Champions League: Are Liverpool and Real Madrid the greatest European clubs?

21 May 2022 20:49:56 GMTPlus10
Carlo Ancelotti hopes to lead Real Madrid to further European success

This season's Champions League final promises to be a fascinating contest between two of Europe's most iconic clubs, Liverpool and Real Madrid.

The pair meet at the Stade de France in Paris on 28th May and Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are 8/15 to be crowned European champions for the seventh time, while Carlo Ancelotti's Real are 6/4 to lift the trophy.

The Reds are comfortably the most successful British club in the history of European competitions, but their impressive record is eclipsed by Real's haul of 13 European Cup and Champions League triumphs.

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Real dominant from the off

Real were the dominant force in the early years of the competition, racking up five consecutive victories from 1956 to 1960 - when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in a remarkable final at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

The Madrid giants had to wait a while until their next golden run in Europe when club legends such as Raul, Fernando Hierro and Roberto Carlos helped them to continental glory in 1998, 2000 and 2002.

Former Reds star Steve McManaman scored a cracking goal in the 2000 final against Valencia and two years later Zinedine Zidane - one of Real's galacticos - produced an even better strike to win the final against Bayer Leverkusen, firing in a stunning left-footed volley from the edge of the box at Hampden.

Real's next Champions League success came in a tense 2014 final against city rivals Atletico Madrid, who led until the 93rd minute when a Sergio Ramos goal took the game to extra-time.

Further strikes from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo sealed a 4-1 win for Real and - with Zidane back at the club as manager - they went on to record a hat-trick of European titles between 2016 and 2018.

That 2018 victory came against Liverpool in Kiev, where Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane - both still key players for their clubs - traded goals early in the second half, before Real substitute Gareth Bale came off the bench to score a brace, the first of which was a spectacular overhead kick.

Istanbul comeback tops the list

Liverpool did not have to wait long to get that defeat out of their system as they beat Tottenham 2-0 in an all-English Champions League final the following year.

That was the sixth time the Reds have been crowned champions of Europe, putting them level with German giants Bayern Munich, one ahead of Barcelona and one behind AC Milan.

Liverpool's European heyday came in the late 1970s and early 1980s as they won the European Cup four times between 1977 and 1984.

Undoubtedly their most memorable final, though, was the Miracle of Istanbul against Milan in 2005, when they came from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 with the Rossoneri, before winning the penalty shootout 3-2.

Milan went on to exact revenge with a 2-1 win over the Reds in the 2007 final, but the Italians have not ruled Europe since then, enhancing Liverpool and Real's claims to be the two greatest European clubs.

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Domestic success secured

Both have already enjoyed success in the 2021/22 campaign as Real won La Liga for the 35th time in their history and Liverpool completed a domestic cup double, beating Chelsea on penalties in both the EFL Cup and FA Cup finals.

The Merseysiders have also taken a thrilling Premier League title race with Manchester City down to the wire and Klopp has hailed his players as "mentality monsters".

Comebacks something of a speciality

Liverpool's illustrious European history has featured some extraordinary comebacks. They matched the drama of the 2005 final against Milan in their 2018/19 semi-final tie against Barcelona when, having lost the first leg 3-0, they roared back to beat the Catalan giants 4-0 at Anfield.

But Real's run to this season's final has been just as eventful. Ancelotti's men had to come from behind to see off both Paris St-Germain in the last-16 and defending champions Chelsea in the quarter-finals, before staging a sensational fightback against Manchester City in the semis.

With Real trailing 5-3 on aggregate in the second leg, substitute Rodrygo scored twice in injury-time to level the tie, before a Benzema penalty broke City's hearts in extra-time.

That incredible comeback set up a final between two of Europe's most successful clubs whose domestic and Champions League performances this season are in keeping with their glorious traditions.

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