich. After winning 2-1 in Munich, Madrid was once again exposed on the second leg, and almost gave away the game in the end. However Madrid’s leading man, Cristiano Ronaldo, showed up to save the game once again. Ronaldo has been vital in the team’s success this season and will certainly be necessary for them to bring home a third straight title.
Liverpool have been both lucky and devastating in their path to the UCL final. Dominating every home match they had in the group stage, the Reds punched their way to the top of the group. After scoring a blistering 23 goals in the six group stage matches, they faced FC Porto in the first round. Liverpool were once again magic at Anfield, beating the Portuguese side 5-0, then getting the job done with a 0-0 draw in Porto. Next, the Reds drew then favorites Manchester City, whom Liverpool had just beaten for City’s first defeat all season. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but Liverpool were fantastic at Anfield, dispatching City 3-0. In the second leg, City picked themselves up a bit early, getting out to what should have been a 2-0 halftime lead, however a poor offsides call kept the Reds in it at 1-0. The second half was a different story, Liverpool scoring two goals and holding off City, leaving the game with a 2-1 win. After surviving City, Liverpool faced the tournament heroes AS Roma. The first leg in Anfield was much of the same, the Reds winning 5-2 after some late game antics from the Italian club. The second leg in Rome was a different story. After having the halftime lead, Liverpool gave up 3 second half goals to lose their first Champions League game this year 4-2.
Now that we have seen how these two clubs climbed the mountain, it is time to see who reaches the top. To me, this seems like Madrid’s game to lose, but I can easily see Liverpool lighting it up and stealing the game. The front sides for both teams are phenomenal and will allow for some crazy pace and scoring. However, the game will favor Real simply because of one man: Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in Champions League history, and the fact that he will line up against 19 year old Trent Alexander-Arnold should give him the space and time to prove it. On the other end, Liverpool have a player who might be the best player in the world right now in Mo Salah. Salah has been exceptional this season, and beside him are two of the best attacking footballers in the game. Madrid also gains an edge in the midfield and defense. Unfortunately for the Reds, the deficit is due to injury, and that will have a significant impact on the team’s performance. To put this bluntly; Real Madrid should win this game, they are the better team. That being said, Liverpool have built their campaign on defying expectations, and it will take more of the same for them to walk out champions. I’m going to pick Madrid to win, bringing them to three straight titles, but this match will be close. Liverpool certainly deserve recognition for getting this far, but the injuries in the midfield will put this one just out of reach.
Final Score: Real 4 – Liverpool 2