WHEN Liverpool and Real Madrid last met in a Champions League final, the beautiful city of Kyiv played host.
We probably talked about this memorable game as if it were a war – especially as Real’s big bad wolf Sergio Ramos nibbled on Mo Salah and apparently inflicted a concussion on Reds goalkeeper Loris Karius.
It wasn’t a war of course, it was just the biggest club football match in the world.
Four years later, these two European superpowers should have met in St. Petersburg.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Uefa’s showpiece was moved to the Stade de France north of central Paris.
When asked about this at the end of his media conference on the eve of the game, Jurgen Klopp was momentarily speechless.
But after much thought, Klopp replied: “That the game is still happening and that it’s not in St. Petersburg is perhaps exactly the message Russia should be getting.
“Life goes on even if you try to destroy it.
“We play this final for all people, but also for the people of Ukraine.”
It was a sobering reminder that despite all the talk of a Liverpool ‘mission for revenge’ after their controversial 3-1 defeat in Kyiv, tonight’s outcome will be nothing more than a glorious distraction on a war-torn continent.
This final comes just a year after the footballing world raged against elitism when the European Super League plan was hatched and quickly nixed.
But tonight the most elite football game of all time is taking place here. In the end, these two monsters will have 20 European Cups together.
Real have a record 13 victories, while Liverpool are by far the most successful European club with England’s six victories.
Here are two clubs that so often on European nights seem to be carried by the sense of belief that emanates from such powerful stories.
A prime example was Real’s epic semi-final comeback against Manchester City, when it felt like the sheer will of the Bernabeu was dragging Carlo Ancelotti’s men over the line.
It was widely expected that we would be served a third all-English final in four seasons – and an age war between the two great Premier League sides of their generation.
BETTING SPECIAL – GET LIVERPOOL FOR 30.1. OR REAL MADRID ON 40.1
But Real’s history – both recent and distant – counts for a lot. In this competition, history is rarely nonsense.
Klopp admitted: “Real Madrid are the club with the most awards. Some in this team can win it for the fifth time and their manager can win it for the fourth time.
“We can’t buy that kind of experience or get it overnight. But we are in the final here for the third time in five years and that is also something special.”
Life goes on even if you try to destroy it.
When asked which team should be favourites, Klopp replied: “Real Madrid’s history and expectations and the way they make these great comebacks – which are crazy – I would say Real Madrid.
“But I want us to be on the same level, think on the same level, be completely ourselves.”
Ancelotti can overtake Liverpool’s own Bob Paisley and become the first manager to win four European Cups tonight.
He has the world’s most feared centre-forward Karim Benzema – with ten goals in his last five Champions League games – the Frenchman sinking Chelsea and City in a one-man mission to shatter the idea of Premier League dominance to refute.
There was a lot of trouble in Madrid this week as Benzema’s international team-mate Kylian Mbappe decided against his long-awaited move to the Bernabeu and in favor of staying at Paris Saint-Germain.
That groan says a lot about Real’s sense of entitlement. That arrogance may sound surly – but in the European Cup final it can be a huge asset.
Real haven’t lost one of those since Liverpool beat them at the Parc des Princes across town in 1981.
Klopp was asked if he felt the need to do something “surprising” in such a big game.
‘SETTING THINGS RIGHT’
His response was not intended as a swipe at his great domestic rival Pep Guardiola, who has been accused of ‘reconsidering’ his City team selection in this competition and particularly in their recent defeat by Chelsea last year.
But in this context it was an interesting answer.
“If I do something surprising, the players might think I’m nervous,” said Klopp, “like a rabbit in the headlights.
“But if you do things consistently and are successful, they have to be the right thing.”
Asked about the 2018 defeat in Kyiv, Klopp insisted “we want to fix things” but that would never be his team’s main motivation.
He added that while 2018 was important, 2019 was “more important” when Liverpool beat Tottenham in that game.
It was a measured response. After all, Ramos doesn’t play in the same league as Vladimir Putin either.
This may be the biggest club game of the year between two of the most powerful clubs in the world, but it’s still just a football game.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5439703/klopp-liverpool-real-madrid-champions-league-ukraine-russia/ ‘Here for fans… and people in Ukraine’ – Klopp says Liverpool ready to send message to Russia in postponed CL final