Nagging fear hangs over Champions League final

4 weeks ago
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For a subordinate who doesn't see himself to beryllium a striker, Mohamed Salah is the envy of galore forwards with his scoring grounds for Liverpool.

"I don't play No.9, I play connected the wing," Salah said. "It's wholly antithetic erstwhile you play arsenic a winger."

And yet the Egyptian enters the Champions League last connected Sunday (5am AEST) with 31 goals successful 50 games for this play and arsenic the starring guardant successful English football.

An awesome extremity instrumentality but 1 eclipsed by the existent No.9 that Real Madrid volition beryllium turning to for goals successful the Stade de France. Karim Benzema's haul stands astatine 44 goals, achieved successful lone 45 nine games.

Maybe little tin beryllium more.

The showpiece climax to the European nine play could good beryllium determined by who is little fatigued aft a two-year play of coronavirus-impacted schedules with fewer important breaks.

Such is the interest astir the workload connected players that, arsenic the teams flew into Paris, members of the satellite players' national was gathering successful the French superior to sermon burnout of the biggest stars.

"It's evidently the clip of the twelvemonth erstwhile the players are truly focused connected winning," FIFPRO wide caput Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said. "I'm definite they are going to get each their vigor to play a bully lucifer connected Saturday (Paris time) but they are going to wage for it eventually. It's truly concerning for america successful the moment, the hazard of wounded now, but besides successful the agelong term."

Benzema, who astatine 34 is 5 years older than Salah, has lone taken to the tract 52 times since August for Madrid and France.

Adding connected their African Cup of Nations trips successful January, Salah and Senegal guardant Sadio Mane are some acceptable to play their 70th games of the season.

Liverpool has played each crippled imaginable this play and each 1 has had thing astatine stake. The Premier League went down to the ligament - with Manchester City winning the rubric by 1 constituent - and Liverpool won the FA Cup the erstwhile play and the League Cup successful February.

Madrid had the luxury of winning the Spanish league with 4 games to spare a period ago. Carlo Ancelotti's hopes of a home cupful ended successful a quarterfinal nonaccomplishment successful the Copa del Rey successful February.

"I don't deliberation we'll struggle. We person had a afloat week's preparation," Liverpool defender Andy Robertson said. "They person had a spot much relaxed preparation. They wrapped up the league... and person been capable to unbend and not play arsenic galore games astatine the highest tempo. We wanted to combat for everything and knew what it would bash to our bodies."

Jürgen Klopp is inactive chasing a treble with Liverpool. Publicly, astatine least, Ancelotti isn't talking astir trying to exploit immoderate tiredness successful the Liverpool squad.

"If we're talking astir a carnal perspective, we're playing against a broadside which is among the champion successful the satellite successful that regard," Ancelotti said. "Add to that immense idiosyncratic quality, a beardown onslaught and bully organisation. I don't deliberation the carnal broadside of things volition find the result, it volition beryllium important but determination are tons of different elements to assess."

Such arsenic Madrid's powerfulness of recovery.

The grounds 13-time European champions were facing elimination successful the circular of 16 earlier 2 of Benzema's 15 continental goals this play turned astir the crippled against Paris Saint-Germain. It took an equaliser with 10 minutes to spell against Chelsea to enactment successful the quarterfinals earlier ousting the defending champions successful other time. Madrid entered the 90th infinitesimal against Manchester City heading retired successful the semifinals until Rodrygo was the savior again with 2 goals capping different unthinkable comeback.

It makes Liverpool's way done the knockout signifier past Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal look comparatively creaseless to acceptable up a reunion with Madrid aft being beaten successful the 2018 final.

That was a crippled erstwhile Salah was forced disconnected injured successful the archetypal half. While helium remains astatine the highest of his scoring powers, what became of the antheral of the lucifer successful Kyiv?

Gareth Bale's goals won Madrid's past European Cup with 2 memorable strikes, but the chances of him playing are slim. The guardant is 1 subordinate who tin lone beryllium frustrated by his constricted playing clip alternatively than excess workload implicit the past season. The world's astir costly subordinate erstwhile signed by Madrid successful 2013, Bale has lone played 13 times this play — six of which were for Wales — aft being near retired successful the acold arsenic his Madrid declaration ends.

For the 3rd consecutive year, UEFA was forced to alteration the determination of the final. Not this clip owed to the pandemic but Russia's penetration of Ukraine which saw St. Petersburg stripped of the hosting.

It's a instrumentality to Paris for Liverpool wherever it bushed Madrid successful the 1981 last erstwhile it was conscionable the European Cup still.

The teams conscionable again astatine the extremity of the 30th play of the Champions League — a contention Madrid sought to destruct a twelvemonth agone by splitting to signifier a Super League.

Liverpool was speedy to backmost distant from the rebellion, portion Madrid inactive clings to the imagination of breaking from UEFA.

It could pb to awkward conversations erstwhile Madrid President Florentino Perez and UEFA counterpart Aleksander Ceferin conscionable astatine the stadium.

The conversation, though, that galore stars would anticipation they person is astir easing the load connected players. Even arsenic those players effort to crown the play by lifting different trophy.