PARIS (AP) — Thousands of football fans flocked to Paris to watch Liverpool and Real Madrid meet in the Champions League final later Saturday.
There are milestones at stake at the Stade de France.
Carlo Ancelotti aims to become the first coach to win the top prize of European club football four times, contributing to his success in 2014 during his first stint with Madrid. The Italian’s first two victories came with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007.
Ancelotti has already delivered the Spanish title in his first season back in Madrid, beating Liverpool in the 2018 final led by Zinedine Zidane for a record-extending 13th European Cup.
“We are very close to achieving something big this season and we will do everything we can to achieve it,” said Ancelotti. “We are very quiet in the camp. This team can handle the pressure of these games very well.”
Liverpool became European champions for the sixth time by returning to the final in 2019. Since then, Jurgen Klopp has put an end to the 30-year drought of the 2020 English championship. While the Premier League was missed by one point last weekend, the season could end with a rare tripling of trophies, having already won the FA Cup and have won the League Cup.
Liverpool’s route through the knockout stages past Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal seemed relatively smooth. Madrid had to make repeated comebacks.
It faced elimination in the round of 16 before two of Karim Benzema’s 15 European goals this season turned the game against Paris Saint-Germain. It took a 10-minute equalizer to go against Chelsea to stay in the quarter-finals before the defending champions were knocked out in extra time. Madrid went into the 90th minute against Manchester City and went into the semi-finals, until Rodrygo was once again the savior with two goals capping another incredible comeback.
“When we’re at the top of our game, we’re hard to play, we’re really hard to play,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “That’s my only concern at the moment. When we do that, that we are ourselves who are also really confident. But of course the confidence level of Madrid’s players is incredibly high and it’s important in football to be confident and confident about yourself and things like this.”
For the third consecutive year, UEFA had to change the venue of the final. This time not because of the pandemic, but because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which stripped St. Petersburg of hosting rights.
As the war enters its fourth month, the word “peace” will appear on the final match ball, which will later be auctioned off to raise money for refugees.
“The war is still going on. † † and we have to think about that,” Klopp said. “Let’s see it this way, that the game is still taking place and not in St Petersburg is perhaps just the right message that Russia should be getting. Life goes on even if you try to destroy it. We are playing this final for all people, not just for all people in Ukraine.”
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