Friday, May 27, 2022

PA Sport Staff

Liverpool and Real Madrid go toe-to-toe as Paris hosts a mouth-watering Champions League final on Saturday evening.

Ahead of the Stade de France showdown, the PA news agency picks out some of the key talking points.

Real payback

Mohamed Salah has spoken of taking revenge against Madrid after his final against them in 2018 was ended by a shoulder injury following a Sergio Ramos challenge in the opening half-hour.

Salah scored against Real when the two teams met again last season in a 3-1 defeat in Spain but they exited the competition at the quarter-final stage after a goalless draw at home.

But Salah is not alone in his mission as there are at least five other players expected to start who all suffered heartbreak in Kiev after Gareth Bale’s double-strike. Sadio Mane scored an equaliser that night and is the man in form with nine goals in his last 13 appearances.

Will Ancelotti make history?

Carlo Ancelotti (bottom) during Real Madrid training
Carlo Ancelotti (bottom ) is the first coach to lead a side into five Champions League finals (Manu Fernandez/AP)

Few could have foreseen Carlo Ancelotti managing another Champions League final when he oversaw Everton’s 10th-placed finish in the Premier League this time last year. But the well-travelled Italian has impressed back at the Bernabeu and is hoping to halt Liverpool’s Champions League quest after masterminding Real Madrid’s LaLiga triumph.

A two-time winner as a player, he is the first coach to lead a side into five Champions League finals. The 62-year-old is seeking a record-breaking fourth European Cup triumph as manager – a run which includes AC Milan’s 2007 triumph against Liverpool.

Given that came two years after his side’s remarkable collapse against the Reds in Istanbul, there is little chance of complacency slipping in.

Liverpool’s centre-back conundrum

Joel Matip (left), Kostas Tsimikas and Virgil Van Dijk (right) during training
Joel Matip (left) could get the nod at the back with Virgil Van Dijk (right) (Peter Byrne/PA)

Summer signing Ibrahima Konate has started six of Liverpool’s last seven Champions League matches, highlighting the level of trust manager Jurgen Klopp has on a player who only turned 23 on Wednesday.

However, the more experienced Joel Matip has been the preferred partner of Virgil Van Dijk this season and, with pace not as an important factor up against Karim Benzema, the 30-year-old could well get the nod.

Can brilliant Benzema be stopped?

The 34-year-old striker is in the form of his life. This year’s Champions League top scorer, having plundered 15 goals, Benzema has been the catalyst to the European giants’ dramatic run to the final. Benzema’s hat-trick stopped Paris St Germain’s attempts to reach a hometown final at the round-of-16 stage, before hitting another treble in Madrid’s first-leg triumph against Chelsea.

Benzema’s stoppage-time goal ended the Blues’ comeback hopes and set-up a semi-final against Manchester City, where he would score three of Madrid’s six goals in a jaw-dropping turnaround. The France international will be desperate to perform more heroics in Paris.

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