Liverpool and Real Madrid have battled their way through the best teams in Europe this season to become the final 2 to fight for the Champions League trophy. Here’s the story of the two clubs path to the final and the main men to watch.
First of all, how did we get to this stage?
Let’s start with Liverpool who arguably had the toughest group stage opponents in the competition, facing Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and FC Porto. They came out on top winning all 6 of their group stage games conceding 6 goals and scoring an impressive 17, breezing through to the last 16.
Real Madrid were drawn against Inter Milan, FC Sheriff and Shakhtar Donetsk. They won 5 out of 6 of those games, their only loss coming versus FC Sheriff at the Bernabéu where the score ended 2-1 in favour of the away team. The Spanish champions conceded just 3 goals throughout the group stage while scoring 14 in return.
Both clubs finished top of their group, easily making the round of 16.
LFC were given Inter Milan as their last 16 opponents, where they won 2-1 on aggregate via a 2-0 win at the San Siro then losing 1-0 in the reverse leg at Anfield. A nervy end to the leg, though the reds seemed confident, nonetheless, moving their way into the next round.
Their next opposition to tackle was Portuguese side Benfica, where they eased their way to a 3-1 win at the Estádio da Luz before a difficult 3-3 draw at Anfield which saw the tie end 6-4 on aggregate to the delight of Jurgen’s Reds.
The semi-final tie was played versus shock opponents Villarreal, who knocked out European giants Juventus and Bayern Munich to book their semi-final spot. The first leg was an easy 2 goal win for the Reds, and it seemed the tie was put to bed- that was until the reverse fixture at the Estádio de la Cerámica. The home side snatched 2 goals back in the first half to even the tie courtesy of Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin and were on top for the whole half. The second half, though, was a different story. 3 goals in 20 minutes and a man of the match performance from Luis Diaz saw Liverpool eventually take the tie away from Villarreal who were then knocked out, leaving the Reds the first final spot.
Real Madrid faced some of the toughest opponents in Europe to reach the 2022 final.
This kicked off with their round of 16 competition, Paris Saint-Germain. They found themselves behind in the first leg via an Mbappé 94th minute winner meaning they needed perfection to qualify for the last 8. A performance of a lifetime was given by Real Madrid star man Karim Benzema, who scored a second half hattrick to launch Madrid to the quarter finals along with taking home the match ball for his tremendous efforts versus the French champions. Another Mbappé goal was also scored leaving the game ending 3-1.
Their quarter final opponents were last seasons Champions League winners Chelsea, another opposition that any other team would fear. It was again a close tie, with Madrid beating Cheslea 3-1 at Stamford bridge before losing 3-0 by the 80th minute in the second leg. It looked as though Chelsea were ready to knock out the European superstars. A tie equaliser was then scored by forward Rodrygo which was followed by a 96th minute winner from Benzema, amazingly sending Madrid to the semi-finals.
Then came their next opponents, arguably the best time on the planet at the moment, Manchester City. It was a guaranteed thriller with goals galore and we were given just that. The first leg at the Etihad ended 4-3 in City’s favour, though you can never write off Madrid which was proven in every knockout game so far.
The second leg was far more reserved, until Mahrez fired one home in the second half to seemingly put the tie to bed. 10 minutes later, Madrid had clinched the second spot in the final. Rodrygo knocked in 2 goals in as many minutes at the start of injury time to equalise the tie before Benzema slotted home a penalty 5 minutes into extra time after a foul from Ruben Dias to rocket them through to the final.
We have two massive clubs with a long list of history so it’s safe to say that whoever wins thoroughly deserves the title, however, where exactly could the game be won and lost?
It’s globally known that in most games like this, form is thrown out the window and it purely depends on who performs on the night, though there are several factors that are likely to have a big say on who the winner will be: one of those being Mohammed Salah.
After the shoulder injury forcing him off the field back in the 2018 final versus the same opponent, we can only assume that the Egyptian will be as ready as ever to try and make things right for his club. After Real Madrid won their place in the final, Salah had his say on social media, simply stating, ‘We have a score to settle.’ The ‘Egyptian King’ has had another exceptional season, with 30 goals and 15 assists in all competitions. Not only that, but he is putting in admirable individual performances, leaving lots of excitement for how he will perform on the night.
Much like Liverpool, Real Madrid also have their star man of the season in Karim Benzema, who will almost certainly have an impact on how this 90+ minutes will go; the Frenchman scoring 43 goals and registering 14 assists. He has scored an astonishing 15 goals in 11 champions league games, with many of them being vital ones such as winners versus Manchester City and Chelsea, which helped his club get to the final.
A Champions League final that is set up to be one of the greats and one to be sure not to miss.