With the Scottish Premiership all but wrapped for the year (and a fine performance from Aberdeen in the books), we’re taking a little peek at the broader landscape of European football, and in particular the Champions League. It’s not something we’ve been concerned with for the bulk of the season, but with things winding down and an outstanding Champions League final scheduled, it’s worth some side consideration.
The final will be held on May 26th in Kiev, and will pit Liverpool against Real Madrid. For Real Madrid, it will be a chance at a third straight Champions League win, and a fourth in five years (which would complete the most dominant stretch since the same club won five straight European title in the mid- to late-‘50s. For Liverpool, it’s an opportunity to return to European glory for the first time since a 2005 Champions League win (in a “Miracle of Istanbul” match some call the greatest fightback of all time).
In addition to competing historical narratives, the match will showcase some of the stylistic differences between English and Spanish football. As one guide to the final phrased it, the mixture (or more accurately clash) of play styles can be off putting for certain teams who may be used to playing a particular type of football. That is to say, in a continental competition like this, teams can run up against unfamiliar styles, and whichever side better imposes its will can win out. This year we’ll see the fast, tough style of the Premier League up against the more tactical, skill-centric Spanish way. It will be the first such clash, between EPL and La Liga opponents, since Barcelona topped Manchester United in 2011.
More important even that the fascinating stylistic clash in this Champions League final will be the meeting of the two most devastating scorers on the planet, at the moment. Real Madrid will be led as always by the electric Cristiano Ronaldo, whose knack for big moments in big matches is the main reason Madrid has so thoroughly dominated the Champions League of late. Liverpool, however, will play behind newly anointed superstar Mohamed Salah, who recently surpassed Ronaldo to become Europe’s top scorer. Salah’s explosion as Europe’s best scorer is a huge reason that upstart Liverpool has made it all the way to the final against all predictions.
Because of its superior talent level and general pedigree in European competitions, Real Madrid is going to be the favourite to win this final. However, some predictions out there have the match closer than you might expect, particularly if you’ve been following the EPL of late and become accustomed to middling play from Liverpool. The English side is more than capable of making this competitive, and it seems this could be anybody’s match.
At any rate, it’s not a bad event to turn your attention to with the Premiership wrapping up. And then, of course, it’s on to the World Cup!