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UEFA Champions League final

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UEFA Champions League final 2017/18: Liverpool or Real Madrid – the game of heart and mind

UEFA Champions League final of 2017/18 in Kiev is special. It’s not only because the finalists – Liverpool and Real Madrid share 17 titles between them. It’s about best European rivalry who shared almost the same no. of titles before the 21st century. Now with the turn of 21st century, Real Madrid have gone way past Liverpool in terms of trophies they won domestically and in Europe, whereas Liverpool is trying to find their foot in those trophies chambers which they dominated in their glorious 80’s. It will be a game of heart and mind and in this game it’s difficult being a neutral fan. You have to have either support Real Madrid or Liverpool.

There is no escaping for you. You can’t change your team during the game. If you’re a right brainer, you’ll have to support Liverpool and if you’re a left-brainer Real Madrid is your team. You can’t say I like Liverpool but I’ll go with Real Madrid or vice-versa.

There are huge expectations from both teams. Whereas Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid is duty bound to deliver their third successive Champions League title because they haven’t won anything this season being Europe’s best, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool simply can’t end this affair saying goodbye after reaching the final.

Reds have got nothing to lose. Yes, it’s true but it will be the same for them every year they reach the final against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Bayern Munich. It’s not the Liverpool of glorious 80’s. the only man who has earned the accolades for Liverpool is their manager Jurgen Klopp and to be honest also Mohamed Salah for his sparkling debut season with the Reds.  And none other have a season to consider them as European favourite but here they are. They are up against Europe’s best in final. It’s not the time to loosen the grip knowing that they can hold on for another 90 minutes.

Real Madrid is in the third straight year in final and there are expectations that they’ll win third in a row. But it’s only an expectation. They haven’t been convincing, they have lost the rhythm in between and Jurgen Klopp is very good with exploiting those moments. His team needs one or two early chances to put the defending champion on back-foot and with their intensity and gegenpressing style, they can do it.

Zidane, of course, have the bench strength and they have ruined some teams plans coming off the bench, but Klopp’s Liverpool didn’t need their bench much of the season. Because they haven’t one, but they still keep going without them even when the situation demanded. They were playing six or seven games in 20 days and they still managed without them. And, now they’ll come relax and after 10 days of rest, Klopp won’t be looking at his bench.

I don’t see it as a battle of rich and poor. It’s not David vs Goliath, it’s between mind and heart. Real Madrid is in my brain, but Liverpool is in my heart. If Zidane has impressed with his man management, Klopp has impressed with his 360-degree view. He is the man to connect with fans, understand his players, and creates a special bond with the team he manages.

Zidane may be a tactical genius with his substitution or he may be lucky with world class players on his bench, but Klopp knows how to cope with pressure before going into a match. His finals lost doesn’t favour me, but he has always given his 100% into those finals. It will also come as a strength for him because he won’t like to lose another final before grabbing a trophy in their hands.

There is not much to talk about the players. Real Madrid have best playing XI in club football and they are proven winners. There is no comparison of Real Madrid squad to Liverpool, but with Jurgen Klopp at their helm, they don’t seem inferior to anyone.

Salah may have taken the limelight with his goals, but it’s not about Salah. The players playing behind him have worked hard to help him score those goals. If opposition thinks that Salah is their main man, they’ll make a mistake.  Firmino and Mane have been equally important as Jordon Henderson, James Milner, and Wijnaldum in midfield fulcrum.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be a beast when it comes to European games, but Virgil Van Dijk is not going to allow him the room in the air. The Netherlands centre-half is not going to allow Portuguese player to make the most of his half chances.

Zidane will go with Gareth Bale or Karim Benzema or with Isco is still not clear. And that confusion will certainly give an edge to Klopp to work on his tactics because he doesn’t need to make changes in his playing XI.

I’m not going to talk about key battles because there won’t be much into the match. It will be about run, run, and run. No team is in a position to drop the tempo of the game and they must make the most of any loose ends. It’s of no use to talk about Marcelo –Salah battle, Ramos – Sane, Ronaldo – Van Dijk, Lovren – Benzema.

Yes, but Madrid can lose the match in the midfield if they won’t be alert with their movements. Liverpool is very good in getting the possession back. Every time they have the ball, they are dangerous with their movements.

It’s difficult to talk more about the game. I couldn’t decide between my heart and mind. If you go with Real Madrid, it will be complete domination in Europe. And if you go with Liverpool, it will be a start of another era for them. Their European glory may bring envy in their domestic competitors and it will be a great situation for them to capitalize on their competitor jealousy.

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