On Saturday night in Kyiv’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium, two of European football’s dynasty clubs meet in the competition. The team with the biggest European tradition in Spain’s history, Real Madrid, take on English football’s most successful team in Europe, Liverpool.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Looking to win their third in a row, and fourth in five years, this would be Real Madrid’s biggest period of dominance since the 1950s team of Alfredo Di Stefano and company. While Liverpool are only now re-establishing themselves at the top of European football, this is only their second season in Europe’s top-tier competition in the last nine years.
Here are the five most likely scenarios as the two teams meet:
1 Liverpool 1 - 3 Real Madrid
After about twenty minutes, Liverpool's front three are tearing down on goal. Real Madrid have committed too many men forward and are outnumbered. Roberto Firmino is through but elects to pass to Mohamed Salah who finishes with a brilliant flick.
1-0 to Liverpool, and they continue to blitz - they're carving them open repeatedly, doing to Madrid what they did to Roma and Manchester City. But Sadio Mane misses a golden chance. Then Salah misses. Keylor Navas makes two world-class saves.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, it happens. Sergio Ramos. A corner. Who was supposed to be marking him? Too late. 1-1 at half-time.
In the dressing room, Liverpool are wondering how on earth they let this happen. Madrid knows they rode their luck, but it's done now. They're safe, yet again, somehow. They know what they need to do. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale comply in the second half.
2 Liverpool 3 - 3 Real Madrid (Real Madrid on penalties)
After a slightly cagey and fraught opening twenty minutes, Liverpool break. Salah, 1-0. It's happening - Madrid are vulnerable, there is bundles of space, they are rattled. Casemiro can't deal with the pressing and Madrid's forwards are isolated. Salah doubles and then triples his tally. What on earth is going on?
At half-time, Zidane instructs his players to push a few metres further up the pitch. Liverpool can't keep up the same intensity and their forward's tire.
All of a sudden Liverpool need to do actual, from-the-back defending. Salah isn't offering the same thing, so Klopp opts to take him off for reinforcement.
Emre Can comes on for his first appearance in months, but Liverpool can't wrestle the ball back in midfield. So he adds an extra body in defense - Ragnar Klavan comes on.
Liverpool somehow withholds the pressure and defend admirably until the 80th minute. 3-0 up with ten minutes to go, this should be done. Why is it not done?
Klavan instinctively lashes at a Marcelo cross and it deflects back into his own net. Six minutes to go. Dejan Lovren somehow forgets Ronaldo who heads in. Two minutes to go. Can wrestles Modric to the ground and concedes a free-kick from deep. Whipped in, you know what happens.
Somehow Liverpool relearns the ability to defend during extra time. But you know what happens on penalties.
3 Liverpool 3 - 1 Real Madrid
An even and balanced game for half an hour, Liverpool open the scoring with a long range effort from Jordan Henderson, which has Madrid committing men forward and making it an open game. They're on top but Liverpool break and Mane doubles their lead before half-time.
The second half follows the same pattern, but Madrid get one back with Ronaldo spectacularly converting the first chance that falls to him. But Liverpool don't capitulate.
They didn't at Anfield against Manchester City. They responded well to Jesus' early goal at The Etihad. This team surprises everyone and actually defends and does it well.
Madrid over-commit and Sergio Ramos plays auxiliary striker for the last half an hour. Virgil van Dijk clears and Firmino picks up the ball on the half-way line, turns and dispatches Mane clear into space. Raphael Varane's the only one back, it's three on one. It's done.
4 Liverpool 6 - 1 Real Madrid
Madrid control the midfield and are looking solid in possession, but Marcelo vacates space. The midfield don't provide adequate cover. The ball's launched forward and Salah picks it up.
This happens again. And again. And again.
This is like Brazil's capitulation against Germany. Liverpool find it remarkably easy to create opportunities as Real Madrid look to get back into the game. Marcelo is culpable, just as he was at the Maracana. Ramos goes crazy and snaps someone, anyone and is sent off.
Six goals conceded, Real Madrid finally let their heads drop, stop believing in the spirit of Juanito and finally plug the holes at the back. A weird sense of calm returns and the remainder of the game is played out like a formality.
Ronaldo bags a consolation and is way too tempted to get his abs out.
5 Liverpool 0 - 5 Real Madrid
Real Madrid have not been convincing in this season's tournament. But that doesn't matter. This is a final, and this is Real Madrid.
Los Blancos completely control the game and outclass Liverpool's midfield. Their front three are isolated and ineffectual.
Gareth Bale starts and gives Andy Robertson a nightmare. He's been immense but suddenly looks like a former Hull & Dundee player somehow playing a game of this magnitude.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is only the 11th teenager to start a final in the history of the European Cup, and his inexperience shows as Isco & Dani Carvajal run rings around him. Lovren marking Ronaldo is exactly what you feared.
This is a bloodbath. Football isn't for fairytales.
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