Everyone is expecting more explosive attacking play from Liverpool in the Champions League final, but what we don’t know is how Real Madrid will try to deal with it.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp is not going to change his team’s style of play or his 4-3-3 formation for Saturday’s game, and injuries mean he does not have many options in terms of different personnel either.
In contrast, Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has some big decisions to make about who to pick in Kiev and what shape to play, but he will make them with the way Liverpool are set up in mind.
Zidane has had moments this season where his side have struggled but, especially in Europe, he has turned it around.
He has got Real to the final not by concentrating on one system to play with but by focusing, round-by-round, on the opposition’s set-up instead and each time finding a way to nullify their strengths.
By doing that, and changing Real’s formation depending on who they are playing, he has shown he is not a coach who just sends his team out there and tells them to do what they do, despite the brilliant individuals in his squad.
The Liverpool team that began the second leg of their semi-final against Roma is expected to start in Kiev
Real have to outnumber Liverpool’s lightning front three
One of the pivotal battles will be down Liverpool’s right flank, where Mohamed Salah will be up against Real’s Brazilian defender Marcelo, who is the most attacking full-back in world football.
Marcelo creates so much for Real, but getting the best out of him without leaving his side exposed will play a big part in how Zidane decides to structure his whole team.
He has been cautious before against sides who try to play counter-attacking football like Liverpool – and he could repeat that approach.
Zidane might be thinking that if Marcelo is going to get forward, he can give his side some added protection by playing with an extra holding midfielder like Mateo Kovacic as well as Casemiro in a 4-4-2 – like he did in the second leg of their victory over Paris St-Germain in the last 16.
They would sit tight and allow Real to really go for it out wide, but the downside of that for Zidane is it means he potentially does not have room for Toni Kroos or Luka Modric in his team.
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