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Real Madrid expects 'closely fought' Champions League soccer final vs. Liverpool

Real Madrid expects 'closely fought' Champions League soccer final vs. Liverpool
Striker Karim Benzema (L) and Real Madrid will battle Liverpool and Fabinho in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League final on May 28 at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, near Paris. Photo by Peter Powell/EPA-EFE

May 5 (UPI) -- Spanish La Liga winner Real Madrid expects a "closely fought" match when it meets Premier League soccer power Liverpool in the 2021-22 Champions League final, manager Carlo Ancelotti told reporters Thursday.

Liverpool is favored to win the final, which will start at 3 p.m. EDT May 28 at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, just north of Paris.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will attempt to lead the Reds to a seventh crown in the annual European tournament. Real Madrid owns a record 13 Champions League titles.

"I know Klopp very well," Ancelotti said at a news conference. "We've crossed paths many times and I have the utmost respect for him, his coaching staff and his teams.

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"It's going to be a fantastic final between two teams with different attributes. It will be a very closely fought final."

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The Reds and Madrid will meet in the Champions League final for the third time. Madrid won the last meeting 3-1 in 2018 in Kyiv.

"It is a great achievement to reach a Champions League final because it's one of the most difficult competitions to play," Reds goalie Alisson Becker told LiverpoolFC.com on Wednesday. "You play against the biggest teams in the world but we want more now. We want the title and we will fight for that."

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The Reds climbed into the semifinals with knockout stage wins over Inter Milan and Benfica. They advanced to the final by beating Villarreal 5-2 in aggregate scoring, which included 2-0 and 3-2 victories.

Madrid lost the Lionel Messi and PSG in its first knockout stage game. The La Liga winners then edged the French Ligue 1 squad 3-1 in the second-leg of the Round of 16 matchup. Madrid then beat defending champion Chelsea in the quarterfinals and Manchester City in the semifinals to claim a ticket to Saint-Denis.

Madrid forward Karim Benzema leads the tournament with 15 goals. Liverpool forward Mohamed Saleh scored eight goals in 12 games, the fourth-most in the tournament. Madrid forward Vinicius Jr. is tied with Bayern Munich midfielder Leroy Sane with six assists, the second-most in the tournament.

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The Reds host Tottenham Hotspur in a Premier League game at 2:45 p.m. EDT Saturday at Anfield in Liverpool, England. They sit one point behind first-place Manchester City in the league standings.

Madrid faces Atletico Madrid in La Liga play at 3 p.m. EDT Sunday at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. Midfielder Rodrygo, who scored twice in Madrid's comeback win over Manchester City in the semifinals, said his team will use league play to prepare for the Reds.

"That was my best version of myself in the Champions League and I hope I can continue to score a lot more times," Rodrygo told RealMadrid.com on Wednesday.

"In this shirt, we learn to always fight until the end and that's the way it was. ... Now, we turn our attention to Liverpool. We have another two La Liga games we can use to prepare for the final."

Real Madrid lost just three times in 16 Champions League final appearances. The Reds will make their 10th title game appearances. They also lost three of their previous Champions League finals.

"We can't wait to play the final," Madrid goalie Thibaut Courtois, who has made a tournament-best 52 saves, told the team website. "When Madrid makes it to a final, we go there to win it."

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Real Madrid beat Liverpool in three of their past four meetings. The squads played to a scoreless draw in their last meeting on April 14, 2021, in the Champions League.

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