Opinion – Marina Izidro: Liverpool seeks to settle scores in the Champions League final

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Opinion – Marina Izidro: Liverpool seeks to settle scores in the Champions League final

“It’s time for revenge.” Seeing Mohamed Salah talking like that, in that tone, is even surprising. The Liverpool striker has the profile of a good guy, he is an example on and off the field, he doesn’t get involved with controversies. But this recent interview was not the only time that the Egyptian provoked Real Madrid, opponents of this Saturday’s Champions League final (28).

When the English team qualified for the final of the tournament by eliminating Villarreal, the Egyptian was asked who he would like to face and he had no doubts: “I want to play against Real Madrid”. Soon after, he tweeted: “We have a score to settle,” the popular reckoning. And he talked publicly about it again: “Everybody wants this game, I don’t know why you can’t talk about it.” As that 2018 final won 3-1 by the Spanish team must be choking in the throat…

Salah has reason to feel that way. I was in Liverpool on the day of the disputed decision in Kiev four years ago, covering the atmosphere in the city and the reaction of the fans. A stage was set up in a square, football-loving residents filled streets and pubs. It was inside one of them that I saw incredulous looks when the Egyptian left the field crying, still in the first half, after a bid with Sergio Ramos.

The defender is no longer at Real Madrid and is now at PSG, a Paris club, precisely the city where the final will be held. And in the last meeting between Liverpool and Real Madrid in the Champions League, in the quarter-finals of last year, he also gave Madrid. On top of that, Ramos was injured, so Salah’s rematch never happened. Remembering that it is the last chance for a trophy for the Egyptian this year, as he is not going to the World Cup and was without the Premier League, won by Manchester City in the last round and by only one point of difference.

But the motivation, of course, is in the entire team. Even coach Jürgen Klopp spiced up the rivalry, saying: “Playing Real Madrid in the final is our destiny.” Four years later, new characters are candidates for leading roles on the Liverpool side, such as Brazilian Alisson, who replaced German Lorius Karius, Colombian Luis Díaz, among others. There are also new duels, such as the one between Frenchman Karim Benzema against Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk, and between two of the greatest coaches on the planet today, Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti.

It’s also always good to remember how well Brazil will be represented in both teams: in addition to Alisson and Vinicius Junior, there’s Fabinho, Casemiro and Éder Militão, just to name probable starters, in addition to Roberto Firmino, the decisive Rodrygo and Marcelo.

Liverpool arrives as a slight favourite, but they know the size of the difficulty they will face: how to beat a team with a very heavy shirt like Real Madrid, with 13 titles in the competition and that this season came out of situations that seemed lost and advanced heroically, especially against Chelsea and City?

It took months of intense work, twists and turns and unlikely results. In a unique game on neutral ground, the winner takes all, in this final that will go down in football history. This week, Salah left one last message. He posted a photo on social media lifting the Premier League’s top scorer of the season with the phrase: “We’re not done yet.”

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