Rock-star Klopp vs cool Zidane

The Asian Age.  | Novy Kapadia

Sports, Football

Real Madrid have more quality substitute players while Liverpool will miss injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.

Zinedine Zidane (Photo: AFP)

Both managers, Zinedine Zidane and Jurgen Klopp, are on the cusp of history at the 63rd Uefa Champions league final at the NSC Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on Saturday. If Real Madrid win their 13th European champions title, Zidane will join the ranks of the immortals. He will be the first in the Champions League era (started in 1992) to win the title three years in a row.

Zidane admits he is no great tactician. His major role has been to keep the egos of his high-profile players in check and make Real Madrid a cohesive team. He remains calm and unruffled and takes pressure off his players. A pat on the shoulder, a few quick words keeps the players calm and focused.

Klopp is flamboyant with a rock-star persona. But his heavy pressing formation and switches from 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3 and speed in attack has made Liverpool unbeaten in this Champions League campaign.

Both teams will use a flat back four. Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, the world’s most expensive defender when he joined from Southampton this January, will have to excel to curb Real Madrid’s attack. Liverpool-born academy graduate 19 year old right back Trent Alexander Arnold and left back Andrew Roberston are energetic going forward but vulnerable to quick counter attacks. This young duo could get exposed in the final.

Real Madrid’s world class midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos can control the tempo of the game. Isco can play if Zidane opts for a 4-3-1-2 formation. In midfield and defence Real Madrid have a decisive advantage.

In attack Liverpool enjoy a slight edge. They have scored 46 goals en route to the finals, the maximum by any team. Roberto Firmino, who plays the false number nine to perfection, has netted 10 times to become the top scoring debutant ever. Mohammed Salah has dazzled with 11 goals so far. Sadio Mane is on nine goals. Liverpool have the most lethal attacking trio in the world and their duel with the experienced Real Madrid back four especially Ramos and Varane will decide the fate of the match.

But Ronaldo appearing in his sixth Champions League equalling the record of Italian legend Paolo Maldini has already scored 15 goals this season. A fully fit and inspired Ronaldo can lead Real Madrid to their 13th European title.

In terms of experience, the advantage is with Real Madrid as they have won three titles in the past four years and have a combined 47 final appearances in the squad. Klopp’s side faced Sevilla in a Europa League final two years ago but none of his current players have ever appeared for a Champions League final. Real Madrid have more quality substitute players while Liverpool will miss injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.

But ultimately a cup final is about passion and motivation. If Liverpool can revive the spirit of Istanbul 2005, they could pull off an upset.

It should be a final of plenty of goals and champagne football all the way. After all the only other occasion when the Champions League final was held in East Europe in Moscow 2008, Manchester United won the trophy, a happy omen for Liverpool.

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