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EFL Cup? Check. FA Cup? Check. Premier League? Close but no cigar. It would not have been a final weekend in the English top flight without some twists here and some turns there, but the Anfield faithful must now rethink their plans for a quadruple trophy parade.
While Man City were busy being rocked to the core by Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard – hoping to help his former club achieve something that he never did during his days in the red jersey – a plucky Wolverhampton Wanderers side would frustrate Klopp’s side and their disgruntled supporters.
The double cup winners ultimately did what they needed to do with a 3-1 success, but the Citizens’ astounding turnaround against Villa ensured that the Premier League crown would remain in the grip of Pep Guardiola and leave Liverpool to rue what could have been.
Ending such a promising campaign with only two cups in the cabinet would not prove to satiate the travelling Liverpool party, and they were forced to navigate a scare against European specialist Unai Emery and his giant-killing Villarreal side in the semi-finals, but no white flags were waved at La Ceramica.
Having started to string together a consistent run of matches and improve his fitness levels, the luckless Thiago Alcantara headed straight down the tunnel before the end of the first half against Wolves after sustaining an Achilles injury.
Klopp was initially pessimistic about his chances of featuring in the final, but the Reds boss has since changed his tune, and there is renewed hope over Thiago’s availability for the contest – whether he can play the full 90 or 120 minutes is another question entirely.
On another bright note, Fabinho‘s hamstring injury is expected to let up in time after he returned to team training on Wednesday, while Joe Gomez should also be a part of the squad after bouncing back quickly from an ankle knock.
Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were both fit enough for places on the bench last weekend after their FA Cup final knocks and will expect to return to the first XI here, with the latter bagging the Reds’ second to share the Golden Boot with Son Heung-min.
Diogo Jota is sure to make way for Salah, while Ibrahima Konate was largely at fault for Wolves’ quickfire opener at the weekend, but the Champions League regular will aim to hold his spot over Joel Matip for the final.
However, cult hero Divock Origi has played his last game for the club after sustaining a muscular problem in training, meaning that there will be no farewell 2019 moment for the celebrated Belgian ahead of an anticipated free transfer to AC Milan.
In stark contrast, Real boss Ancelotti will hope to have everyone fit and available for his side’s 17th European Cup/Champions League final, with David Alaba making his return to training in midweek following an adductor issue.
Alaba was absent from the squad to face Betis but should take his rightful place in the first XI here barring any setbacks – demoting Nacho Fernandez down to the bench in the process.
Champions League veteran Marcelo has also shaken off fitness woes to make himself available but will once again play second fiddle to Ferland Mendy, while Eder Militao will expect to hold his spot despite calls for the Brazilian to be dropped.
As impressive as Eduardo Camavinga has been off the bench during Real’s run to the final, the 19-year-old would only edge out Casemiro, Toni Kroos or Luka Modric should one member of the midfield trio pick up an injury before Saturday.
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The Liverpool high line is made for the likes of Vinicius and Rodrygo to run in behind, but the latter’s incredible impact as a substitute may tempt Ancelotti into continuing with Federico Valverde slightly further forward.
Another hat-trick for Benzema in the showpiece event would see him break the record for the most Champions League goals in a single campaign – currently held by Cristiano Ronaldo‘s 17 in 2013-14 – while he only needs to make the net ripple once to becoem the outright third-highest goalscorer in the competition as he sits level with Robert Lewandowski on 86.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Diaz
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr