Over the course of history, Liverpool have faced Real Madrid on just five occasions, all of which have come in Europe’s biggest competition. The Reds have been victorious three times in comparison to the two wins held by Los Blancos, and Liverpool will be hopeful that this winning trend continues on Saturday night.
1981 European Cup Final
We have to go back 37 years for the first meeting between these two giants of world football, and they couldn’t have come together on a bigger stage. Paris was the venue for the clash and Liverpool must’ve been favourites going into the match having won two European Cups just a few years previously. The match was a tense encounter as each side’s tactics cancelled each other out, mainly in the middle of the field. It wasn’t until the 81st minute when left-back Alan Kennedy burst into the box and fired into the back of the net from a tight angle, that the deadlock was broken. Andy Robertson take note! The match finished 1-0 to Liverpool and made Alan Paisley the first manager in history to win three European Cups.
2008/09 Champions League First Knockout Round
Fast forward into the Champions League era and Liverpool had safely negotiated their way through the Group Stage by finishing top of Group D. Their reward was possibly the hardest draw they could’ve asked for, as they matched up with Real in the First Knockout Round. Liverpool travelled to the Bernabéu for the first leg and a similarly tense game followed, with neither side managing to find a breakthrough. However, in the 82nd minute, almost an exact repetition of the 1981 match, Yossi Benayoun rose highest to meet a whipped freekick from Fábio Aurélio. The header from the Israeli found its way across the line and gave the visitors an all-important away goal.
Liverpool went into the return leg 1-0 up and would’ve been quietly confident of progressing to the next round. What followed was Real Madrid’s heaviest ever defeat in the Champions League. Fernando Torres was at his scintillating best all night and opened the scoring after just 16 minutes to put the Merseyside team on track. Later on, in the first half, Liverpool were awarded a very generous penalty following a handball call against Gabriel Heinze. Steven Gerrard stepped up and confidently converted the spot kick like he did on so many occasions. The captain got his second of the night just after the break, when he skilfully converted a cross from Ryan Babel, by placing the ball in the top corner with a half-volley. At this point Liverpool were already out of sight, but they weren’t done there. Andrea Dossena bagged his first goal for The Reds in the 88th minute by slipping the ball under the diving body of Iker Casillas. The Spanish goalkeeper must get a mention for the countless number of saves he made because, without him, it could’ve been as many as seven or eight. Liverpool advanced to the Quarter Finals 5-0 on aggregate, only to be knocked out by Chelsea when they got there.
2014/15 Champions League Group B
The two teams were drawn together in the Group Stage of the 2014/15 edition of the competition. This time, it was Real’s turn to push Liverpool aside, as they won to nil in both meetings. First up was the match at Anfield and Real Madrid had it all wrapped up by half-time. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 1-0 by playing a beautiful one-two with James Rodriguez and placing the ball past Simon Mignolet after receiving a lovely chipped pass from the Colombian. Karim Benzema made it 2-0 just over five minutes later with a looping header from the edge of the six-yard box. The humiliation was complete in the 41st minute when the Liverpool defence failed to clear the second ball from a corner, and Benzema was on hand to tap home from just a few yards out.
Liverpool fared much better the second time around, which is surprising considering that the starting eleven contained the likes of Javier Manquillo, Kolo Toure, Joe Allen, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini. When Benzema scored again in the 27th minute it looked as though The Reds were in for another torrid night. However, they either sharpened up or Real took their foot off the gas, the latter being the most likely, and that was the only goal to be scored in the game. Madrid went on to qualify top of the group having won all six of their games, but Liverpool lost to FC Basel and finished third, meaning they were sent to the dreary depths of the Europa League.
So, if history teaches us anything about the final on Saturday, it’s that both teams will not score, which makes that first goal even more vital. We’ll be looking for a fast start from Jürgen Klopp’s men and hopefully, once they start, they just won’t stop.