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May 28, 2022 at 8.36pm UK at Stade Auguste Delaune
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Combined XI: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

:Headline: Combined XI: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid:
Ahead of Saturday's Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads.
Sports Mole

Liverpool and Real Madrid will lock horns in the 2022 Champions League final on Saturday, and some of the world's top players will be on display in the French capital.

The English giants beat Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal in the knockout rounds of the competition to advance to the final, while Real Madrid overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Los Blancos will be bidding to win the European Cup for the 14th time in their history, while Liverpool will be looking to make it seven successes in the competition, which would take them level with AC Milan.

The match will be a repeat of the 2018 Champions League final, when Real Madrid ran out 3-1 winners over Liverpool courtesy of a second-half brace from Gareth Bale, who registered after Sadio Mane had cancelled out an effort from Karim Benzema.

Real Madrid have already won La Liga this season, while Liverpool have lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup, but they missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.

Here, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads, using only players available for the contest, with David Alaba and Thiago expected to be fit despite their recent injuries.

The goalkeeping spot in this particular side was difficult to pick, with both teams having two world-class stoppers in the shape of Alisson Becker and Thibaut Courtois. The former has kept 27 clean sheets in all competitions this season, while the latter has 21, with both producing four shutouts in the Champions League during the 2021-22 campaign. There is hardly anything to choose between them, but Courtois has been outstanding for the majority of the season, and he just gets the nod here.

At right-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold is chosen over Dani Carvajal, as the Liverpool defender has again been outstanding going forward this term. Meanwhile, Andrew Robertson is picked ahead of Ferland Mendy at left-back due to his contribution at both ends of the field. Robertson has 15 assists in all competitions this season, but he has also been brilliant defensively, and he gets the nod at left-back despite Mendy's quality, as the Frenchman has had some fitness problems this season.

Virgil van Dijk was an absolute certainty in the middle of the defence, with the Netherlands international arguably the outstanding centre-back in world football at the moment. David Alaba, meanwhile, is expected to be fit for Real Madrid despite recently spending time on the sidelines, so the Austrian is also included. Eder Militao has had a brilliant campaign for Los Blancos and deserves a special mention, but it was relatively straightforward to choose Van Dijk and Alaba in the middle of the defence.

In midfield, Luka Modric had to be included, with the Croatian making 43 appearances in all competitions this season, contributing three goals and 12 assists in the process. The 36-year-old has been brilliant in Real Madrid's run to the final of the Champions League, and he is picked ahead of the likes of Jordan Henderson, Casemiro and Toni Kroos.

Having been a fitness doubt earlier this week, Thiago is now expected to be available for the final, which would be a huge boost for Liverpool. The Spain international has not always shown his best form for the Reds since arriving, but he has been brilliant in recent months, and the 31-year-old is in the midfield alongside teammate Fabinho, who has scored eight goals in all competitions this season.

Fabinho just edges out Casemiro to feature as the holding midfielder in this particular side, and the Brazilian will be key to his team's chances of success in Paris this weekend.

Mohamed Salah simply had to be included in the final third; the Egypt international has had another excellent season, scoring 31 goals and registering 16 assists in 50 appearances in all competitions, including eight goals and two assists in the Champions League, but he is the only Liverpool player in the front three.

Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane are both incredibly unfortunate to miss out, but Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior deserve their positions in the side. Vinicius has scored 21 goals and registered 20 assists in 51 appearances for Los Blancos this term, including three goals and seven assists in 12 Champions League appearances.

Benzema, meanwhile, has had a remarkable season at club level, scoring 44 goals and registering 15 assists in 45 appearances in all competitions. The 34-year-old has scored 15 Champions League goals this term, including hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the knockout rounds, while he netted three times over the two legs of the semi-final against Man City to fire Los Blancos to the final.

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