Manchester City will start the defence of their English Premier League crown at West Ham.
As a young Liverpool fan, I am relishing the opportunity to watch my side potentially win a Champions League trophy.
Furthermore no matter who wins the game will surely be one of the greats, with two exciting attacking sides with questionable defences facing off in what is sure to be a goalfest.
While I am not going to speculate about who is going to win I know it will come down to a few key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Mo Salah, Luka Modric, Roberto Firminho and… Marcelo?
In fact, I think Marcelo will dictate the outcome of the game.
Marcelo is one of the best leftbacks in the world right now, and has been for the last few years. While defensively gifted, it is his attacking output that makes him such an asset to Madrid.
While shipping as a left back, Marcelo would be more adequately described as a wing-back and can play like a second winger at times, overlapping with Ronaldo (or any other left sided player) to form a lethal pair.
This extra attacker for Madrid creates an overload in the final third, increasing Madrid’s goalscoring chances. While Marcelo may not be the best player in the team (although he’s certainly up there), his dynamism and attacking outlet down the left wing can give Real Madrid an X-factor that may allow them the edge over difficult opponents.
This attacking danger is highlighted by Marcelo’s goals in all three huge Champions League games against PSG, Juventus and Bayern in the semi-finals. Against Liverpool, Marcelo will be coming up against the talented but inexperienced Trent Alexander-Arnold, who will also be dealing with Ronaldo.
If Real Madrid are going to create attacking chances it will most likely be down that left side with Marcelo.
There is no questioning Marcelo’s status as one of the best fullbacks in the world right now, however while he may be their x-factor, there are still weaknesses to his game, weaknesses that I believe will be highlighted by the potent Liverpool attack.
I believe that if Liverpool are to win the game, we will see it coupled with a poor performance from Marcelo, particularly against the counter-attack.
The first obvious weakness comes from how good Marcelo is at attack, as his aggressive runs up the field leave open space for Liverpool’s pacey forwards to run into.
Liverpool supporters have seen it countless times this season, we win the ball against the passage of play (catching players out of position), counter fast, get behind the defensive line and score and Marcelo’s attacking positioning will leave him no chance to get back and support the defence.
The other element comes through his rash decision making. Marcelo is a brilliant defender, however is known for making the occasional poor decision such as against Bayern in the semi-final second leg.
Marcelo is marking the best winger in the world, and furthermore will have Trent Alexander-Arnold overlapping outside him, a brain snap will almost certainly lead to a Liverpool goal.
While it is an clickbait-style exaggeration to describe Marcelo as Real Madrid’s ‘biggest weakness’, I do believe that due to his style of play, he is the man Liverpool are best suited to exploit.
On the flip-side, while not their best player Marcelo’s strong attacking game has the potential to give Madrid the X-Factor they need to get them over the line. So I make a prediction, if Liverpool win it’s through Salah goals or assists from that right side, however if Madrid win it’s from a piece of magic from Marcelo.
No matter which, Marcelo will unquestionably be a key player in deciding the outcome.