Jurgen Klopp employs the gegenpressing method – an all-out pressing game from the front using Roberto Firmino as the catalyst; while for the reigning European champions, Zinedine Zidane advocates a patient buildup at the back plus an explosive attack through the flanks using either Marcelo or Daniel Carvajal, who has as many assists as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Which one would be the greater weapon in the context of a one-off game? Which one will be a better antidote?
According to Spanish football expert, Guillem Balague, who interviewed Rafa Benitez – who has managed both sides -the clash is one “about intensity versus knowledge and control, particularly the intensity of Liverpool.”
Liverpool have scored more goals, even though Los Blancos have created more goal-scoring chances; while Liverpool have conceded just nine, six in the semi-final against AS Roma.
Real Madrid have the leading scorer in the competition in Cristiano Ronaldo, with 15 goals but have had trouble keeping their back door shut, having conceded 13 goals through their route to the final. The Sergio Ramos-led Los Blancos back line has kept just two clean sheets in their last 11 UEFA Champions League matches.
On Saturday, in Kiev, the game will be decided by who is able to keep from making defensive mistakes that lead to goals.
Zidane has implied his team would be prepared for the physicality of the Liverpool team. “They’re an English team, so they will never give up. But they don’t just rely on their physical attributes.
“Liverpool are also good technically, with a lot of speed and great individual players. We will have to be careful and take all this into consideration.”
In the first leg of their semifinal match against AS Roma, Liverpool showed they can be pushed back if the opponents do not give any quarters in 50/50 confrontations, which they also turn into battles.
But will Real be able to go that route? Arguably the only player comfortable with battles is Casemiro, whose form has tailed off. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are elegant ball players, who like to keep their white uniform clean.
If Zidane sees it this way, then expect Mateo Kovacic to start also.
For Klopp, the plan is simple – knock Real players off their stride as soon as the game kicks off; press the players, especially the defenders – Rafael Varane and Sergio Ramos – whilst looking for balls over the top to Mohamed Salah because Marcelo will not hold his defensive position.
It should be an interesting and tactical match because both teams are offensive in their outlook and have very fast forwards. It looks like a midfield battle, especially between Jordan Henderson and Modric.