Our football columnist Rory Smith offered a quick overview in his newsletter this week (sign up here):
Paris Saint-Germain almost seemed to be waiting for the wave to break. Chelsea seemed determined to resist, until the storm hit. It was only then that Thomas Tuchel’s team realized their helplessness. Manchester City, meanwhile, had almost reached the shore. Once he felt the wind change, he could only succumb.
It’s hard, on the eve of the Champions League final, to avoid the suspicion that this Real Madrid story cannot end in a disheartening 2-1 loss to Liverpool in Paris. There has been too much drama, too much magic in the past two months for this to end in anything other than smoke and fire and white duct tape drifting from the sky.
Indeed, Liverpool’s test on Saturday – more than technical or tactical or systemic – is psychological. Real Madrid were able to snatch victory from defeat against three of Europe’s best-equipped opponents because their players believe in the club’s almost mystical refusal to wither.
But Madrid have been helped by the fact that the opposition are also inclined to believe him. At the Bernabéu in particular, there is a distinct, almost palpable advantage for otherwise accomplished teams, a perceptible awareness that at some point – almost entirely out of the blue – Real Madrid are going to do something elementary and ‘unfathomable, and no one can stop it.
To win its seventh European Cup on Saturday, Liverpool will have to break this chain. His manager, Jürgen Klopp, said this week he found it more useful to focus on preventing Real Madrid from getting into a position to wreak havoc – easier said than done, of course – than just watching the highlights of those wild two minutes against Manchester City over and over again. “There are still 88 minutes left in the game,” he said.
In that sense, Liverpool is probably the toughest test Madrid could have faced in the final. Not necessarily because they are a better team than Manchester City – the Premier League table, indeed, rather suggests that they are not – but because he will see in this Madrid an echo of himself.