MADRID: A look at Real Madrid’s players ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool:
Navas is viewed by many as the weak link in the star-studded Madrid squad. The Costa Rica goalkeeper made a mistake that almost led to the team’s elimination in the quarterfinals against Juventus but he rebounded with big saves at key moments to help keep the team on track to making it to the final.
Carvajal is the undisputed starter at right back for Madrid. The team struggled to replace him every time he was absent, as happened in the first leg of quarterfinals against Paris Saint-Germain because of a suspension. He has been a key part of Zinedine Zidane’s team both on defense and offense.
The team’s outspoken captain, Ramos is important for Madrid on and off the field. He is one of the team’s most experienced players and has thrived in past Champions League finals, scoring decisive goals in 2014 and 2016. He will be one of the many Madrid players trying to lift the Champions League trophy for a fourth time.
Varane has established himself as Ramos’ partner in central defense. The French defender is only 25 but also carries a significant amount of experience in important matches with Madrid. Varane was 21 when he started in the 2014 Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.
Marcelo will be playing in his first Champions League final since turning 30 but remains in top form and one of the most important players for Madrid both defensively and in attack. The veteran Brazil left back scored in the quarterfinals against Juventus and in the semifinals against Bayern Munich. He also scored in the 2014 final.
Casemiro is the fortress in Madrid’s midfield, responsible for protecting the defense and giving attacking freedom for Luka Modric and Tony Kroos. But Casemiro can also be a threat up front, as he showed when he scored in last year’s final against Juventus.
Kroos is responsible for giving balance to Madrid’s team and remains an important link between defense and attack. Thanks to his accurate crosses and passes, many of the team’s goals start with him. The Germany midfielder is also responsible for most of Madrid’s set pieces.
The hard-working Modric often sets the pace for Madrid in the midfield, being responsible for finding spaces in the opposing defense to try to put Cristiano Ronaldo and the other forwards in position to score. Like Kroos, Modric endured a few injuries this season but will be fully fit for the final.
Benzema has not been an undisputed starter under Zidane recently but the coach has historically shown confidence in the France forward in decisive moments. Benzema had a difficult season but scored two crucial goals in the second leg of the semifinals against Bayern Munich.
Bale also hasn’t been playing much this season as Zidane has often opted to add an extra midfielder to the team, usually Francisco “Isco” Alarcon or Marco Asensio, who scored the final goal in Madrid’s 4-1 win over Juventus last year. Bale finished the season strong with five goals in his last five matches.
Ronaldo arrives for the final in top form after a season in which he paced himself more than ever, skipping many smaller matches to be fully fit for the more important ones. He had an incredible second half of the season, scoring 30 goals in 22 matches. Ronaldo, who scored twice in last year’s final, will be looking to win his fifth Champions League title.
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Written by Prabin Bikram Katwal
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