Champleaguefinal_may2018

Foot culture: Champions League final

Impact Media’s editorial staff square off

One of the biggest games in all of sports will be played this Saturday. Two European giants will clash in one of the more exciting finals in a long time: five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and 12-time European champions Real Madrid will face zero-time Ballon d’Or winner – but that might be about to change – Mo Salah and five-time European champions Liverpool. That’s a lot of trophies to put in one sentence but behold, as Impact Media’s George Menexis, a Barcelona fan at heart, will do anything to prevent Real Madrid from getting its hand once again on the trophy, while Olivier Meilleur-Tremblay, an Arsenal fan (sigh), roots for Real Madrid, mainly out of pettiness and jealousy. The two argued over who would win on Saturday, and while it is not that interesting, here’s a transcript of their heated discussion.

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GM: Meilleur, you know Liverpool will stick to its guns and play the attacking football it’s played since the beginning of the season, the same style of football that has gotten them to a Champions League final. And although both teams are defined by their ability to counter-attack, Liverpool presses higher up the pitch in order to regain possession and catch the opponent in awkward areas of the field. If Liverpool can attack like it knows it can, getting a goal early will make a world of difference for the Reds, and give them more confidence moving forward.

OMT: The thing is, Real Madrid and Zinédine Zidane know that. They’ve managed to keep some of Europe’s best attacks relatively quiet, only giving two goals to PSG, three to Juventus – albeit all in one almost disastrous game – and three to Bayern Munich in the knockout round. Oh, by the way, that’s probably the toughest run to the final in the history of the competition, so their belief and confidence will be through the roof. And need I remind you, Georgie, that the Merengues are going for history here, by winning three UCLs in a row for the second time in their history and for the first time since it’s been called Champions League. And third time’s a charm, as you know.

GM: That doesn’t mean anything.

OMT: It’s an expression. But anyway, Real Madrid will feel like they are walking alone and it’s the Madridistas against the world. I mean, who wants to see such a powerhouse finish the season empty-handed? [Thinks of Arsenal]

GM: Me.

OMT: And everyone except Madrid’s white half and me. I know there’s a good story with Mo Salah and everything, but I just can’t see how Zinédine Zidane, who has NEVER been knocked out of the Champions League as a manager, can let this final slip.

GM: Well, I can.

OMT: I’m sure you do. Look, Cristiano Ronaldo has a habit of rising in important moments.

GM: Yeah, we know Cristiano Ronaldo is absolutely deadly in these types of competitions, but is he even going to be available for the final?

OMT: What? He’s not injured.

GM: Isn’t his back wrecked from carrying his team since the competition started?

OMT: [Rolling his eyes] Wow.

GM: So, Cristiano is good. But Mohamed Salah’s story has amazed and bewildered soccer fans around the world in his first Premier League season with Liverpool, scoring 32 goals in the league’s 38-game calendar, a record that had been stalled at 31 goals in a three-way tie between Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Alan Shearer. Needless to say, there’s a new pharaoh in England.

OMT: [Interrupting] Doesn’t England use a queen?

GM: They do, but Liverpool use a pharaoh. Anyway, the Reds’ hopes ride or die with the Egyptian international. Have you seen a player make as much of a difference on the pitch who isn’t called Lionel Messi…

OMT: [Interrupting again] Or Cristiano Ronaldo with Real Madrid?

GM: [Ignoring him] It’s not just the goals he scores, it’s also how much better he makes the players around him. The forward boasts 11 assists in the Premier League, good for fifth overall, and another five in the Champions League. His involvement in Liverpool’s scoring chances is matched by none…

OMT: [Interrupting like it’s nobody’s business] Except Cristiano Ronaldo.

GM: [Starting to be exasperated] …and it’s benefitted his teammates up front in Firmino and Mané. The fact that they’re considered the best front three in Europe at the moment is largely due to the Egyptian’s feats.

OMT: The thing is, a good forward line has to get the ball in good positions, it can’t do that alone. When you look at Real Madrid’s midfielders, they probably boast the best chemistry, let alone pure talent, in club football. Moreover, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are backed by arguably the best centre back in the world at the moment, Sergio Ramos, and a more than decent partner who should start for a strong France team at the next World Cup, Raphaël Varane. Try to go on the wing and who do you find? Marcelo or Nacho. Good luck with that.

GM: Still, Liverpool’s attacking trident has been nothing short of spectacular, and it was no different in Champions League action; the Reds broke a scoring record in this year’s continental competition, putting 46 goals in the back of the net after 14 games, beating Madrid’s 41 in 2014 and Barcelona’s 45 in 2000. All this with a game to spare. But what’s most impressive is that 30 of those goals came from either Mo Salah, Sadio Mané, or the Brazilian striker up top, Roberto Firmino.

OMT: That’s the guy who never stops running, right?

GM: [Looking at him with piercing eyes] I know that you know. There’s no need to tell you how dominant Liverpool’s front three has been: they’ve actually scored five out of the seven goals that Liverpool put past your precious Arsenal in just two games this season.

OMT: [Containing his rage] Thanks for reminding me.

GM: But we’re talking about the Champions League now, and Arsenal has nothing to with that this year.

OMT: [Containing his rage]

GM: Real Madrid’s year is built on a foundation of squeaking through to the Champions League final. If they lose, it’ll be one of the worst years for the Madridistas in recent history. A slow start to the league saw them finish behind their city rivals, while the team they hate the most, FC Barcelona, picked up its sixth La Liga title since the 2008-09 season. Madrid has won just two in that span. I’m sorry, I seem to have derailed into only insulting Madrid now.

OMT: I’ll tell you what, it’s exactly why Liverpool should be fearful. Real Madrid have formidable forwards, a midfield trio that is up there with the best of all-time, a strong defense and the will to save their season, while writing history. I think they’ll win, but only just.

GM: The point is there’s a lot of pressure on Zinedine Zidane and his men to salvage this season, and there’s only one game left to do so. Liverpool, on the other hand, will be walking in as underdogs but only by name, as the English club has proven with victories over Manchester City, Roma, and FC Porto, that it deserves to be here.

OMT: Well, we’re not friends anymore.

GM: We never were.

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