|Real Madrid players will have to dig deep against Liverpool in the absence of their skipper Sergio Ramos. (Photo credit: Sky Sports)|
"Revenge, redemption and Ramos" is how you can subtitle this clash of Euro giants, who have lifted the trophy a combined 19 times and are well acquainted (from six matches, there have been three wins apiece, two finals split evenly and, when they have fought recently, an abundance of goals.
The last time the sides met was the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev and Jurgen Klopp's Reds saw red.
Mohammed Salah was carted off injured after being run over by Sergio Ramos, then concussed goalkeeper Loris Karius gifted Madrid two goals to hand Zinedine Zidane his third-straight UCL title.
Where does Real Madrid stand?
Their name has been etched on this trophy four times in the last six years, but along the way, not just this season against Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach, there have been near disasters, impossible rescues and football-escapology of the grandest kind.
Remember Dortmund and Atletico in 2014? Wolfsburg and Atletico (again) two years later? Bayern Munich in 2017 or Juventus 12 months after that? Examples all of brinksmanship extraordinaire… They always find a way.
But, in playing terms, they won't win this tie unless three compartments of their magic box are working fluidly: Striker Karim BenzemaThibaut Courtois and that immense midfield of Luka Modric – Casemiro – Toni Kroos. In other words: "Score, save and mesmerize."
Where does Liverpool stand?
Liverpool slightly resemble Barcelona, in that injuries have forced them to look inward to solve problems they didn't have a clue they were going to suffer.
Just as the Catalans have been elevated from the mire by youngsters like Pedri, Ronald Araujo and the likes, Klopp has found in-house sustenance from competition debutants Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams, Curtis Jones etc.
Average age 20, but 18 Champions League appearances between them this season.
There will, in such an historic tie, inevitably be a jack-in-the-box player who excels like Divock Origi or Gini Wijnaldum (who popped up for Liverpool against Barca in 2019).
Or how substitute Gareth Bale and Ferland Mendy did for Madrid in, respectively, that 2018 final and the last-16 first leg against Atalanta this season.
That Klopp incorporated the prolific, and now fully fit, Diogo Jota alongside the star trio in a 4-2-3-1 formation whilst destroying Arsenal 3-0 at the weekend is ominous and Real Madrid should be worried.
The key five for Spain’s champions are Courtois, who has been at or near his very best form this term; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, who can take a game away from the best opponents because, technical skills aside, they live and breathe the winning mentality; and Benzema, who not only has 11 goals in his last 10 matches, but the effervescence of his play, his invention, vision and technical skills are sheer magic to watch.
On form he can win this tie. Madrid, were they to lose him, would be lost.
Liverpool seem to be back to their form and may drag the record champions by their missing captain’s beards, pace aplenty, trickery in full gear… It’s the game of the season by all standards.