Football is a beautiful game, and that has been proved yet again in this season's UEFA Champions League. It has been an enthralling experience for fans around the world; the continental heavyweights have all bid adieu to the competition, with two sides from England being the last men standing.
Liverpool had to face Bayern Munich in the Round of 16, and the Reds won the second leg 3-1 after a goal-less first leg. They then had to face off against FC Porto in the quarterfinals, who fought till the very end.
After being beaten 3-0 in the first leg against Barcelona in the semis, Liverpool went on to score four goals in the second leg and destroy the Catalan club's hopes for European glory. This match will remain immortal for football fans around the world; it was one of the greatest comebacks ever seen in European football.
The final is set to be held in Madrid, only a few days from now. And the entire world is waiting with bated breath, keenly anticipating whatever is to come on this great footballing extravaganza of a night.
Liverpool were a tad unlucky to lose the Premier League title to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, and they would be desperate to win their sixth Champions League trophy as compensation. Last season they suffered heartbreak in the final and succumbed to Real Madrid, courtesy of a couple of howlers by Loris Karius. They would be keen to avoid repeating those mistakes this year.
The return of Roberto 'Bobby' Firmino
Football has seen a few incredible attacking trios who combined effortlessly to win games on their own. After the brilliance of MSN - Messi, Suarez and Neymar of Barcelona and BBC - Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, the time has come for another trio to script history.
Both of Liverpool's wingers Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah seem to take on added life when Roberto Firmino plays the centre forward role in the front three. The former Hoffenheim striker is a really good fit for manager Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpress style of play which demands a lot of pressing, fast-paced counter attacks and dropping deep as well.
Firmino's capability to play vital game-changing passes and to open up the game during counter attack makes him a really important player for Klopp. His adaptability, pace and link-up play make him almost indispensable to the squad, and recent pictures show that he is all smiles to start the game in Madrid.
A nearly unbreakable defense
Since joining Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk has grown into a phenomenon comparable to the current greats like Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Giorgio Chiellini and Thiago Silva. The rise of the Dutch defender has been nothing short of meteoric, and his PFA Player's Player of the Year is testament to that. Van Dijk's ability to organize the defense coupled with his willingness to give everything into the game, make him a unique asset.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of the hottest properties in world football right now. He has become an integral part of the Liverpool team in just a couple of years. With his inch perfect crosses and never-ending stamina, Alexander-Arnold can tire opposition players out very easily.
Doing the same on the left flank, is Andrew Robertson. Both of these players function like engines and their instant transition into attacking full-backs once the team starts to counter, is amazing.
Having Joe Gomez as the other centre-back takes a lot of worry off the manager's mind. Gomez is easily one of the best young defenders in the game.
Finally, Alisson is easily one of the best goal-keepers in the world at the moment, and he would be hoping to carry his form into the final.
Jurgen Klopp and the new Gegenpress
It's hard to find a manager these days who can inspire his team like Jurgen Klopp can. The general has rallied his troops to two successive European finals. Not only that, he has converted Liverpool from a decent European team to a team almost at par with their glory days.
His Gegenpress system is focused on winning the ball back immediately after losing possession, instead of regrouping and preventing the counter-attack. However, this time he has developed a newer version of his famous tactical style, which includes holding the ball more often than playing it forward immediately for a counter.
This confuses the opposition, while Klopp's wing-backs can drift wider to play the ball forward. That allows the wingers to receive the ball in a much wider position and with natural inside-forwards like Salah and Mane, the team can score goals with ease.
This is going to be Jurgen's third final. He has tasted defeat with Borussia Dortmund in 2013 and with Liverpool last season. Will the stars shine for him this time out? Only time will tell.Published 28 May 2019, 03:51 IST