Friday, May 27, 2022

Champions League Final Preview

 Liverpool faces Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday for the chance to capture the Reds’ second Champions League trophy in the last four years.

Following Chelsea’s victory last year, a Liverpool win this weekend would mark the third time in four years that a Premier League team would have won Europe’s most coveted trophy. Liverpool’s most recent title, a 2019 victory over fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, came one year after a loss in the 2018 title game to Real Madrid. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah went out early in that 2018 game, the victim of a questionable tackle by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. Salah has recently commented on his desire to square that defeat, comments which have not gone unnoticed by Real Madrid in preparing for Saturday’s match. The aging Spanish squad was expected to be in rebuilding mode this season but captured the Spanish La Liga domestic title and Super Cup.

Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City have already fallen in dramatic fashion to Real Madrid in this year’s Champions League competition. Karim Benzema has 44 goals in 45 matches for Los Blancos this season and is accompanied up front by the speedy and improving Vinicius Jr. The young forward struck for 17 goals and 13 assists in La Liga this season. Ancient midfielders Luca Modric and Toni Kroos are capable at any point of threading a clinical pass to either of the two front-line scorers. Defensively, Real Madrid can be exploited by the high energy Liverpool attack featuring Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota.

The key to the match, however,  may well be the health of Liverpool center back Virgil Van Dijk and midfielder Fabinho. Both have had recent injuries but are expected to play on Saturday. Van Dijk sat out the last two league games and his presence in the middle of the Liverpool defense guarding against Benzema and Vinicius could swing the match.

Liverpool’s fine season, despite the disappointment of a narrow second place finish in the league, would be well rewarded if they can capture Europe’s greatest crown as their third trophy this season.

Jose Mourinho Wins Another Trophy 

Former Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur Manager Jose Mourinho captured his fifth European trophy when Roma defeated Feyenoord 1-0 in the inaugural Europa Conference League final.Despite experiencing his most acclaimed Premier League success during two different stints with Chelsea, Mourinho’s single European Cup win managing an English side was Manchester United’s Europa League title in 2017. Mourinho has now won 26 trophies across all competitions during his career. That number potentially could have been 27 if Mourinho had not been unceremoniously sacked by Tottenham Hotspur shortly before the 2021 Carabao Cup final. Mourinho’s Roma squad this year included former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham. Abraham scored 27 goals across all competitions and went viral during the Conference League final when he was observed giving a knowing wink to his bench as he feigned injury to waste the clock as Roma edged toward victory. Abraham’s newfound mastery of “the dark arts” was, of course, attributed to the tutelage of his serial winning manager.

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