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The Champions League final will be decided in one specific area of the pitch

Liverpool's right flank vs Real Madrid's left flank is a recipe for glorious chaos

Champions League finals are mouthwatering enough regardless of the personnel involved.

This year’s final in Kiev promises to be an especially engaging affair given the tactical preferences of the two teams tasked with providing the entertainment.


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Few are predicting a 0-0 between Real Madrid and Liverpool on Saturday night.

AFP or licensors
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Few are predicting a 0-0 between Real Madrid and Liverpool on Saturday night.

The contest between Los Blancos’ left flank and the Reds’ right flank promises to be equal parts thrilling, combustible, manic and decisive.

Jurgen Klopp’s preferred 4-3-3 features Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back and Mohamed Salah as the right-sided forward/winger.

The free-scoring Egyptian is a constant threat going forward but he rarely tracks back to help out his teenage team-mate in defence.

This is probably because he is instructed to stay high up the pitch so Liverpool can use his pace to counterattack quickly and effectively.

This tactic has led to Salah scoring 44 goals in all competitions this season and has exposed nearly every opposition left-back.

Enter Marcelo.

You may have heard of him?

REUTERS
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You may have heard of him?

Real Madrid’s long-serving left-back is arguably the best player in the world in his position — in terms of an attacking threat at least.

A skilful player, the Brazilian could have easily carved out a career as a left-winger… he pretty much has anyway.

However, his attacking instincts often leave his side vulnerable to swift counterattacks.

Real gave away a two-goal lead against Villarreal in their final La Liga game of the season with an ambitiously high line proving to be their undoing.

We wouldn’t advise trying the same thing against Mane, Firmino and Salah

EPA
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We wouldn’t advise trying the same thing against Mane, Firmino and Salah

In the semi-final legs against Bayern Munich, Douglas Costa Joshua Kimmich were able to utilise the open space vacated by Marcelo on a number of occasions.

Salah will undoubtedly look to do the same.

This works both ways of course.

When Real Madrid have the ball, Marcelo will look to double up with Cristiano Ronaldo against the inexperienced Alexander-Arnold.

The 19-year-old has been a revelation this season but this will be a test like no other.


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He may be more of a fox in the box these days but Ronaldo still operates in the channel between the centre-back and the right-back

Getty Images - Getty
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He may be more of a fox in the box these days but Ronaldo still operates in the channel between the centre-back and the right-back

Isco too tends to drift left (and everywhere else) to bother the opposition’s right-back — another thing for Alexander-Arnold to think about if the Spaniard is selected.

Whoever plays on the right side of Liverpool’s midfield three (Jordan Henderson, Emre Can or Gini Wijnaldum) will surely be tasked with supporting Alexander-Arnold when Real Madrid have the ball.

Still, everything suggests that side of the pitch will be glorious chaos.

On one side there’s an experience pair, whose chemistry has been key in Real’s three most recent European Cups, up against a teenager who made his debut just last season.

Then on the other side you’ve got the most in-form player in the world, with pace to burn, up against a defender known for leaving wide open spaces.

The last man Marcelo wants to face

PA:Press Association
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The last man Marcelo wants to face

There’s seemingly no way for either side to negate the other’s threat without nullifying one of their own strengths.

Hopefully, Klopp and Zinedine Zidane will cross their fingers and back their players to come out of the duel having inflicted more damage than they’ve received.

Of course there will be intriguing match-ups elsewhere, but the game will surely be won and lost down Real’s left and Liverpool’s right.

Game on.


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Can Messi finally achieve glory internationally?

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Can Messi finally achieve glory internationally?

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From Russia with a whole lot of love.

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