Premier League • England

McManaman claims Real Madrid CL triumph would be one of greatest ever, as Liverpool given reality check

Steve McManaman, Liverpool v Wolves May 2022

Steve McManaman has declared that a Real Madrid Champions League triumph over Liverpool would cap one of the greatest journeys by a team in the competition.

Los Blancos face off with the Reds in Paris on Saturday, with European royalty going head to head. While Liverpool are looking to win their seventh European Cup, Madrid are after number 14.

Liverpool got through a group involving Atletico Madrid, Porto and AC Milan to reach the knock-out stages. Madrid, meanwhile, faced Sheriff Tiraspol, Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter.

Inter got through with Madrid in Group D and subsequently faced Liverpool in the last 16. The Reds then beat Benfica and Villarreal to get to Paris.

Liverpool had to grind out a comeback against Villarreal. However, Madrid made a habit of comebacks on their way to the final. They came from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City in stunning style.

As a result, former Liverpool and Madrid star McManaman has insisted that the Spanish side stand on the verge of one of the greatest-ever Champions League triumphs.

“I had thought the English teams would be so dominant this year, but Madrid have beaten last season’s Serie A champions (Inter) in the group stage, they beat PSG, this season’s French champions, in the last-16, they beat the reigning European champions Chelsea, and they’ve beaten this season’s Premier League winners Man City,” McManaman told the Daily Mirror.

“They have done it the hard way this year, and if they are to win it it should go down as one of the greatest victories ever in terms of teams who they’ve beaten, especially considering that people in Spain didn’t consider them anywhere near favourites.

“I think what Carlo Ancelotti has done, like what Carlo always does, is that he’s got some sort of magic that he passes on to the players, and they just crack on with it.”

McManaman added that he cannot look past Madrid’s continued resilience, despite their team looking weaker.

McManaman lauds Madrid inner strength

Steve McManaman, August 2021.

“On paper you’d almost say they’re weaker from 2018, and why I thought they would win the league in Spain this year, I did think Chelsea would beat them – I was wrong – and I did think Manchester City would beat them – and I was wrong,” the pundit added.

“In this tournament there is something very, very special about Real Madrid, and you just cannot write them off.

“So even if they do look weaker on paper without Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, actually the sum of their parts still propels them to be this wonderful team.”

McManaman revealed he spoke to 36-year-old midfielder Luka Modric, who has said he “feels great”.

“He shouldn’t be as good as he was four years ago, but he’s probably on a par,” the pundit said, claiming that the Croatian delivered the “assist of the season” for Rodrygo in the quarter-finals against Chelsea.

Liverpool must be careful

The midfield battle will therefore be one to watch in Paris on Saturday night.

Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos look timeless in the midfield for Los Blancos and ready for anything.

Liverpool will therefore hope that Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho can both start the match.

The pair have had fitness issues in recent weeks but are looking to prove themselves.

They could well start alongside Jordan Henderson in Liverpool’s arguably strongest midfield. Still, the trio cannot discount the quality of Modric, Casemiro and Kroos.