Managers usually dislike revenge talk, at least in public, and Jürgen Klopp was no exception the last time Liverpool prepared to meet Real Madrid in the Champions League. “We are not on a revenge tour here,” he said before last season’s quarter-final. “Sometimes it [a reunion] is close enough, like a week or two later, and then you can have these kinds of emotions in you. ” Or four years later, as is the case with Mohamed Salah.
Salah has been surprisingly open this week on his feelings towards Liverpool’s third Champions League final appearance in five seasons.
“I want to play Madrid,” he told BT Sport following Liverpool’s semi-final defeat of Villarreal on Tuesday. “We lost in the final against them, so I want to play against them and hopefully win it from them as well.” Shortly after Madrid granted his wish with their astonishing comeback against Manchester City on Wednesday, the Egypt international posted on social media: “We have a score to settle.” There was no need to elaborate further.
Klopp will prioritize other factors for the final on May 28, such as the benefits or otherwise of Liverpool competing on every front before arriving in Paris, while Carlo Ancelotti’s team work towards that one game having won the Spanish title last weekend. But, courtesy of Salah’s message, he will be unable to deny that revenge is a motivating force inside the Liverpool dressing room.
No player suffered as Salah did in the 2018 Champions League final of course – and the “we” in his message could have been of the royal variety – but he is one of eight players who started the 3-1 defeat in Kyiv who will, fitness permitting, be involved for Liverpool against a Ramos-less Madrid this time. Technically it is nine as Loris Karius remains a Liverpool player until the end of this season but, well, you know …
Incidentally, Alisson for Karius is not the only upgrade Klopp has made since Kyiv. His seven-man bench that night featured Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Emre Can, Dominic Solanke and Adam Lallana who, struggling with injury, replaced Salah after his 22nd-minute shoulder injury.
Liverpool will have game-changers on their 12-man bench in Paris, where they beat Real in a European Cup final almost exactly 41 years earlier.
The revenge subplot did not materialize when the European heavyweights met in last season’s quarter-final for the first time since Kyiv. The occasion was entirely unsuitable. Both legs were behind closed doors – the first at Real’s Valdebebas training ground, the second everything Anfield should not be on a European night as a goalless draw unfolded at an empty, silent stadium – and a Liverpool team with Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips at the heart of defense fell to Zinedine Zidane’s side again.
Sergio Ramos had also been injured days before the first leg, depriving Salah of direct confrontation with his tormentor from 2018. Perhaps Ramos, now of Paris Saint-Germain, will be attending to support his old club at the Stade de France this month. Given his stated intent to bury the ghosts of four years ago, Salah might well supply the ticket.