UCL & UEL Final Previews

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Champions League Prediction and Analysis

European soccer’s biggest competition has reached its final stage. After another thrilling year of Champions League, club football’s most important final is set to take place on Saturday, May 28. Upwards of eighty thousand will fill the seats of the Stade de France, with millions more watching from home. Two colossal sides, Liverpool FC and Real Madrid, will face off to decide who will lift the European Cup. Last season, Real Madrid convincingly knocked Liverpool out of the tournament in the quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate. This season, however, a melodramatic match of world-class football will surely be in place. Tune in on CBS or Paramount+ at 3 p.m. ET. These teams and this tournament never disappoint.

The mighty Reds of Liverpool are seeing themselves take part in their third final in five years and will be chasing their seventh European Cup in club history. This star-studded Liverpool side could be one of the best squads that the historical English club has ever seen. Liverpool has already won the Carabao and FA cups on penalties, and only sits a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race. With a win against Madrid, a Liverpool treble could occur for just the third time in the team’s history. Jurgen Klopp’s “gegenpressing” footballing philosophy will try to expose Madrid’s back four on the ball and utilize lightning-quick counterattacks with the pace of players like Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane. If defensive midfielder Fabinho is fit for the final, then the midfield matchup will be quite even. In defense, star fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will provide scintillating, high-energy football. The partnership of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson has conceded few goals and kept lots of clean sheets, so it will be difficult for the Real Madrid front three to beat them. 

After a four-year absence, Real Madrid is back on the big stage. For the seventeenth time in their history, Los Blancos are in the Champions League final, seeking their fourteenth win in the fixture. Coming off a La Liga title and a miraculous semi-final win over Manchester City, Los Merengues are no short of momentum and confidence. Carlo Ancelotti managed Real to a Champions League trophy in 2014, and after a long departure from the club, he returned last summer to lead this team back to the promised land. His squad of both veterans and young talents has been exciting to watch, with Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior leading the attack. Benzema has scored 44 goals this season and is the favorite for the Ballon d’Or. In midfield, the Kroos-Modrić-Casemiro trio will once again take the big stage. Quite possibly one of the best, if not the best, midfield trios to ever play the game will provide the tempo, creativity, and aggression for Real. Before the season began, there was uncertainty in the Madrid camp about how the back four would fare in the absence of Raphaël Varane. However, Carvajal, Nacho, Militao, and Mendy have cemented their defense as one of the best in Europe this campaign. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had a colossal game for Madrid in the semi-final and rounds out a captivating Madrid side.


Predicted Line-Ups:

Liverpool: 4-3-3

Goalkeeper: Alisson

Defense: Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson

Midfield: Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago

Attack: Mane, Diaz, Salah

Real Madrid: 4-3-3

Goalkeeper: Courtois

Defense: F. Mendy, Militão, Nacho, Carvajal

Midfield: Casemiro, Modric, Kroos 

Attack: Vinicius, Benzema, F. Valverde


Players to Watch:

Liverpool: Luis Diaz

The Colombian winger was signed by Liverpool in the January transfer window and has had an instant impact on Jurgen Klopp’s side. Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah seemed to have locked down the first choice starts in January but when Diaz came in, that all changed. After an exceptional performance in the FA Cup final versus Chelsea, along with multiple other impacts in big matches, Diaz can be expected to start and be a nightmare for the Real Madrid defense.

Real Madrid: Vinicius Jr.

Last season, Vinicius had one of his best performances for Real Madrid against Liverpool in their 3-1 win. This season, Vinicius has exploded onto the scene with 21 goals and 20 assists in all competitions. Although Trent Alexander-Arnold did prove his ability in defense in the FA Cup final, Vinicius will still exploit and expose the Liverpool high line and Alexander-Arnold’s affinity to attack high up the pitch. Konate, Matip, Van Dijk, Henderson, and Fabinho will all have a tough time covering the wide positions this match with Real Madrid constantly looking to release Vinicius down the wing. At some point in the match, a chance will fall to Vinicius to either finish or assist Benzema, and it is in those crucial moments that this match is decided. 


Europa League Prediction and Analysis

10 days before the Champions League final kickoffs in Paris, Eintracht Frankfurt and Glasgow Rangers will duke it out in Seville for Europe’s lesser trophy in the Europa League. Frankfurt looks to reclaim the Europa League title after a 41-year wait, whilst the Rangers seek out their first piece of European silverware in club history. A win in the final would not only bring the victor a trophy but also grant them a spot in the Champions League, somewhere neither club has been in over 10 years. With both sides having a taste for the dramatic and an eye for the goal, this match should surely be one to excite both supporters and neutrals alike. 

It’s safe to say the 2021-22 season has been far from perfect for Frankfurt, as after a stellar 5th place finish last season the squad plummeted into 12th and received an early exit in the DFB-Pokal. This drop can be mostly blamed on the departures of manager Adi Hutter and striker Andre Silva who accounted for 42% of the Eagles’ goals last season. Although Frankfurt’s domestic performance was horrid, their European showing has been quite the opposite. During group play, the Eagles didn’t lose a single match, which qualified them for the knockout round. From there Frankfurt had a difficult road to the final, as they needed to get the best of Barcelona in the quarter-finals and West Ham in the semis, two of the favorites for the entire competition. The Eagles’ successful Europa League campaign can be attributed to talented wingbacks Ansgar Knauff and Filip Kostic who have contributed to 7 of the team’s 10 knockout stage goals. However, the defense may be a concern for Frankfurt as center-back/vice-captain Martin Hinteregger is set to miss the final with a muscle injury. It’s been a tough first season in charge for Oliver Glasner but he can right all his wrongs with a Europa League title. 

On the other side of the bracket lies the Rangers of Glasgow Scotland. After reclaiming the Scottish Premier League (SPL) in 2020-21 ending a 9-year title drought, the Rangers now look to add the Europa League to their club’s trophy room. Despite losing out on this year’s SPL title to archrivals Celtic and the midseason exit of manager Steven Gerrard, the Light Blues have remained top class. The Rangers’ run to the Europa League final has been characterized by attacking flair as they’ve outgunned the likes of RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund. The most prolific of these attackers have been captain James Tavernier, who has won the Europa League golden boot with his tally of 7 goals. Although Gers’ frontline has stolen the show, their defense has also been quality this season, as the center-back duo of Clavin Bassey and Connor Goldman have only conceded more than two goals in a match twice. If the Rangers want any chance of winning this final, their defense will need to remain solid. Much like in the SPL, Rangers have waited a long time to win the Europa League as It’s been 14 years since the light blues of Glasgow lost the 2008 UEL final. These opportunities don’t come around often for the Rangers so it will be interesting to see if they can capitalize on this one.


Predicted Lineups: 

Rangers: 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper: Mcgregor

Defense: Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barišić

Midfield: Lundstram, Kamara, Jack

Attack: Kent, Aribo, Wright

Frankfurt: 3-4-3

Goalkeeper: Trapp

Defense: Tuta, Hasebe, Ndicka

Midfield: Knauff, Kostić, Sow, Rode

Attack: Hauge, Maury, Kamada 


Players to watch: 

Eintracht Frankfurt: Evan Ndicka 

Although Knauff and Kostic have been vital to Frankfurt this season, Evan Ndicka has been chosen for this slot. The absence of CB partner Martin Hinteregger will put all the pressure on Ndicka to keep the likes of Ryan Kent and James Tavernier out of his goal, which is an extremely tall task. The young Frenchman is up for the challenge with his accurate passing and dominant physical presence, however. If Frankfurt gets the world-class performance they need out of Ndicka, they will be halfway to winning the final. 

Rangers: Glen Kamara 

The midfield battle in this final will be an interesting one to watch unfold. Both teams have quality in the middle of the pitch, but this lot’s best has to be Glen Kamara. The Finland international is central to everything Rangers do as he provides cover for the fullbacks whilst also playing progressive passes to the forwards. Kamara will need to be at the top of his game on Wednesday for the Rangers to stand a chance in this final.