Liverpool and Real Madrid will meet for the second time in five years in the Champions League final, with Jürgen Klopp’s side aiming to finish the season with a triple trophy, while the Spanish giants will look to Karim Benzema to inspiring them to a record-extending 14th European Championship. Cup victory.
A crowd of 80,000 people will be at the Stade de France for Saturday’s final, which starts at 9 p.m. in Paris (19:00 GMT), including 20,000 supporters from each side who have officially gotten their hands on precious tickets to the match.
About 40,000 Liverpool fans without tickets to the game are also expected to be in Paris, while 7,000 police officers will be on duty as part of a massive security operation.
The final promises to be a fitting highlight for the European season, with Liverpool looking for a second Champions League in four seasons since losing 1-3 to Real Madrid in Kiev in 2018 when Mohamed Salah left injured in the first half and Gareth Bale scored twice for the Spaniards.
The win would conclude a campaign in which Liverpool won the English League Cup and FA Cup and finished just one point behind champions Manchester City in the Premier League.
“I’m more than happy and proud of what we’ve done so far, it’s really special,” Klopp said.
“I’ll feel better if we win the game and that’s all I’m worried about,” he added, after being encouraged by the news that midfield duo Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara are fit enough to play.
Anfield’s side can win their seventh European Cup, a score that would level them with AC Milan and leave only Real with more wins.
Madrid are indeed looking to win their fifth Champions League in nine seasons and, ominously, they have already won their last seven appearances.
While Liverpool defeated Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal in the knockout rounds, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real produced a series of memorable comebacks beating Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and then Manchester City.
“It is a great success for all of us to be here. We know the demands of this club, the history, very well, but it’s huge to get here,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was in charge of Liverpool’s local rivals Everton last year.
“We are confident that the season has already been very, very good, but now we are very close to making it to the big season.”
Liverpool appear to have the stronger side on paper, with Alisson in goal, Virgil van Dijk training their defense and Salah and Sadio Mane leading the attack.
Yet Real is pinning its hopes on Karim Benzema, the 34-year-old Frenchman who has scored 15 goals in the league this season.
Eyes on Benzema
Benzema has scored a total of 44 goals this season to lead Real to the Spanish title and is the favorite to win the Ballon d’Or.
“He is certainly one of the best players in the world, probably the best striker in the world, and I am sure he is the most underrated player ever in history,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told AFP news agency on Friday. about Benzema.
“He now has more personality and leadership on and off the pitch, but what hasn’t changed is his quality and he remains as humble as ever,” said Ancelotti, who won the 2014 Champions League with Real in his first stint as coach. .
Ancelotti could become the first coach to win the Champions League four times, having also won with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 – he is currently tied with three wins with Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley.
Klopp dedicates final to Ukraine
This will be the third final between the clubs, who also met in Paris in 1981, when the English side triumphed thanks to Alan Kennedy’s goal at the Parc des Princes.
This final – which will be whistled by Frenchman Clement Turpin – will only be played in Paris after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the game after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Klopp dedicated the final to the Ukrainian people, saying moving the final to Paris was “just the right message Russia should get”.
“The war is still going on and we have to think about that,” he said, before adding: “We are playing this final for all people in Ukraine. I’m sure some people in Ukraine can still watch it and we do it for you, 100 percent.”