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Champions League final: Gloves off

Posted: May 25, 2022
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"Incredible, isn't it?" Miracle is an overused word in our times. So is heist. Comeback is thrown around very casually too. And perhaps the most responsible for strange things becoming commonplace in today's world is Real Madrid. Or at least in football! It still beggars belief how one of the nameplates in the Champions League final will still read Real Madrid.

How exactly have they done this? There is winging it, lucking it and then there is this! Incredible in its actualisation. One step away from a modern day epic. And that step is Liverpool Football Club from Merseyside.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have scripted a little nugget of history themselves. In fact, had it not been for a five minute spell from Manchester City on final day of Premier League football, the clamours of an unprecedented quadruple would have been at a ringing volume. Jurgen Klopp and his men have won two trophies already and are now gunning for a third cup. Their seventh in the Champions League. And there is a good amount of context to spice up Saturday's game.

Real Madrid literally wrestled Liverpool to the ground in the 2018 Champions League final in Kyiv. That fateful entanglement of Mo Salah and Sergio Ramos that knocked the Egyptian out. Salah has already admitted to having vengeance on his mind. While the number 11 has memories of 2018, the overwhelming Reds would like to revoke Paris 1981. A historic night for manager Bob Paisley and a serenading of one of Liverpool's greatest runs.

1-1 in finals and all to play for. So, gloves off?

Champions League final - form guide


Liverpool have been impeccable all season. They are the only team in Europe to play every single game in every competition. Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Premier League and now onto the Champions League final. Liverpool are the absolute undeniables this season. And yet, this could end up being the season nobody remembers for them. One of fine margins. The barest of them all. And their greatly pedigreed opponents would know a thing or two about margins.


Real Madrid


Real Madrid Champions League finalThe bunch of Madridistas have basically topped one unthinkable result with another en route to the showpiece clash. Nobody, in their right or incorrect minds, can pinpoint to any plausible logic or reason for this run. There is no way they could have toppled PSG. They did. No way were they getting past Chelsea. They did. And then came Manchester City. The margins even finer. The race against time even more frantic. From 1:32 to 90:50 in the tie, they trailed. Within 88 unbelievable seconds of football, they were taking the semifinal tie into extra time.

The Bernabeu has been mythical in the Champions League this season. There is almost an inexplicable voodoo. Perhaps even a great love story, wherein the force of attraction between this great club and incredible competition keeps them together. Even outside, Real Madrid have ridden the Karim Benzema train to trophy town. La Liga champions and they have truly been a shadow of their own selves before almost like midnight in Cinderella town, they find something quite unthinkable.

In fact, since miraculously winning that game against Manchester City, Real have won only once in four games. They may have checked out of La Liga anyway, having already finished formalities before qualifying for the Champions League final.


Liverpool


Liverpool playersLiverpool have barely put a foot wrong in the home stretch of the season. They, like the world has previously witnessed, ran Manchester City close second in England. Yet again, Klopp faced heartbreak by the solitary point. If Aguero with the o stretched is a dreaded sound in red Manchester. A similar o extension of Gundogan's shortened christening of Gundo is loathed in red Merseyside.

For a large part of that final evening in England, former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard seemed to be pulling off the impossible. His Aston Villa leading 0-2 at Etihad and a pin drop had ensued. Only of course for the Cityzens to run rampant for short of six minutes and turn the game and league around. Liverpool, of course, no strangers to a comeback themselves must realise they will be at the receiving end sometimes. Remember Istanbul 2005? If not then the Champions League semi final second leg?

Villarreal had raced to a 2-0 lead before Liverpool came back out as the machines they are. And since then, they have won every game bar one. A draw against Tottenham. Perhaps that night's result derailed their shot at irrefutable history. Fault them all you want but Liverpool is the envy of every team in Europe today. What they have been able to do with the resources at their disposal is nothing short of wonderous.


Champions League final - control versus enigma


And yet, all could count for nothing. Sport is a beautiful space to exist in. But for those second best, equally cruel. It is a lot like theatre. No do-overs. No retakes. Perhaps a notch above - no dress rehearsals either. One winner and one not winner. Loser? Not really. Champions League final is an achievement in itself. But these highly ambitious club run by highly ambitious men settle for nothing less.

Two very different men with very aligned wishes. Problem is that there is no sharing. This is no primary school life lesson. This is just a very harsh life lesson. Klopp with his frenzy and Carlo with his calm. Liverpool with their control versus Real Madrid with their strange enigma. Europe's undeniables versus Europe's most desirables.


Champions League final - a kiss in Paris


Salah Ramos Real Madrid Liverpool Champions League finalWith Paris being backdrop, there is unmissable romance in this game. A kiss in Paris means more and with that shiny silverware awaiting celebratory pick up, you know that kiss on the metal surface will be ultimate motivation. One for which the players can literally get into battle. And battle may be what Liverpool and Madrid must ready themselves for.

Mo Salah, with context, may actually be preparing his arms for battle. Liverpool, since 2018, however have changed as a side. In fact, they are quite opposites heading into this one. It is Madrid who are the underdogs this time. Benzema is their Salah and the narrative is about the Frenchman having the season of his life. At 34, with miles in those legs. And yet there remains that fire to run more and score more.

FirminoControl today lies with Liverpool. Theirs is a system in the peak of its operational prowess. Madrid are somehow soldiering on. It is a team that needs reset and maybe this final provides that. Modric and Kroos are no more what they were. And yet, there lies that one moment in both. A wand of a foot to execute. But most of all, still the mind of a genius to conceive.

It really is enigma versus control for a chance to steal a kiss in the world's love capital Paris. A kiss of silverware the players have worked so hard all season. For some this is the culmination of their life's work. All their sacrifices. The times when their parents sacrificed. For the times when they let go of meeting their friends for practice. And to those times they chose a dream over more tangible things from an age too tender to understand or comprehend life.

This kiss means more. This match means more. The Champions League final is simply that big. So, ask again Liverpool and Real Madrid - gloves off?