Liverpool, at the end of a thrilling season with perhaps the most dangerous attack in all of European football leading the way, are in the Champions League final and kickoff is only four days away. Sometimes, it still almost doesn’t seem real.
But it is, and it’s been a long, hard, and well-earned campaign that’s gotten this side to within one game of winning football’s biggest prize at the club level, which had Sadio Mané in a reflective mood when he spoke to the press about it all.
“It is a dream come true,” Mané said during a break from the team’s preparations for the final against Real Madrid in Kiev. “It was not easy, especially from the play-off against Hoffenheim and the group stage, but now we are in the final.
“Maybe that is a surprise for some people, but for us it’s something we have always believed in. As a team, we are close, we have suffered together. Now we are in the final. Now we go there and we will try to do our best—and why not win the trophy?”
Madrid, of course, will have a say in that. And as defending champions and eleven time winners, the La Liga giants will rightly be favourites. Liverpool, though, have beaten the favourites before this season, and Madrid aren’t a flawless side.
They’re a side that like to press high, like Liverpool. They’re a side that commit their fullbacks forward, often exposing their defence to one-on-one situations. They’re a side that are at their best when they play football. Which is how Liverpool like it.
The sides that have had the most success against Liverpool this year have been the ones willing to sit deep, compact, structured. The likes of Manchester United and Chelsea have provided the template if one wants to nullify Liverpool’s attack.
Madrid, though, are too good to approach the final looking to nullify Liverpool—Madrid are, after all, the favourites. They will look to play their game. And so while Liverpool will respect their talent, they will have confidence in themselves, too.
“It won’t be easy,” Mané added. “They have experience and they have quality. We respect them a lot. But we also have players to beat any team in the world. We are going to go to cause them the most problems we can and try to win the game.”