It’s supposedly mission impossible for Liverpool on Saturday as they face Real Madrid in the final of the UEFA Champions League but here are five causes for hope for Reds fans (and anyone who cant bear the thought of more Los Blancos glory).
Its hard to recall a Champions League final where a team has been stacked as such heavy favourites as Madrid have for this occasion in Kiev (maybe one needs to go back as far as 2002 when Los Merengues faced Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Milan).
While the odds seen on sports books might not suggest the chances of a Liverpool triumph are that small, the opinions of experts throughout the media tell a different story – a defeat for Madrid is almost unimaginable.
Football is football though. There is always a way. Liverpool can win and here is why.
There is a “hint” of complacency about Madrid
Diego Torres, a leading journalist for El Pais, the most read newspaper in Spain, is quoted as saying this to Bleacher Report in the build-up to Saturday:
“There isn’t any sensation of fear in Madrid about Liverpool among the directors, among the players. They’re relaxed in Real Madrid before this final. They’ve never been so calm and confident in the club before a final than now. This final is the easiest final they have in front of them.”
It cannot be denied that Madrid are the overwhelming favourites for a 13th European Cup/Champions League trophy but this amount of self-confidence will be welcomed by Liverpool – a team desperate to add to their own wealth of history and also a team capable of punishing the best in the business if they are not on their game.
The Manchester City blueprint of success
That said though, Liverpool can punish the best in the business even if they are on their game.
It will be comforting for Jurgen Klopp and his men to reflect on a number of massive performances this past season, none bigger than their stellar showing over two legs against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Faced with of one of the best managers in contemporary football and a group of players containing match-winners in every position, the Reds went about their business with zest and courage. Fearless attacking surges were backed-up by pressing of the highest intensity and it all resulted in a 5-1 aggregate victory.
A performance good enough to dispose of City so emphatically is a performance that will be good enough to dispose of anyone. The question is whether that bravery can be replicated on the very biggest stage.
Liverpool score goals and that should frighten anyone
Forget that leaky defence for a second and consider these statistics.
Three of the four top scorers in this season’s Champions League belong to Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both on 10 and Sadio Mane on nine.
Collectively, the team has scored a staggering 40 goals during this campaign at an average of 3.33 per game. Those are crazy numbers. Especially when the next best team is 10 goals worse off on just 30.
In Madrid’s seven previous UEFA Champions League final victories, they have not conceded more than a single goal.
If the Reds can turn this encounter into a wild goal scoring shootout in Eastern Europe they will force Madrid into the unknown and the beauty of that place is that anything happens there.
Klopp does emotion like few others
“Real Madrid are more experienced,” said the fiery German manager this week.
“Experience is important in life but it is not the only thing.
“You can level it with desire, attitude and work-rate, and that is why I love football.”
On paper, surely even the most hard-core Anfield season ticket holder would admit the Madrid squad is superior to the Liverpool squad. Consequently, if Liverpool win on Saturday emotion will have been a big part of the equation… as it almost always is when there is an upset in football.
The good news is that few managers do emotion quite as well as Klopp and he is fully aware that he needs to inspire his chargers to perform above themselves.
Lack of experience isn’t as bad as it sounds
The current Madrid squad share 46 Champions League winners medals between themselves. Liverpool do not have one. In fact, not a single Liverpool player has played in a European Cup final. The ideal scenario? Probably not.
However, a by-product of no experience is that this group of players carries no baggage or scars from previous heartbreak and therein is cause for hope. The mental fortitude it will take a squad like the current Atletico one to win the Champions League will be immense as the psychological lesions caused by their two final defeats in recent years will be a massive hindrance. Liverpool have no such worries, the canvas is blank.
Furthermore, as big as the Champions League is, at some point the novelty of winning it over and over again has to wear off, even if just ever so slightly. Where as the motivation to win a first one has to be tough to match.
“In the end it will be a test: what’s bigger the desire to win a third one in a row or the desire to win the first one for some years?”
For Liverpool, this is a free hit.