THE Champions League final is a chance of redemption for Liverpool for their 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in this fixture four years ago.
It is a mark of how impressive a job Jurgen Klopp has doneat Liverpool that they go into this match as the favourites against one of the biggest and most successful sides in European football.
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Liverpool however have injury concerns to their two most important midfield players in Fabinho and Thiago.
They do, however, have a deep squad with the likes of Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson proving themselves capable replacements.
Real Madrid have consistently shown throughout this season's campaign that they have the ability to come back from seemingly impossible situations.
And with the likes of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior in the attack they will provide a real threat.
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Vinicius Junior vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
When Liverpool won the Premier League title in the 2019/20 season they did so via a very specific style of play.
The attack of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino was, of course, excellent but it was the role of the fullbacks that proved key over the course of the season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, at right-back, and Andy Robertson, at left-back, were key in terms of progressing the ball and moving Liverpool into the final third of the pitch.
However, the following season some teams realised this threat and set up to defend the dangers posed by these players.
That is, in part, why Liverpool were so intent on signing Thiago when the Spanish midfielder was made available by Bayern Munich.
They wanted a player in the midfield who could progress the ball.
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In this match, especially if Thiago is not fit to start, we will see Alexander-Arnold act as one of the key playmakers for the club.
The problem is, however, that he will be directly up against one of the best counter-attacking forwards in the game in Vinicius Junior.
Alexander-Arnold has improved defensively over the last season but he is still at his best in the attacking phase of the game.
He wants to play on the front foot and get into the channels from where he can really drive the game with his range of passing and creativity.
The problem for the English right-back is that Vinicius will continually look to exploit any space that he leaves behind.
Real Madrid have already shown that they are more than willing to sit deeper and then look to attack on the counterattack through direct passes down the left wing.
If the Spanish side can soak up pressure from Liverpool and then attack into space on the left side of the pitch then the pace and the direct dribbling of Vinicius will prove key.
At the same time though if the Brazilian is intent on not tracking back then Alexander-Arnold will have the time andspace to affect the game when Liverpool are attacking.
The battle on that side of the pitch is likely to be a fascinating one.
Can Liverpool get Luis Diaz isolated 1v1?
Liverpool's decision to pull the trigger on the deal to sign the Colombian winger Luis Diaz from FC Porto of Portugal has looked to be an inspired move.
With Roberto Firmino starting to regress and Diogo Jota struggling for consistency in the Liverpool attack the addition of Diaz brought something different to the Liverpool forward line.
His arrival allowed the coaching staff to move their options around.
Going into this game we are likely to see Mane continue in his new central role while Salah plays from the right and Diaz plays from the left.
While Salah will continually look to come inside to support centrally, we can expect to see Diaz play wide on the left as he looks to get isolated 1v1 against the opposition fullback.
The Colombian international winger is the type of player who thrives on having the ball at his feet.
He is dynamic and powerful in his movements but technically he moves the ball very well and can beat a defender with a trick as easily as he can with a powerful run.
He is a threat to attack and beat the defender on the inside or the outside every time and given that right-back is one of the weaker areas of the Real Madrid squad he will be looking forward to the game this coming weekend.
If Liverpool are able to get the ball into the wide spaces for Diaz to attack then we should see them look to overload centrally with the likes of Naby Keita, if he plays, and Salah looking to get inside to connect with Mane.
Can Liverpool deal with Benzema?
If Vinicius Junior is a threat for Real Madrid with his raw pace and dribbling ability then Karim Benzema is even more dangerous but more so thanks to his game intelligence and movement in the final third.
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The French international forward has been arguably the best forward in European football over the course of the last season and he has proven that he simply gets better with age.
The ability of Benzema to find space in and around the penalty area and to explode into life when it feels as though the defenders have him covered makes him extremely dangerous.
And his game intelligence allows him to create separation from opposition defenders as the ball is played in towards him.
Benzema has a habit of pulling to the shoulder of the defender and then looking to drift off into the space between the defender and the fullback.
From there, his movement is incisive as he attacks the area and the ball.
In this game, however, the French forward will be up against one of the best centre backs in football in Virgil van Dijk.
If Benzema has great attacking instincts then they are at least matched by the defensive instincts of Van Dijk.
The Dutch international thrives on defending against top forwards and his positional ability and awareness allows him to almost always be in a strong starting position when the opposition are looking to get the ball into the penalty area.
While Benzema will look to drift and attack space we are likely to see Van Dijk and one of either Joel Matip or Ibrahima Konte defending in such a way to limit the space and opportunities that Van Dijk can take advantage of.
Who will win it?
So, basically Liverpool are going to win – if TAA can stop Vini Jr and Van Dijk can take care of Benzema.
The final between two clubs of insane European heritage has many narratives running through it .
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But it is hard to see past Jurgen Klopp’s side getting revenge for 2018 and cheering themselves up after missing out on the Premier League.
For more tactical analysis, scouting and stunning data visuals head over to Total Football Analysis.
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