Rafa Benitez has assessed the chances of Real Madrid and Liverpool in the Champions League final and can’t decide between his two former clubs.
The current Newcastle United manager believes the Champions League finalists have contrasting advantages with Real Madrid having the benefit of experience while Liverpool offer a greater intensity about their game.
Real have had to overcome some challenging moments, no less so than the remarkable fight back by Juventus in the quarter-final which required a late penalty to send Los Blancos through to the semi-finals. Liverpool meanwhile, have blitzed opponents scoring seven times at Porto in the round of 16 and putting five past Roma at Anfield in the semi-final.
Quoted in Marca, Benitez said: “It will be a very interesting final,” Benitez said. “Watching Madrid against Juventus and Bayern, you realise they have experience and quality, know how to manage difficult situations in games. … That is a plus.
“Liverpool, by contrast, have a lot of intensity, quality, rhythm. … The rhythm in the Premier League is above other leagues, and you saw that against Roma.”
Benitez doesn’t see a clear winner ahead of the game.
“Both could win,” he said. “The first goal will determine how the game develops. … I have a lot of respect for both sides. May the best team win.”
Benitez managed Liverpool for six years from 2004 to 2010 and led the club to their first European success since the famous sides of the 1980s. In a classic final against Inter Milan, the Merseysiders came from 3-0 behind at half time to level the score 3-3 in the space of six minutes before lifting the Champions League trophy on penalties.
His time at Real Madrid was much shorter. His three-year contract was terminated after only six months in January 2016 following a turbulent spell which included a 4-0 home defeat in El Clasico and Real Madrid being disqualified from the Copa Del Rey for fielding an ineligible player. Zinedine Zidane took over from Benitez and went on to win the Champions League and La Liga double with the same group of players.
Of his tie at Real Madrid, Benitez said: “In my final stage at Madrid, those who understand and analyse a little what goes on around the club know why what happened happened.
“It was not as bad as people think, as things were done very seriously and professionally. In any case, I have many years of good memories at Madrid.”