Liverpool sweating on pivotal Thiago and Fabinho outcome as Man City effect could go either way

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As the build-up to Liverpool taking on Real Madrid continues, there are still several things that need sorting out for Jürgen Klopp.

Who will play at center-back? Will Thiago Alcântara and Fabinho be fit? And is Jordan Henderson an automatic pick if they are?

We asked Liverpool fans Liverpool fans Adam Zand and Morgan O’Sullivan a few questions about the Reds ahead of the Champions League final as the build-up to Paris continues.

Liverpool narrowly missed out on the Premier League title this weekend, but how confident are you they can win the Champions League instead?

Adam: My high confidence in this final comes from the indicated ability to stay focused all season. I’m sure the players were upset that the long league campaign ended a point behind. I’m also sure they’re thankful for this one massive match – that the whole football world will be watching – to establish this team as an all-time great.

Morgan: With our strongest team playing, we are stronger and better than Madrid. What is different this time to when we last lost the league by a point to Man City, is that there was a period on Sunday where we genuinely believed that we would win the title.

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While we are incredibly proud of our team and it has been a great season, the players will have been as disappointed as the fans. It can be hard to pick yourself up after such a disappointment. We will either bounce back with passion and drive, or I fear the possibility of a tired squad that has just played one game too many this season.

Real Madrid will be a big threat, but how different does this game feel compared to the 2018 final in Kyiv?

Adam: Everything feels different. That team was still prime “heavy metal” football with attacking options the focus. That 2018 match feels like the genesis of this era of success. It brought a beginning to a more pragmatic winning system.

The team and coaching staff took that loss as a challenge to get back and improve – and ownership and recruitment teams added key pieces (from Alisson Becker through to Luis Díaz), developed youth and squad depth to make this season happen. We should also note, sadly, how different Kyiv is four years later – and that this match is not happening in St. Petersburg as scheduled because football took a stance in solidarity with Ukraine.

Morgan: Back in 2018, Real Madrid had an aging midfield and we were the new kids on the block. Real still have the same midfield but the team that faces them will truly depend on our fitness worries. Thiago and Fabinho both bring a solidity and calmness to the team that is superior to 2018.

Our defense is more experienced, our attack has evolved and is as potent as ever. Real have stumbled through the tournament with lucky break after lucky break. Some will say their name is on the trophy. Others will say that their luck has to run out.

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Thiago and Fabinho are both facing a race against time to make the game. If the worst was to happen and neither made it, would you still be confident?

Adam: The midfield rotations during this calendar year give me confidence that Naby Keïta, Jordan Henderson and possibly Curtis Jones can compete with Real Madrid’s amazing, yet aging midfield. With five subs, James Milner and maybe Harvey Elliot could get chances – and it is worth adding our injured cogs to the subs bench. I’d love to see one or both play some minutes in Paris.

Morgan: Thiago and Fabinho are world class and cannot be replaced. I think losing those two would change my belief of winning into a feeling that it could go either way.

What’s your prediction for the final, and where will the game be won and lost?

Adam: Two-nil for number 7! It’s trite to say, but the game will be won with moments of brilliance and someone switching off or losing focus. That does not feel like Liverpool, although the build-up from Real Madrid inevitably seems to point to risks of LFC’s press and high line.

Vinicius Jr. got behind Trent Alexander-Arnold for two goals during last season’s quarter-final exit. I think Trent has been an outstanding defender since – and he will take this one as a chance to silence any critics. Liverpool still feels like a more complete team – more settled in approach / system than the frenetic, counter-attacking Madridistas and their individual stars.

Morgan: I believe Liverpool will win. The game will be decided in the middle of the field. I think Fabinho will make it, but Thiago will miss out. I cling to the hope that we have started mind games early and that the injury to Thiago is not that bad.

However, I think we are too honest as a club to engage in such games. I do feel it is important for Liverpool to score the first goal, or it could be a case of Real players rolling all over the floor for the remainder of the game. It’s a pity Aston Villa did not that last Sunday!

Sadio Mané is of interest to Bayern Munich, seemingly, and the transfer talk continues to grow. Can Liverpool afford to lose him? Could the final in Paris be his final one in a Reds shirt?

Adam: I said in a previous post with you that the grass is not greener away from Anfield. I stand by that and want Sadio to stay, but the team will go on. I’m hoping the Michael Edwards / Julian Ward handoff is sealed with contracts for both our Egyptian and Senegalese Kings!

Morgan: The top clubs in Europe will always be after the top players. Having said that, I do not think Liverpool need to worry about Bayern Munich for Mané or Salah. I do worry that Real Madrid will have plenty of money now that their Kylian Mbappé deal has fallen through and I see them as our major threat to saving our best players this summer.

Anything else to add?

Adam: Reports of 100,000 Reds making plans for Paris, and then, a parade on return. It is extra special – with all we have been through during the pandemic – to join Reds around the world gathering to celebrate this special season and team.

Thanks to both Adam and Morgan for their contributions throughout the season.

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