Repeat or Revenge: Will Ancelotti’s Eyebrow Raise Be Enough To Go Past Klopp’s Mentality Monsters?

Repeat or Revenge: Will Ancelotti’s Eyebrow Raise Be Enough To Go Past Klopp’s Mentality Monsters?

Both Real Madrid and Liverpool have had incredible seasons. No one expected much from this Los Blancos side full of ageing stars and inexperienced starlets, but Ancelotti’s eyebrow rose, and this team became an undying juggernaut.

With comebacks against PSG, then Chelsea and finally City, this Real Madrid side did the impossible time and time again. Liverpool will play every possible game this season. They have already won the League Cup and FA Cup, pushed Man city all the way in the league and now have one last match to play. A win could cement this season as one of the greatest in the club’s history. There is a lot at stake here, but narrative aside, let’s look at the tactical side of this

Looking at the style of play of each side, it’s the perfect recipe for an exciting match. Ream Madrid will sit back, soak up the pressure, and hit the counter, while Liverpool will push up and bombard Courtois’ goal with shot after shot.

Here are 3 key factors that will dictate who takes the Champions League trophy home.

Trent Alexander-Arnold v Vinicius Jr

The most exciting battle on the field has to be Trent v Vinicius Jr. Trent has revolutionised his position, becoming the creative hub of his team, while Madrid’s main goal threat comes from Vinicius’ pace in behind. With Liverpool almost guaranteed to play a high line, this battle could decide the game.

Trent has the joint-most assists (12) and second-highest chances created (79) in the league.  Image 2 shows his heatmap across the UCL season. As you can see he often wanders forward and even into midfield, hence has gotten caught out of position on many occasions this season.

Vinicius, on the other hand, also has had a blistering season. 21 goals and 16 assists across all competitions has seen him finally live up to the potential he’s been showing for years. From Image 1, we see that he tends to hug the touchline, stay high and wide and acts as the out ball when Madrid wins the ball back deep in their own half.

Brazilian flair combined with the end product now, Vinicius is currently one of the most dangerous wingers in the world. The turn, sprint and goal against a hapless Fernandinho showed just what he is capable of. Keep your eye on this one.

Image 1: Vinicius Jr heat map for this season     Credit: Sofascore


Image 2: Trent’s heat map for the season         Credit: sofascore


The Karim Factor

By far the best player of the season, the most clutch player this season, Karim Benzema is on the hunt for his 5th Champions League and 1st Ballon d’Or. With seventeen goals contributions in 11 UCL games and 39 in the league, Benzema has arguably reached the peak of his form, especially considering his age. He is the most complete striker in the world.

His partnership with Vinicius has wreaked havoc, and his never say die attitude has seen him drag his team, almost single-handedly, to glory from the clutches of defeat. While it is difficult to quantify how “clutch” a player is, all season long, he has delivered when it has mattered.

His numbers have been off the charts, showing this isn’t just a hot streak. Across the season, he has an expected goal contribution (xG) of 1.13 per game. He’s taking 4.4 shots and laying off 1.9 key passes per match. Within the box, he’s absolutely lethal; as a matter of fact, all his goals this season have come from inside the box. Liverpool will have to be near perfect from whistle to whistle to keep Benzema quiet.

Benzema’s underlying stats back up his insane goal return (Credit: Understat)


Liverpool’s relentless attack

Liverpool have assembled an excellent squad with depth in almost every position. Unlike Liverpool teams of the past, where Klopp played the same team week in and week out, this squad has seen a lot of rotation. Everyone has played a part in Liverpool’s splendid season, with the burden being shared. Salah, Mane, and Jota all have contributed to more than 20 goals each this season, with Diaz and Firmino chipping with a few themselves.

Liverpool always plays with a high line, pressing teams high up the field to win the ball back as close to the goal as possible. While attacking, Liverpool plays with a 2-1-4-3 formation in attack, Robertson and Trent playing high up the field. Due to this, the opposition is forced to drop men back or be outnumbered in their own half.

Liverpool attack in waves, moving the ball from side to side, and changing the angle of the attack with slick passes. It’s a matter of when and not if, that this team puts the ball in the back of the net. With several quality players in and around the box, they have already scored over 100 goals this season.

Liverpool shifts to a 2-1-4-3 formation while building up Credit: Football Made simple (Youtube)

This match has all the ingredients for an absolute classic, the star power, the narrative, the history. The eyes of the world will be on these two teams as they walk onto the Stade de France turf. Will it be the immovable spirit and unbreakable resolve of Real Madrid or the unstoppable force that is Klopp’s red army that will prevail? Only time will tell.

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