Liverpool and Real Madrid face off in Kiev in the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday the 26th of May. Madrid have won the last two finals under current coach Zinedine Zidane and three Champions League trophies in four years while Liverpool’s last win in this competition came in 2005, where they famously came back from 3-0 down at half time to win the tie.
While Real Madrid are strong favorites for this final, Liverpool fans should have hope for their team. This season is similar to the one they had in 2004-2005, where they struggled in the league and were up as the underdogs against Italian giants AC Milan, who counted in their ranks future Ballon D’Or winner Ricardo Kaka, midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo, veteran defender Maldini and last but not least Andriy Shevchenko, who coincidentally grew up in Kiev. Liverpool won that game because of their never-say-die attitude and there is no reason why the same cannot happen this year. Madrid’s amazing run will have to end at some point and it could be sooner than we expect.
Throughout a series of articles this week, The Overhead Kick will assess the two teams and their chances.
Part 1 – Managers: Zidane vs. Klopp
Zinedine Yazid Zidane, a.k.a. ‘Zizou’ is a name which needs no introduction in the football world. Ballon D’Or, FIFA World Player of the Year, World Cup, UEFA European Championship, Champions League – you name it, he’s won it. As a player, Zidane won every single trophy available and it took him less than a year and a half to do the same as a manager. He also helped Madrid win a Champions League title as assistant manager under Carlo Ancelotti in 2014. It’s clear that Zidane is no stranger to high profile games and how to win them. The French genius will hope to add one more Champions League to his palmares come Saturday.
Jürgen Norbert Klopp, in contrast, had a relatively uneventful playing career at Mainz, where he won no major trophy. It’s only when he was hired as Mainz coach that he started making a name for himself. During his 7 year long reign, his team was promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time and qualified for the UEFA Cup (currently referred to as the Europa League). Borussia Dortmund then came for Klopp and he obliged by winning 2 Bundesliga titles and 1 DFB-Pokal. This feat is extremely impressive since Bayern Munich were one of the strongest teams in Europe and Klopp managed to wriggle those 3 titles out of the german giants’ teeth with a much lower budget and while constantly having key players leave Dortmund. One title Klopp could not bring to Dortmund though was the Champions League. He came mighty close in 2013, with Bayern Munich of all teams beating them in the final.
Since joining Liverpool in October 2015, Klopp has won no trophies and lost two finals including the 2016 Europa League which came after an impressive run-in which included defeating Manchester United, Dortmund and Villareal.
In the battle of the tacticians, it’s fair to say that Zidane has the edge in terms of the experience of winning finals. However, Zidane did have the advantage of inheriting a better squad, which included a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Jürgen Klopp, for his part, has many more years in management than the frenchman and his mightily impressive gegenpressing style of play could yet unsettle the spanish behemoths.