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Champions, Liverpool-Real Madrid, the best final there is

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Champions, Liverpool-Real Madrid, the best final there is

Tonight last act in Paris with the challenge between Salah and Benzema, the blows of Modric and Thiago. The Italian coach on the hunt for the fourth cup as a coach

Liverpool and Real Madrid parade tonight in Paris. Saying “they play” does not convey the idea. There is so much of that potential beauty in the air, between field and city, that you risk dizziness from Stendhal’s syndrome. Two teams full of champions; two glorious clubs (19 Champions Cups in two, 13 Real); two iconic coaches (11 international trophies in two, 8 Ancelotti); an ideological asymmetry that favors the spectacle; that sprinkle of pepper that gives even more flavor to a final (Liverpool want to avenge the 2018 defeat). There is everything to expect the best, in line with this 2021-22 which has reopened the stadiums. The final crackling waterfall of a fireworks show: 80,000 souls at the Stade de France. Full. The best of everything.

Arrows and headlights

To say, Liverpool drop the two strongest full-backs in the world: Alexander-Arnold is the best cross player in this Champions League (23); fellow left-handed, Andrew Robertson, is 6th with 15. Two catapults. But who armed Rodrygo who recaptured City in the 91st minute, in the passionate comeback at the Bernabeu? Carvajal. If we then advance on the wing, we discover that Vinicius is by far the best dribbler of the tournament (78). Salah is third with 46. In short, in the Saint Denis amusement park, the attraction of the side bands will steal the eyes. In the center, as usual, Luka Modric, the illusionist, will steal them. If Real are here it is also thanks to the outside visionary of Stamford Bridge who, at 0-3, sent Rodrygo into the goal and sent Chelsea back in the throat with a sensational comeback. Ancelotti has to decide whether to plant him in a median at 3 (4-3-3) with Rodrygo as owner or keep the little boy of Providence on the bench and prefer the more solid Valverde (4-4-2). Carlo has great reason: “It counts who finishes, not who starts”. Rodrygo, who defeated Inter at San Siro in the 90th minute coming from the bench, proved it definitively with City. Fully recovered Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara (but Keita hopes), Klopp’s doubt is about the third blade to be sharpened next to Salah and Mané: Luis Diaz has the advantage over Firmino and Diogo Jota.

But in the shadow of the velvet derby between Modric and Thiago, the rough one between Casemiro and Fabinho will not count less, the thick souls, the balancers. In the ranking of tackles, Casemiro is 4th (27), Fabinho 8th (21). Reversed positions in steals: Fabinho 3rd (68), Casemiro 5th (65). Two hymns to substance and useful things. Then the cover of the final, as usual, goes to those of the goal: Mohamed Salah and Karim Benzema. For reasons of numbers, but not only. Salah: 23 goals out of 35 Premier League appearances; 8 out of 12 in the Champions League. Benzema: 27 out of 32 in La Liga, 15 out of 11 in the Champions League. Top scorer of the tournament, Karim has scored 10 goals in his last 5 games, from the round of 16 onwards. A devil. Numbers, but also pride. Of the final lost in Kyiv in 2018, Salah only played the first 31 ‘, dragged to the ground with his arm blocked by Sergio Ramos. A bad foul, it seemed more sought than fortuitous. The Pharaoh came out in tears, this time he would like to cry for joy. Benzema’s pride is Paris: lifting the Champions League in the sky at the Stade de France, where Zidane conquered the world in 1998; in Saint Denis, where the kings of France are buried. Banned for 6 long years by his national team, Karim wants a Parisian Champions in the year of the World Cup, also to strengthen the powerful candidacy for the Golden Ball, delivered in Paris. Watch out, though. Klopp yesterday he polished the legitimate ambitions of Senegalese Sadio Mané, already triumphant in the African Cup: “Winning the Champions League weighs a lot”. We had to choose a single duel: Van Dijk-Benzema.

Ancelotti, the only coach to win the top 5 championships, the only one to play 5 Champions finals, wants to become the first to lift 4. Klopp, like Salah, is hatching the revenge of 2018. This time he has brought a goalkeeper, one of the best in the world , Alisson. In Kiev, the German Karius did more than Donald Duck. Klopp and Ancelotti respect each other with affection. If the German, a Sacchi scholar, was born with Gegenpressing, Carlo learned to press in the cage that Arrigo wanted at Milanello. It is no coincidence that Liverpool (521) and Real Madrid (467) are the top two teams in this Champions League for steals. They demand the marble, they chase it in anger to dominate. And Arrigo gongola. Common principles and different interpretations: strategy (Liverpool) versus technique (Real). Barbaric simplification because to play at Klopp’s speed you cannot fail to have excellent technique and, without a score, Ancelotti’s violins could not play. But it is true that the game of the English is more collective and engaging, while that of the Spaniards is more linked to individual play. As confirmed by the 10 ‘less possession of Real (60.1% -50.4%). Carlo is the calm of Real who scores even after the 90 ‘; Jurgen is the Liverpool fury attacking from 1 ‘. Let’s enjoy them and get inspired.

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