In a League of their own

Etihad set for title showdown

First things first. Congratulations to Liverpool, upon reaching another Champions League final. It will be their third in four years – a magnificent achievement. They’ll play either Real Madrid or Manchester City, who tee off tonight in Spain with the Blues looking to protect a slender one-goal, first-leg advantage.

The match at the Etihad, 4-3 in case you’ve been luxuriating on a remote paradise island for the last week, you jammy devil, was one for the ages. Madrid clung on for dear life and with no small amount of grit, skill, and belief. City did everything bar win by the 2 or 3 goals their pulsating play warranted – but when the opposition have special players, special interventions tend to follow.

Cue Karim Mostafa Benzema, pictured below. He’ll turn 35 just before Christmas, but is presently just about the finest striker on planet earth. One brilliant goal, one audacious panenka. More to come in Madrid?

There are several ‘givens’ about this evening’s encounter in front of around 80,000 passionate Madridistas in the Santiago Bernabeu, IF City are to prosper. They must hit the same dizzying heights as last week. Take what chances come their way. Handle effectively the deadly triumvirate of Benzema, the electric Vinicius Junior, and Modric. Oh, and try to keep that huge crowd quiet. Should be a breeze, eh?

A couple of times in recent seasons we’ve had faintly risible quotes for Man City to do the fabled ‘Quad.’ A clean sweep of the season’s major club honours. I just couldn’t see it being feasible myself, but look what we have right now. Liverpool already have the League Cup safely tucked away in the Anfield trophy cabinet. An FA Cup final date with Chelsea could bring another pot to polish and admire.

Paris is the venue for the Champions League final – and don’t forget they lie second in the Premier League, by a solitary point (to City – these two really are THE story of ‘21/22).

Price right now then for a Liverpool Quad, with one element already in the bag – just 6/1 . And can I see THIS one happening? You’ve got to say YES, but of course it won’t be easy.

Jurgen Klopp has a particular blueprint. The players buy into it wholeheartedly. In fairly recent times the machine has been refreshed with exceptionally shrewd acquisitions; in particular those of Jota, and Diaz. They have added tremendous value to an already formidable entity.

Home matches come with the built-in bonus of raucous, unswerving support. Mo Salah scores for fun, annually. The Van Dijk/Alisson factor has been in full bloom for some time now. The full-backs don’t defend for me half as well as they attack, but going forward they’re definitely something to behold.

Klopp’s just committed himself to a few more years. Cue audible groans from opponents the length and breadth of the land – there’s no finer compliment.

But – and it’s a big one – what of City’s fate this term? Having surprisingly surrendered their vice-like grip on the League Cup, they then went with a pea-shooter to a gun-fight for the FA Cup semi with Liverpool – BUT the League and CL still beckon. Fancy the Blues then for a Prem/Champions League double? That’s a 2/1 chance.

So – something’s got to give, starting tonight in Madrid’s Chamartín district, which apparently includes a business park containing the four tallest skyscrapers in Spain. Cue all manner of ‘City reach for the skies’ rhubarb, you know the drill. Consider it said.

Real Madrid/City odds tonight, plus all match markets

Alan Firkins

Author: Lucas Carlson