UEFA Champions League Final 2018: A Contest Between Unstoppable Attacks And Leaky Defences

Football News

Both Real Madrid and Liverpool will rely on their attacking power, given both sides have weakness in their defense

Written By Narayan R | Mumbai | Updated On:

So, the final of  UEFA Champions League is just around the corner. The contest is between a team who is looking to create history, and another looking to re-create history. Real Madrid are aiming to achieve an unprecedented feat by winning the title for the third consecutive year. Liverpool on the other hand, are aiming to win their sixth European title, and first since 2005/06 season.

While there is a huge gulf in quality amongst the two sides, their strengths and weakness are almost identical. The Spanish team boasts of arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo, best midfielder in the world in Luka Modric and best defender in the world in Sergio Ramos. In comparison, Liverpool can only boast of Mohamed Salah as the only true world class player within their ranks.

Ronaldo vs Mane, Firmino, Salah

Both Real and Liverpool have a threatening front-line. Everyone knows the attacking strength of Madrid, given they have Ronaldo, who is enjoying another unreal season in CL with 15 goals. Though, support from the likes of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema has been minimal this campaign, meaning the complete responsibility is on the shoulders of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

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Now before this season, the world knew about BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) and MSN (Messi, Neymar, Suarez). But in 2017/18, a new trio was formed, and has taken over the world with their creativity and goal scoring exploits. Yes, its the MFS (Mane, Firmino, Salah). The three combined have scored 29 goals in the CL this season. And more than the goals, it has been their co-ordination with each other which has blown other teams away.

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On the attacking front, it looks an equal contest, despite the statistics showing it to be Ronaldo vs Liverpool's front three.

Combative and Creative midfield

On paper, the midfield is an area where Real are completely dominant over Liverpool. There's arguably any side in the world which can boast an central defensive midfielder like Casemiro, and two world class playmakers in Modric and Toni Kroos. The trio have been ever present, and are the fulcrum behind Ronaldo and co. scoring goals. Add Isco to this, and you have creativity all around the pitch.

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As said earlier, Liverpool don't have a midfield to compete Real's on paper. But the game of football doesn't work like this!

In James Milner, the English side have the leading assist maker in the Champions League. The utility man has slotted in the midfield trio with ease, and his endless running gives his side legs on the pitch. In the centre of the midfield would be club captain Jordan Henderson, who like Milner, can run all day long. While he hasn't been as creative as Liverpool's No.7, his presence will provide assurance to the back four. The third spot will be taken by either of Georginio Wijnaldum or Emre Can. The former is a runner, and someone who would link up with the attack. The latter is a fighter, and will cover the whole pitch. 

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It won't be wrong to say, the midfield battle is one between Real's creativity and Liverpool's grit and determination.

Shoddy and Leaky defense

If there is one area where both the teams are begging for improvement, its the defense. Just like the midfield, Real has the better individuals in their backline, but they have struggled to perform like a group. Club captain Sergio Ramos and Rafael Varane are certain the back two, and will be flanked by Dani Carvajal and Marcelo. But neither Ramos or Marcelo are conventionally 'good' defenders. They are known to leave behind spaces in which the opposition can attack. And Keylor Navas in the goal can at times be unbeatable, and other times flappy.

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Now, if we say Real's defense is bad, then a synonym needs to be searched for Liverpool's defence. Despite the inclusion of 75 million pound signing Virgil Van Dijk, their backline leaks goals. Their full backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are attackingly sound, but defensively vulnerable. While Van Dijk is a quality and can ooze confidence, Dejan Lovren is the complete opposite. The Croatian can go to sleep at times, and is vulnerable against pace. And in their goal is Loris Karius, who isn't really someone who'd inspire much confidence.

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Well, it is hard to remember an UEFA Champions League final in recent times which had two nearly simlar teams competing against others. Given the strengths and weakness of both teams are similar, the contest will boil down to which team stands up to the occasion. Will Zinedine Zidane's calm head lead Real to another title, or will Jurgen Klopp's energy earn Liverpool their biggest achievement since 2006. We will have to find it out!

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