Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

Steve McManaman picks Liverpool and Real Madrid combined XI before Champions League final

Steve McManaman could find room for just TWO Real Madrid players in a combined XI including their Champions League final opponents Liverpool.

The two European powerhouses go head-to-head in Paris on Saturday night, with the Spaniards looking to be crowned champions of Europe for the 14th time, while the Reds can win the trophy for a seventh occasion.

Madrid go into the game with the LaLiga title already safely secured and on the back of one of the more remarkable Champions League runs in recent seasons. Los Blancos have looked dead and buried in each of the knockout rounds, only to produce stirring comebacks to outlast Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and, most recently, Manchester City.

As for Liverpool, they head to the Stade de France having been narrowly beaten to the Premier League title by City, but with the FA Cup and League Cup already lifted. Saturday’s showpiece is also a repeat of the 2018 final which Madrid won 3-1 and last season’s quarter-final that ended by the same scoreline on aggregate.

But the Premier League side go into the final as slight favourites after a stunning season, while question marks still remain over Carlo Ancelotti’s side. And McManaman, who turned out for both teams during his playing career - winning the Champions League with Real in 2000 - thinks his boyhood club have a significantly stronger starting lineup.

Asked to put together an XI, there were only a few bones of contention, starting in goal: “Thibaut Courois has had a good season, he’s got his critics and had his critics in his first season, but he’s had a really good season…but unfortunately I’m going to go for Alisson Becker,” he told Betway Insider .

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate of both included in the combined XI (Getty Images)

HAVE YOUR SAY! Who makes your Liverpool/Real Madrid combined Xi? Pick your team here

The back-four was a clean sweep for the Reds with the BT Sport pundit suggesting that either Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip would both get in over David Alaba, despite a good first season in the Spanish capital.

In midfield, McManaman opted for Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson over Toni Kroos, Fabinho in the holding role and Luka Modric over Thiago. Modric’s inclusion meant there was no room for Thiago, but for the real thing, Jurgen Klopp is praying the Spaniard can be included and offered a positive update after his player picked up an injury in the last game of the season.

He told reporters on Wednesday: “I met him inside, [there's] a good chance he will be training this afternoon, he did some stuff this morning. It was not planned that he will be doing this session with the players and in the moment it looks like he can be part of training tomorrow.

Steve McManaman picked nine Liverpool players in the Champions League XI (Getty Images)

"That would be pretty helpful, obviously. We go from there. It's surprisingly good. After the game I was not positive about it but we got news that night already that it doesn't look that bad. We will see. I can imagine... now three days before a game, he cannot train but we just have to make sure we do the right thing at the right moment and we will try.”

And then in attacking areas, it was Karim Benzema who unsurprisingly halted the Liverpool dominance. His 15 Champions League goals will see him finish as the tournament’s top scorer and is the frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or. The Frenchman is named along with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, with the latter praised for ‘picking up the baton’ from his team-mate in recent weeks.

McManaman added: “Salah started his season really, really well. The number of goals put him ahead of everybody. Vinicius Jr. is a very unlucky person to miss out, but the fact he’s up against Sadio Mane - who’s in great form at the moment, he’s just won the African Cup of Nations of course, in January, put them through in the World Cup.

“Salah had a really good four or five months and I think Mane’s really picked up the baton recently, so he deserves to be in my team as well. Karim’s had the best season he’s ever had. He’s just in that moment at the minute where everything he touches turns to gold...two Real Madrid players, NINE Liverpool players. That’s how I feel at the moment.”

Steve McManaman’s Liverpool and Real Madrid Combined XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold; Van Dijk, Konate,Robertson; Modric, Fabinho, Henderson; Mane, Benzema, Salah.