Champions League final: Karim Benzema and Mo Salah lead the line in our Liverpool-Real Madrid XI
The stage is set: Liverpool will meet Real Madrid in the Champions League final tonight in what will be a rematch of their 2018 showdown in Kyiv.
Both teams thoroughly deserve their spot in this Paris showpiece with Jurgen Klopp’s men looking to win the treble – having played every possible game this season – while Carlo Ancelotti’s side are aiming to extend their dominance as Europe’s all-time greatest squad.
But when coming up against their opposite number, who’s better? Sportsmail has the unenviable task of picking a combined XI from Liverpool and Real Madrid brilliant crop of players.
Liverpool and Real Madrid once again meet in the Champions League final on Saturday night
Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
Starting off with a controversial pick but we’ve gone for Thibaut Courtois in goal.
Alisson would certainly be worthy of a spot in this combined XI but somebody had to miss out and it was the Brazilian on this occasion. But there is a reason that Real Madrid keeper is donning the gloves for this team.
While both have had excellent seasons for their respective teams, Courtois’ Champions League campaign, statistically, has been superb.
Thibaut Courtois has had a superb campaign in the Champions League this season
While both goalkeepers have kept the same amount of clean sheets in the competition (four) and conceded a similar amount of goals, Courtois has produced a stunning 50 saves on his route to the final, compared to Alisson’s 14.
Real’s backline isn’t as solid as Liverpool’s and with the Reds constantly dominating the ball, Courtois has been called upon far more often and has been consistently brilliant.
Both are worthy of their spot in goal but it is Courtois who has earned a spot in the team, based on his Champions League form this season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) – right back
Arguably the best right back in the world, Trent Alexander-Arnold has his place in the team nailed down.
Expect the majority of this backline to be from Liverpool, given their superb defensive record. But for Alexander-Arnold, he provides so much more when bombing forward and has been sensational once again this season.
The England international has four assists from eight Champions League appearances this term, keeping three clean sheets on his run to the final.
Dani Carvajal is a great right back in his own right but Alexander-Arnold is the man to bomb up and down the right flank in this team.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is arguably the best right back in world football at the moment
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – centre back
Alongside Alexander-Arnold is being one of the best in his position, Virgil van Dijk is a sure-fire pick for one of the centre-back positions.
The 30-year-old has been at his ever-best this season and has helped Liverpool return to their ever-best after missing large portions of last season with an injury.
The Reds went on to keep 21 clean sheets in the Premier League and Van Dijk remains one of the toughest defenders in the world to beat.
Impossible to leave out when fit, which he will be for the Champions League final.
Karim Benzema will face his toughest test yet this season in trying to beat the Dutchman in Paris.
Virgil van Dijk is an absolute rock in Liverpool’s defence and unbeatable on his day
David Alaba (Real Madrid) – centre back
David Alaba has done superbly to fill the void left by Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in his first season at the Bernabeu.
It may not have been perfect but he’s been a solid addition to the squad and just pips Eder Militao, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate to partner Van Dijk in defence.
Alaba can play anywhere in the backline and defensive midfield, making him an extremely versatile player.
The Austrian can also read the game brilliantly, just like Van Dijk, making near-unbeatable as a defensive duo.
David Alaba has done brilliantly to slot into Real Madrid’s defence since arriving last summer
Andy Robertson (Liverpool) – left back
Another easy pick for this combined XI.
Just like Alexander-Arnold on the right, Andy Robertson has mastered the left back role in Jurgen Klopp’s system and has a wicked delivery to boot.
Robertson can run for days and his work rate is a manager’s dream. He’ll match Trent’s tenacity on the opposite flank but is also solid defensively when called upon.
His addition makes it three out of four for Liverpool players in this back-line, with the Scot beating Ferland Mendy and Marcelo to the berth.
Andy Robertson’s work-rate and ability make his a manager’s dream for a left back
Casemiro (Real Madrid) – defensive midfield
Another tricky call and it was a toss-up between the two Brazilians, Casemiro and Fabinho.
Both are superb in their own right but on this occasion, we’ve gone for the Real Madrid man.
Casemiro is the glue that holds Real’s ridiculous midfield together and perfectly slots in the defensive role alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
And just like the Brazil team, Casemiro gets ahead of Fabinho in this combined team, too.
Casemiro (right) has become one of the best No 6s for Real Madrid in recent years
Luka Modric (Real Madrid) – centre midfield
What more is there to say about the 36-year-old?
He may be in the twilight years of his career but he certainly isn’t slowing down.
Modric still possesses the energy to go toe-to-toe with the world’s best midfielders and continues to dictate games effortlessly from the heart of the midfield.
The Croatian is arguably Real Madrid’s greatest-ever midfielder and can match Cristiano Ronaldo’s haul of five Champions League titles with a victory in Paris on Saturday. Don’t let his age fool you – he’s still one of the most elite playmakers in the game right now.
Even at the age of 36, Luka Modric is still one of the best midfielders in the world
Thiago (Liverpool) – centre midfield
After being asked to perform a defensive role he wasn’t accustomed to in his debut campaign at Anfield, Thiago has now fully settled into a team that isn’t riddled by injuries.
The Spaniard makes the game looks effortlessly easy and has been brilliant in recent months for the Reds.
With Fabinho and Jordan Henderson alongside him, Thiago is given free rein to make Liverpool tick – and you’ll see a lot of him given how Klopp’s teams love to dominate the ball.
Toni Kroos could’ve easily made it a Real Madrid-midfield lock-out but it’s the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona man that gets the nod for this one.
Thiago makes the game looks effortlessly easy and has been brilliant in recent months
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – right wing
After a blistering first half of the season that made him near-unplayable, Mohamed Salah hasn’t been quite the same since tasting defeat in the Africa Cup of Nations back in February.
He may seem to be slightly off the pace as of late but there’s no denying just how good Liverpool’s Egyptian king really is.
Salah is also out for revenge after Ramos injured him during the first half of the 2018 Champions League final, and while this match needs no extra motivation, he’ll certainly have a chip on his shoulder for it.
No real competition from Real Madrid for the position in this side but even then, there’s not many in world football who could displace this season’s Premier League Golden Boot winner.
Mohamed Salah is one of the best players in world football and is unplayable at times
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – striker
Who else but Karim Benzema?
The Frenchman is certainly leading the race to win the Ballon d’Or this year and has single-handedly at times dragged Real Madrid to this final.
He already has 44 goals in 45 matches in all competitions this season – with 15 of those coming in 11 Champions League appearances.
Liverpool’s defenders will need to be at their very best to keep him quiet at the Stade de France.
Karim Benzema has scored a ridiculous 44 goals in 45 matches this season for Real Madrid
Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – left wing
What a 2022 it has been for Sadio Mane. He did contribute nine goals before Christmas but after winning the Africa Cup of Nations – against Salah’s Egypt – Mane has look completely reinvigorated.
As previously mentioned, Salah has looked off the pace in recent months which has seen Mane pick up the goalscoring slack, netting nine times in the Premier League since February, twice in the FA Cup semi-finals against Man City as well as three times in the Champions League quarter and semi-finals.
It must be said that it is harsh leaving Vinicius Jnr out of this line-up, given the Brazilian has scored 21 times and bagged himself 20 assists too in 51 games.
He’s a big-game player and will thrive on occasion like the Champions League final.
Sadio Mane has been on fire since winning the Africa Cup of Nations for Senegal in February