It’s fair to say that since the 2018 Champions League final in Kyiv, there have been changes abound for both Real Madrid and Liverpool FC. In the immediate aftermath, Real Madrid lost their main attacker Cristiano Ronaldo, and key contributors such as Marcelo and Gareth Bale began a steady decline. A planned rebuild involving names like Eden “clear of Salah” Hazard and Luka Jovic didn’t quite work out, but they still found a pathway to the La Liga title this season through a phenomenal Karim Benzema season and the rise of Vinicius Junior as a real elite attacking player on the big stage.
Meanwhile, Liverpool went from starting Lorius Karius and Dejan Lovren in that final to adding Alisson Becker and Fabinho. Those additions would serve as a new foundation to the Liverpool backline, propelling the club to Champions League and Premier League victories. While that 2018 Liverpool team were clear underdogs, a few additions along the years have also added experience and better depth for Liverpool, and they go into this final as a slight favourite.
The latest one of the new additions, Colombia’s Luis Diaz, has wasted no time settling in. In just half a season at Liverpool, he will have a chance to collect his third winners' medal of the season. He is, however, pretty wary of the threat that Real Madrid presents still.
“We know how big Real Madrid are and the great team that it is, the experience they have. But we also have a great squad and we are going to counteract what they are going to do.“
When quizzed about Real Madrid players that present the biggest threat to Liverpool’s chances, he responded:
“Karim [Benzema], Vinícius and Toni Kroos.”
That’s fair. Vinicius will probably be Madrid’s main outlet, and also repeat an oft-used tactic by Liverpool’s opponents in targeting the space behind Trent Alexander-Arnold. Benzema has made an artform of converting half-chances all season long, and while I would probably swap Kroos out for Modric, it won’t do the Reds much good if that duo is controlling the tempo of the game like they did against an injury-hit version of us last year.
Luis Diaz, should he start, could prove to be a big mismatch as well. He will likely be matched up against Real Madrid’s veteran right-back Dani Carvajal, or versatile option Lucas Vazquez. He’s already made a habit of showing out at the two cup finals he’s played this season, so why not another?