BENCE BABJÁK 2022.05.03 23:33 Frissítve: 2022.05.04 11:14

Jerzy Dudek: I want a Liverpool-Real Madrid Champions League final

Jerzy Dudek, the hero of the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, analyzed the rematches of this year's Champions League semifinal at the request of Nemzeti Sport. He expects an almost invulnerable Liverpool and another unforgettable night in Madrid.


Jerzy Dudek's Champions League dream final: Real Madrid v Liverpool (Photo: Imago Images)


Anyone who has seen perhaps the most dramatic Champions League final of all time will hardly forget Jerzy Dudek's dance on the goal line. The Polish goalkeeper became the hero of the battle in Istanbul in 2005 in the penalty shootout after Liverpool overcame a three-goal disadvantage against Milan in just 15 minutes in the second half. Carlo Ancelotti was on the bench for the Italian club, who will try to lead Real Madrid to the final against Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Wednesday. Since Jerzy Dudek strengthened the royal team between 2007 and 2011, he would not mind if the Italian master succeeded, while in the case of the Villarreal-Liverpool duel, there is no question which side he is rooting for. If the dream final were to come together for him, he would be rooting for the English team – as he did four years ago in Kyiv, too. The Champions League-winning goalkeeper analyzed the two semifinal rematches at the request of Nemzeti Sport.


Born: March 23, 1973; Rybnik
Nationality: Polish
Position: goalkeeper
Caps/goals (1998-2013): 60/0
Professional clubs: Concordia Knurów (Poland, 1991–1995), Sokol Tychy (Poland, 1995–1996), Feyenoord (The Netherlands, 1996–2001), Liverpool (England, 2001–2007), Real Madrid (Spain, 2007–2011)
Achievements: Champions League winner (2005), Dutch champion (1999), Spanish champion (2008), FA Cup winner (2006), Copa del Rey winner (2011), EFL Cup winner (2003), Dutch Super¬ Cup winner (1999), English Super Cup winner (2006), Spanish Super Cup (2008)

„I can't think of a scenario where Villarreal could reverse this duel...

Of course, it's always different from the stands, but in the first game, I didn't see the potential of the Spanish to possibly cause Liverpool problems. They focused on defense ninety-nine percent of the time, and of course, I was happy that one of my friends in Madrid, Raúl Albiol, became the man of the match – which surprised him too – but a central defender or the goalkeeper being the best of the team says a lot about performance. But don't get me wrong, the Spanish cannot be blamed. There's no manager who can go after Liverpool or Manchester City with a loose helmet. Whoever is preparing for this has already lost.

In view of this, it did not surprise me that Liverpool completely dominated the game at Anfield. When Villarreal played against Juventus and Bayern Munich, they defended deep and heroically, and the counterattacks meant quick counterattacks and opportunities after corner and free kicks. It paid off in the previous two rounds, but the English team had a perfect plan for last week's match. They held the ball and patiently kept the Spanish players moving and running who lined up behind the ball. The English waited for the perfect moment, struck twice, and seems to have decided the question of advancement. But I am sure that Liverpool will not take the rematch lightly, Jürgen Klopp would never make the mistake of allowing his players to do so.

As for the Spanish club's hopes, the main problem is that the team cannot approach the match any differently than it did a week ago. You can dream of winning tactics, but Villarreal can only play as much in the rematch as Liverpool allows them to play. The “Reds” come to the game from an incredibly demanding series: the team in the Premier League is in a fierce fight for the gold and is playing a final in the FA Cup, but there is not the slightest sign of mental and physical fatigue on players. I don't think Villarreal can surprise them, although we saw in the rematch against Benfica that if the defense does not close well enough if it leaves a small space for the opponent, it will be punished immediately at this level. This mistake will hardly be made again. I am sure that the German manager will show his players the most important actions of that match because even at this level it is difficult to maintain maximum concentration when everyone is talking about a run-down duel and an easy rematch.

Liverpool's best option is not to allow space to its opponents and if they can pass the ball 25-30 meters at most from Alisson's goal. There is no problem until then, but as soon as the home side tries to get closer, Klopp's team will probably go for possessing the ball and, thanks to their quick players, they can get to the goal in a few seconds. Because of narrow play and assists, the English players are certainly positioned close to each other and try to defend with as few fouls as possible – no one wants to receive an unnecessary yellow card in the match before the final.

It also does not help the Spanish team's coach, Unai Emery, if Liverpool plays good football; it is almost impossible to find a grip on them. Pretty much what every opponent can do is that they pray that the Reds will have a bad day against them, but the team has not played a single match this season in which they have played bad football. Let's think of the games against Manchester United or Manchester City. This team can control the game even against City, new signings such as Luis Díaz and Ibrahima Konaté have worked out perfectly and the squad is already full of footballers to be counted on at key moments.

The speed of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah is amazing as is the pace Liverpool can dictate. With such speed, they tire the opponent and find the gap between midfield and defense. If the midfielders and attackers fail to deal with the breaking of the back formation, the two wingers, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, come into the picture. On the one hand, they pull apart the opponent's defense, and on the other hand, they send the ball in front of the goal one after the other. Virgil van Dijk is also inescapable. Liverpool can send its wing defenders forward and, if necessary, the right-backs can step up to midfield because they are provided by one of the fastest defenders in the world at the back, who can also be trusted with one-on-one duels with peace of mind.

Jerzy Dudek hopes Sadio Mané and Luka Modrić will meet again in the Champions League final –Real could celebrate four years ago (Photo: AFP)


„After the first game, it is easy to imagine Manchester City winning three matches straight, and also Real Madrid winning 3 to 2 in an extreme fight.

The Spanish can be given an extra boost by the title, and the atmosphere of the Bernabéu Stadium is another story. I watched the round of 16 turn around against PSG on the spot and the league game against Real Sociedad a few days earlier. When the fans sit quietly, the team is also dull, then only one spectacular move, a single spark is needed, and fans immediately create an atmosphere that makes the sky the limit. The same thing happened against PSG: even in the 60th minute of the rematch, Real Madrid looked completely puzzled, then one goal was enough, and everything changed. The magic of the stadium like no other can be an advantage against Manchester City too, and the players are patient enough. They are able to suffer for ninety or even one hundred and twenty minutes and wait for the only moment that could mean victory. They can wait for the right moment on Wednesday as well. The only problem is that Madrid's weakness is defense, and this is not a problem that can be solved in a day or two. It is no coincidence that the recipe is mostly the same: Thibaut Courtois keeps the team alive, and Karim Benzema closes the match out in front. Almost everything depends on these two players, but the big question is, can that be enough in three consecutive duels in the knockout stage?

Moreover, the current opponent is stronger than Chelsea, who lost in the quarterfinals. This team plays smarter football, has a stronger squad and Josep Guardiola is very intelligent. I'm sure his team doesn't make the same mistakes as the Paris and London clubs, and he knows exactly which part of the team he needs to attack. City is likely to try to put pressure on Real's defenders who have made a lot of mistakes this season and will not allow Madrid to build their attacks from behind with flat passes. The team forces the Belgian goalkeeper to curve the ball forward, which the English then acquire in midfield, thereby controlling the match. They don't allow the home players to gain momentum and gain confidence and try to take advantage of the fact that under pressure, Real can hardly build attacks from behind – we have seen that in previous games.

In addition, the English also have psychological superiority. They come with an advantage to the rematch, so if they want to, they can play their own football from the first minute, but it is also possible for them to assess the Madridians and then react – I think the former scenario is more likely. Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro are not among the fast players in the home side's midfield, but their game intelligence is on top. But if the opponent is Manchester City, intelligence only may not be enough to win.

At the same time...

Real is full of Champions League-winning players who know exactly how to turn the match around from a losing position. It is enough to just look at Luka Modrić: he is thirty-six years old, and he has already achieved everything in football, but it is as if he is reborn every thirty minutes in intense matches. And that is one of the eternal charms of football. With the right squad and tactics, a lot of things can be controlled: the pace, the match, the opponent's game. But there's one thing Manchester City can't control either: the moments when these legends touch the ball.

The Croatian midfielder assists without even looking there. Karim Benzema not only scores goals, but he is the difference in almost every game and is dangerous in every situation. Vinícius Júnior is often faster than the ball, and it is not possible to control how many feats the Real goalkeeper performs in a match. These are segments of football that cannot be prepared for and to which we owe the classic Champions League duels, the dramatic battles.

If I listen to my heart, Real Madrid will reach the final, but my brain says Manchester City will.

I hope the heart wins this time."

The clash between City and Real Madrid brought a great match and seven goals. Kevin De Bruyne (left) scored the first goal. (Photo: Reuters)
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