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Strength in depth the difference as Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Champions League final

27 May 2018 by

Real Madrid sealed their third consecutive Champions League crown and their fourth in five years after beating Liverpool 3-1 in Saturday’s final in Kyiv. Gareth Bale scored twice from the bench, replacing the disappointing Isco, while the Reds had nobody to call upon after losing Mohamed Salah to injury in the first-half.

Real could draw upon experience, Liverpool only had novices

Such strength in depth was the deciding factor in Kyiv, as Real head coach Zinedine Zidane had Bale, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez to call upon if needed. Of the 13 Champions League games Los Blancos have played this season, Bale has featured in seven of them, Asensio has played in 12 and Vazquez has racked up 10 appearances.

Compare that to Liverpool’s bench which contained the unfit Adam Lallana and the underused Dominic Solanke, both of whom have racked up just 186 minutes of European football. The Reds didn’t have a plan B, so when Mohamed Salah went off injured, their gameplan was completely ruined. Real, however, had many options to turn to if they were ever chasing the game.

Solanke didn’t even come on despite Liverpool being in need of a goal against the Spaniards, so why was he even on the bench? The nature of their defeat was certain unfortunate, two goalkeeping mistakes and a wonder goal from Bale within minutes of his introduction, but manager Jurgen Klopp has to take some of the blame for not having an answer when Salah left the pitch.

Liverpool have to spend wisely this summer

It’s easy to forget that Liverpool only finished fourth in the Premier League last season and weren’t in the best of form in the second-half of the campaign –eight wins from their last 15 games. They ended up 35 points adrift of champions Manchester City and will feel they greatly need to strengthen the squad to ensure they can bridge the gap.

Their run in the Champions League was impressive but covered up papered over problems that have been prevalent for some time. Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Real was the 12th goal they had conceded in all competitions since mid-April, highlighting the need for another goalkeeper and defender.

Emre Can’s impending Juventus move has been covered by Naby Keita, but there’s no adequate alternate attacking option if one of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane can’t play. Klopp was somewhat spoilt last season, as his top two scorers barely missed a minute of football.

Firmino missed just one league game to Salah’s two in 2017/18, with their pair contributing an impressive 64 league goals between them. Buying another attacker will certainly be on Liverpool’s agenda this summer but finding the right man might prove a struggle.

Liverpool are being heavily linked with Nabil Fekir from Olympique Lyonnais. He would certainly be a good addition if they meet his lofty asking price this summer, as the 24-year-old is one of the best players in Ligue 1 – contributing 94 goals in 153 games for OL.

The Champions League final could have been different if the Reds had a player of his calibre on the bench to come on for Salah.

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