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Champions League And Championship Playoff Finals: Football Countdown – Live!

More pictures from Paris…

Volleying practice for Milner and Mane. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty ImagesA general view at Hotel de Ville on Day 2 of the UEFA Champions League Final 2021/22 Festival. Photograph: Boris Streubel/UEFA/Getty ImagesLiverpool players react to Salah’s fluffed attempt to hit the crossbar. Photograph: Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty ImagesAdrian and Alisson are shown a copy of our Premier League predictions.

Stop it! Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA‘A punk singer and fake European Cup: how Klopp got Liverpool back on track’. That’s quite the headline.

Andy Hunter is our man in Paris. All is revealed here:

Jan Molby doing it in style.

Pictures from Paris…

Fabinho and Thiago in training. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty ImagesLiverpool players share a laugh during a training session. Photograph: Frank Augstein/APKlopp’s song. Photograph: Jacob King/PAA happy and relaxed Klopp. Photograph: Nick Potts/PALiverpool’s players now trying to hit the crossbar with shots from the edge of the area. A woeful effort from Mo Salah, who gets good-humoured grief from his teammates, before Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita successfully strike the woodwork. If this was on a practice putting green at the Open Championship, I’d be reading all sorts into it!

Support for the local boy.

Before the season began we predicted where all 20 clubs would finish in the Premier League. We were right about two of them – which beats last year.

Still, you have admire the refreshing honesty. Picking Liverpool to finish 4th and Manchester United 2nd? Whatever.

Liverpool have just published footage (from earlier today) of the squad boarding the plane. And, yep, there’s Fabinho and Thiago strolling up the steps and carrying their own luggage without wincing. Clearly fit then! Both are now out on the pitch limbering up.

Liverpool’s players are currently out on the pitch training. Jason McAteer and John Aldridge are having a pre-match discussion on the official LFC website. A sunny day in Paris and the pitch looks lush. But too lush. Both former Liverpool stars agree it needs a cut.

It’s The Fiver! Big Cup Final day is nearly here.

Back to Jürgen Klopp and he’s asked about the final being moved from St Petersburg.

He pauses to choose the right words. “That the game still happens and is not in St Petersburg is exactly the right message.”

Antonio Conte agrees to stay at SpursAway from the Champions League final, Antonio Conte has agreed to stay as Tottenham’s manager after a meeting on Friday in Turin with Fabio Paratici, the managing director of football.

Talks covered issues including transfer targets, prospective sales and new deals for existing squad members. Spurs are keen to give an extension to Harry Kane, who has two years remaining on his contract.

More on Sadio Mane’s future. This time a German journalist asks Klopp, in English, about the interest from Bayern and, after some bantz from the Liverpool boss that the question should have been asked in French, Klopp says: “This is the wrong moment to talk about that. Wherever he plays next season, he will be a big player.”

This is what Mane said yesterday…

Honestly, the answer I can give you now is I feel very good, and I am fully focused on Saturday’s game. That is the answer I must give before the final. But come back to me on Saturday and I will give you the best answer you want to hear, for sure. It’s special. I will give you all you want to hear then.

For now, let’s go win it because I have no time for other things. I will do everything possible to win it because it is my and all the boys’ biggest dream, then I will give you the answers.

A couple of UK journalists ask Jürgen Klopp about the Paris pitch. It was only laid yesterday.

This pitch is new since yesterday, this isn’t the best news for both teams. We will do a completely normal session as planned. I saw the referees during their session. The ball drops normal. Someone thought it was a good idea to relay the pitch a day before – that’s an interesting idea. It did not change my mood for the game by a per cent. We’d have played on anything.

Real Madrid will train after us. You will hear the same from Carlo [Ancelotti]. I have no idea how bad or good it is. You don’t care if you win. We will go on it and maybe it is fine. I hope no-one makes a story I am moaning. I am not.

More from Jürgen Klopp and he takes a question about the rumours linking Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich.

“Sadio’s in the shape of his life. The Bayern Munich rumours, I couldn’t care less about them. I have no concerns,” says Klopp with a shrug. “It’s not the first time before big games Bayern Munich rumours come up!”

Klopp gives positive fitness update on Thiago and FabinhoJürgen Klopp sits down to speak to the assembled press. This is the Liverpool manager’s fourth Champions League final.

He opens with: “Mood is good. Very good. Really excited to be here now.”

He also gives an update on the fitness of midfield duo Thiago and Fabinho.

“Looks good for both Thiago and Fabinho, Thiago trained yesterday with the team, Fabinho trained completely normal so we take it from there.”

One point worth mentioning is that this Champions League final takes place less than a week after the end of the Premier League.

That can be viewed as a negative in terms of trying to get players fit but in 2019 there was a three-week gap between Liverpool’s last league game and the final against Spurs. And, let’s be honest, that was a stinker. “Rhythm” is a big word in the Liverpool camp – Andy Robertson has just mentioned it in his press conference – and they had hardly any that night despite winning the game.

There was a two-week gap before Liverpool played Real Madrid in the 2018 final in Kiev.

Liverpool’s full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, are talking to the press now.

Liverpool’s Andy Robertson has been asked if he’s thought about emulating fellow left-back Alan Kennedy and scoring a winner for the Reds in a Paris final against Real Madrid. (PA Media)

As soon as we got to the final, there were a lot of people who sent me this (video) or said they were going to bet 1-0 Liverpool and me scoring.

I don’t think I have come across him (Kennedy). Maybe one day I will and we can talk about that goal and how he did it.

Obviously I cannot change history; he scored a wonderful goal that managed to win Liverpool the Champions League, if I do that, I do that. But I am more focused on trying to put in a good performance, trying to be solid defensively.

If we get a good basis then I will let someone else try and be the hero. That for me is the most important thing.

Out of interest, it’s nearly 180/1 for Robertson to score in 1-0 win.

Some scorer and assist stats for Liverpool and Real Madrid. That’s some tally from Benzema. Vinícius Júnior surprisingly ahead of Trent-Alexander Arnold in the assist charts.

Real’s dangermen. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesTop scorers in 2021/22 Champions League

15 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

13 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern)

11 Sébastien Haller (Ajax)

8 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

7 Christopher Nkunku (Leipzig)

7 Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

6 Leroy Sané (Bayern)

6 Kylian Mbappé (Paris)

6 Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

6 Arnaut Danjuma (Villarreal)

6 Darwin Núñez (Benfica)

5 Lionel Messi (Paris)

5 Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

5 Sadio Mané (Liverpool)

5 Rodrygo (Real Madrid)

4 Pedro Gonçalves (Sporting CP)

4 Antoine Griezmann (Atlético)

4 Thomas Müller (Bayern)

4 Timo Werner (Chelsea)

4 Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)

4 Luis Díaz (Liverpool)

Most assists in 2021/22 Champions League

7 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

6 Leroy Sané (Bayern)

6 Vinícius Júnior (Real Madrid)

5 Antony (Ajax)

4 Kylian Mbappé (Paris)

4 Luka Modrić (Real Madrid)

4 Gerard Moreno (Villarreal)

4 João Mário (Benfica)

4 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

4 Étienne Capoue (Villarreal)

4 Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Want more on that 1981 final in Paris between Liverpool and Real Madrid? Steven Pye retells the story here.

“Bucks Fizz even won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 to continue the UK’s dominance on the European stage.” Very good point.

This is the sixth European Cup final to take place in Paris.

Arsenal lost to Barca in 2006 while Leeds were robbed in 1975.

1956 Real Madrid 4-3 Reims (Parc des Princes, Paris)

1975 Bayern 2-0 Leeds (Parc des Princes, Paris)

1981 Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid (Parc des Princes, Paris)

2000 Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia (Stade de France, Saint-Denis)

2006 Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal (Stade de France, Saint-Denis)

Here’s Old Big Ears, won 13 times by Real Madrid and six times by Liverpool.

The Champions League trophy. Photograph: Michael Regan/UEFA/Getty ImagesIt stands 73.5cm tall and weighs 7.5kg. “It may not be an artistic masterpiece but everybody in football is keen to get their hands on it,” creator Jürg Stadelmann told uefa.com. Come on Jürg, big it up a bit.

Saturday’s Champions League final referee is Clément Turpin. He’s no relation to Dick; I’m adamant about that. B’dum tschhh.

Seems to make sense giving a final in Paris to a Frenchman. The 39-year-old Burgundy-based official has taken charge of two French Cup finals at the Stade de France and keen ref spotters will have seen him at the last two Euros and the 2018 World Cup.

Here he is, booking Real Madrid’s Eder Militao in the first-leg, quarter-final clash against Chelsea. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/APMeet the team: Turpin will be assisted by countrymen Nicolas Danos and Cyril Gringore, while another Frenchman, Benoît Bastien, will be fourth official. The VAR role has been assigned to Jérôme Brisard (France), and he will be assisted by Willy Delajod (France) and two Italians, Massimiliano Irrati and Filippo Meli. (Source: uefa.com)

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has been speaking to uefa.com ahead of his fifth Champions League final. The 62-year-old Italian has won three of his previous four.

In my career in the Champions League, we have faced each other many times. The first time was in 1984, the final in Rom. I didn’t play because I was injured. Then, in 2005 and 2007, [when Ancelotti was AC Milan coach] and of course, the rivalry was accentuated during the period I worked at Everton. Now, we’ll face each other again. They have a great squad, they’re difficult to go up against. They play at a very high level, with great physicality, but it’s a pleasure to play against them in the final.

[In 2005,] that was the best any team I’ve coached ever played in a final. Unfortunately, in football there is that unpredictability which you can’t control. It’s difficult to explain. It’s difficult to explain how we scored twice in one minute in the 90th minute against [Manchester] City [in the semi-finals]. These things happen, and you have to accept it. You also don’t have to think about it too much. Football always offers [a chance of redemption], and that happened two years later [when AC Milan beat Liverpool in the 2007 final].

Ancelotti also discussed the concept of revenge.

Will Liverpool be out for revenge for the 2018 final loss to Madrid? Real Madrid are also looking for revenge because they lost a final against Liverpool in [the 1981 final in] Paris. I don’t think it [means much]. Two great teams will face each other, and the one with more courage and personality will win at the end.

Like I said, [Liverpool have] a lot of quality together, with high intensity and good organisation. They’re one of the best teams. [Jürgen Klopp is] a great coach. I have a good relationship with him. [He’s] A great coach who brought some new things to football with the intensity and offensive pressure [of his teams]. He’s doing a great job.

Harvey Elliott was in the crowd when Liverpool were beaten by Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev. This time the boyhood Reds fan is part of the Liverpool squad.

The 19-year-old midfielder, who suffered a serious ankle injury at Leeds earlier in the season, returned to action in February and hopes to make the bench in Paris.

I am still supporting the team as a fan but to be able to say I’m going to be there as a player is a dream in itself. It is just going to be crazy.

I don’t know how it is going to feel because I’ve never experienced it before as a player, there are going to be so many emotions going through me.

I’m just going to need to put them aside and concentrate on the game. There is going to be that excitement but I’m just waiting if called upon, making sure I’m focused and ready.”

The experiences keep coming. To be able to say I’ve played and even been in matchday squads has been one of many of my dreams playing for Liverpool.

I don’t think I’ve played as much as I’ve wanted to since I’ve been back but hopefully there’s many more years to come of me playing football.

Hopefully we can top this season off and get one last bit of silverware. To win the trophy alone, let alone in my breakthrough season, would be a dream.

(Via PA Media)

Football Weekly Extra: If you’ve not heard it yet, the panel look ahead to the Champions League final and Barry reveals the very specific reason why he wants Huddersfield to lose at Wembley!

Wait, there’s more. Kevin Mackenzie adds: “I concur with the sentiment that Klopp’s wife Ulla is boss, but the presence of the liver bird next to the slogan is surely unmissable and adds another layer of complexity to the flag. Both Ulla and Liverpool are boss, which is coincidentally Jürgen’s own role within the context of the club, if not his own home. Very clever when you think about it.”

Thanks Tom. Can’t believe that banner would cause such a debate. I read it and thought well played on the apostrophes! Thanks Anna. We don’t have to explain “she goes the game” do we?!

A spot of transfer news: Manchester City’s Jayden Braaf is to join Borussia Dortmund on a free. Braaf, 19, has failed to break into the City team during his time at the Etihad, and will be hoping – up to a point – to do a Jadon Sancho from hereon in.

And on that bombshell, I’ll hand you back to David.

“Jurgen’s Bird *Is* Boss. Boss means great,” Scouse-splains Anna Machell. “I think you must know this though?! Have I fallen for the trap? Am I really emailing in about this? Yes, yes I am. We’ve also had ‘Ulla Klopp Scouse Queen’ this season and they were inspired by her role in his decision to sign a contract extension. Also Ulla is boss, she goes the game and is often in the away end with the supporters.”

In actual team news, Fabinho and Thiago are both airborne with Liverpool’s squad on the plane to Paris.

Steve Cooper has been talking about the meaning of Nottingham Forest’s playoff final. “It’s not about what it means to me,” says the Forest manager, “but what it means to the supporters, the whole area and the principles this club was built on.”

“That photo of the ‘Jurgen’s Bird’s Boss’ flag [12.26pm] – hmm – the apostrophes are causing trouble,” writes Charles Antaki. “They can’t both be marking possessives. (Because if so, then there’s an element missing – who is Jurgen’s bird’s boss? Those two fans?). So is it that the first apostrophe is a contraction, and we have to supply a missing definite article, giving ‘Jurgen is (the) bird’s boss’? Or maybe it’s the the first that’s possessive and the second is a contraction, so it should come out as ‘Jurgen’s bird is (the) boss’? Plausible in the end, but phew, that’s a lot of work for a flag.”

That’s how I read it too, though as someone whose job involves waging selective war on contractions, I’d be wincing a bit if I were in the same Parisien square as them. A good tedious pedant subeditor never sleeps.

Some words from Nigel Clough too about tomorrow’s playoff final, courtesy of PA Media:

Mansfield boss Nigel Clough does not want to bore his players with stories of his previous Wembley exploits ahead of Saturday’s League Two play-off final.

Clough’s side take on Port Vale at the national stadium for a chance to earn a spot in the third tier for the first time in almost 20 years. While visiting Wembley might be a first for most of his squad, it will not be a new experience for Clough, who played at the old stadium several times and has also managed at the new one with Sheffield United.

The 56-year-old knows all about taking the glory there as he scored two goals in the 1989 League Cup final as Nottingham Forest beat Luton and also played the following year as Forest won it again with a 1-0 win over Oldham.

But he will not share those tales ahead of this game. “It was 1989 so it was a few years ago,” he said. “They’re not interested in that. They weren’t even born. We have got a lot of players over 30 but even still. We won’t bore them with old stories like that.”

The players may be grateful not to hear the story of what happened to the Forest side after the 1990 success over Oldham. Despite winning 1-0, boss Brian Clough was not happy with his team’s performance so got them in the day after to do some running. But Clough junior will spare his side the same treatment.

He added: “I remember being much more nervous for the second one against Oldham. I felt the weight of expectation more for that one than the first one.

“We didn’t play very well that day but we won 1-0 and the manager was disappointed in our performance so he made us go running the next day. Because the performance wasn’t good enough. It’s a little bit different being the last day of the season, I don’t think we can get them in on Sunday, much as we may like to.”

Never mind the Liverpudlian exodus to Paris, half of Huddersfield will be decamping to London for the weekend, with the town’s rugby league’s Giants taking on Wigan in the Challenge Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the Terriers facing Nottingham Forest on Sunday in the game we won’t demean by calling “football’s most lucrative match” (imagine the mess you’d be in if you played a drinking game based on every time a commentator said that). It’s a big deal for Huddersfield as a whole though, as Aaron Bower explains.

More League Two news: Forest Green have appointed Ian Burchnall as their new head coach, replacing Rob Edwards, whose flit to Watford earlier in the month caused a bit of mither to the League Two champions. Burchnall leaves his role at Notts County, having guided them to the National League playoffs, where they lost to Grimsby on Monday.

Exciting airport news: the Liverpool squad are taxi-ing down the runway at John Lennon Airport, heralded on their way by an “arch of water” over the plane. There’s yer green agenda in football. Thousands of Liverpool fans also milling about the airport – an estimated 60,000 of them are expected in Paris.

Thanks David. And I certainly will give you some Mansfield v Port Vale chat. It’s a very tough one to call, from a division in which only five points separated third from ninth and only one separated the two finallists, Vale coming fifth to Mansfield’s seventh. Mansfield bossed their semi-final against a Northampton side possibly still reeling from the crazy goal spree through which Bristol Rovers nicked automatic promotion from them, while Port Vale needed penalties to see off Swindon. Vale finished the season more strongly though, and might be marginal favourites. But Nigel Clough’s side are well organised and tricky to beat and have a potent forward line (even if they don’t always play in the celebrated style of his old man).

It’ll be a particularly emotional day for the Vale manager, Darrell Clarke, up against the hometown club whom he used to both watch and play for. And Ben Fisher’s been chatting to him about why:

Tom Diggles e-mails: “It feels as if you and The Guardian have forgotten there is a far more important play-off game happening on Saturday, Port Vale v Mansfield Town. It may not be the richest game in the history of the Universe or bring together two super duper super clubs en Paris, but it matters a great deal to me and many others! Up the Vale.”

Righty, it’s time for Tom Davies to take the baton for a bit. He’ll give you some build-up for Mansfield v Port Vale on Saturday and Sunday’s Championship showdown between Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest.

Want a deep dive into tactical analysis for Saturday’s Champions League final? We’ve just the man: Jonathan Wilson.

Obviously, those below lines of commentary may spark memories of throwing a shoe at the TV if you’re not a Liverpool fan. That was definitely a way to express anger in the late 70s. The punks were probably outside, kicking over a few telephone boxes.

I’ve had the old videos out and done some YouTubing. Some of these are so familiar. I like the simple rhythm of Barry Davies’ McDermott commentary. And Clive’s are all good. Your favourites?

1977 Liverpool 3-1 Borussia Moenchengladbach

“That’s nice. That’s McDermott. And that’s a goal!”

“Oh yes. And what a delighted scorer. It’s Tommy Smith!”

“Neal against Kneib…. and with such simplicity, the European Cup surely is won.” – Barry Davies

1978 Liverpool 1-0 Bruges

“Now Dalglish. Across the face of the goal. It’s there, Dalglish.” – Brian Moore.

1981 Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid

“Alan Kennedy…. and he goes on… and he scores!” – Barry Davies.

1984 Liverpool 1-1 Roma – won on penalties

“Liverpool are European champions. What joy. Alan Kennedy’s penalty goal leaves Rome distraught and Merseyside jubilant.” – Brian Moore.

2005 Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan – won on penalties

“Riise. Charged down by Cafu. In towards Gerrard! Hello! Hello! Here we go. Steven Gerrard puts a grain of doubt in the back of Milan minds.

“Hit by Smicer. It’s in! It’s in! Vladimir Smicer! Two goals in two minutes for Liverpool. Miracles are possible.”

“Oh, saved by Dida, Xabi Alonso! The impossible is accomplished! Liverpool were 3-0 down five minutes ago…. and, now, look at that scoreline!”

“There will be no second chances if Shevchenko misses… he’s saved it! The European Cup is returning to England and to Anfield! Liverpool are champions of Europe again!” – Clive Tyldesley

2019 Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham

”Salah against Lloris. And he scores. And Liverpool make the perfect start to the Champions League final.

”Origi with the chance. And surely that wins it for Liverpool. Divock Origi. Semi-final hero against Barcelona is the hero in the final for Liverpool against Tottenham.” – Darren Fletcher

Some more pics from Paris…

Fans in Paris. Photograph: Adam Davy/PAMore Reds fans. Photograph: Boris Streubel/UEFA/Getty ImagesMore flags. Photograph: Adam Davy/PAAnd I write all that guff below while being a big Harrison fan. But, in status terms these days, I think it’s fair to think of him as the FA Cup of the Beatles.

I’ve been trying to work out how Liverpool’s season should be assessed if they a) win, b) don’t win the Champions League. And I think I’ve got it down to this…

Imagine it’s the 1970s and you get wind that The Beatles could reform. The story just won’t go away and on the brink of their comeback concert in Paris there’s a very real thought that this is bloody going to happen. Amazing.

A week before, John Lennon pulls out. Damn. It’s not the full Fab Four but this could still be special. So, if you’re still following, these are the two remaining possibilities.

1/ Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr perform in Paris. Sure, the quadruple would have been nice but what a concert with three of them!

2/ Macca pulls out too. George and Ringo do some songs. It’s good but there’s a feeling of what might have been.

Just to (Maxwell’s Silver) hammer the point home:

John = Premier League

Paul = Champions League

George = FA Cup

Ringo = Carabao Cup

My feeling is that Liverpool need a Paul or a John to make this season memorable. Otherwise, it’s a slight disappointment.

The Beatles. Photograph: Roger Viollet Collection/Roger Viollet/Getty ImagesStaying on the left-backs theme, here are the Champions League final thoughts of one of the very best – Philipp Lahm.

The German defender, who won the trophy with Bayern Munich, gives us the lowdown in his exclusive column here.

From a clean-shaven man with glasses and lots of teeth to a bearded man with no glasses and lots of whiter teeth. Great piece here from Sachin Nakrani, who takes a season-by-season look at Jürgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool.

The two players at the 15.45 BST Liverpool press conference with Jürgen Klopp will be Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Klopp and his full-backs. Photograph: Matt Dunham/APThis is all building towards the Reds’ current left-back, Robertson, scoring the winner in Paris, isn’t it. Unless FA Cup final hero, Kostas Tsimikas, tucks home the decisive penalty in a shootout again, something Alan Kennedy did in the 1984 European Cup final in Rome.

Richard Beniston e-mails: “Is it just me or is there a nun enjoying a drink in that picture [10:58am] at The Kop bar? I wonder if she’s there to support James Milnun and VirginMary Van Dyke?” Nun puns. That’s a habit we need to get out of.

Talking of scoring European Cup/Champions League final goals in Paris, former Reds left-back Alan Kennedy has been a busy man going down memory lane this week. Despite being told by Bob Paisley that “they shot the wrong Kennedy” after a poor debut, old Barney Rubble was something of a magic presence for Liverpool in finals and, of course, thumped home the winner against Real Madrid in 1981.

Couple of things to note. First, Liverpool didn’t have a throw-in coach in those days but surely this is a contender for one of the best goals scored from one. Hats off to Ray Kennedy for his quick thinking.

Second, that fresh-air swing from the Madrid defender! Rafael Garcia Cortes was his name. Presumably, he didn’t have a flag saying ‘Spain. Golf. Madrid.” What was the 36-handicapper thinking? The replay from behind the goal makes it looks 20 times worse.

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid star, Steve McManaman, has a foot in both camps and gets his chat on here with Louise Taylor.

He also knows a thing or two about scoring a Champions League final goal in Paris. This was a beauty: his 67th-minute jumping volley which put Real Madrid 2-0 up and on the way to a 3-0 win over Valencia in 2000.

Toni Kroos (the German man, not the Colombian dog), Luka Modric and Casemiro are set to be the midfield starters for Real Madrid in Paris.

That means Eduardo Camavinga will again be on the bench but Jonathan Liew says Liverpool need to be extremely wary of the Madrid supersub, who has played a key role in their run to the final.

Fans are already gathering in Paris. This was yesterday. Pace yerself, fella.

A Liverpool fan poses for a photo outside The Kop Bar in Paris. Photograph: Nick Potts/PALiverpool’s new star, Luis Diaz, was formed and forged on the streets of Barrancas and his mark on the town is evident. This is a wonderful piece on the Colombian’s background by Iñigo Alexander. The pictures are fab too.

And, can this really be true, the Diaz family dog is called Toni Kroos!

Uefa has been criticised by disabled supporters’ groups over the number of wheelchair-accessible spaces at Saturday’s Champions League final.

Paul MacInnes reports that 76 positions accommodating wheelchairs will be available to fans of Liverpool and Real Madrid at Stade de France, despite the stadium listing 550 wheelchair-accessible spaces.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has made 50 saves in the Champions League this season, more than any other goalkeeper. Liverpool’s Alisson is joint-13th with 14 stops. Of course, you can interpret that two ways.

Without doubt though, Courtois has been worth his weight in gold during Madrid’s madcap journey to the final.

Our man in Madrid, Sid Lowe, looks at the impact of the Belgian stopper.

Liverpool’s team selection should be straightforward: pick Ibrahima Konaté and 10 others. Why? The Frenchman has played 28 times for the Reds since joining from RB Leipzig last summer and never lost. Andy Hunter interviews the central defender, who grew up on a council estate less than 10km from the Stade de France.

Karen Carney previews the Champions League final and says Luis Diaz has to start for Liverpool. She also has praise for two other stars on show in Paris.

Liverpool’s forwards have impressed all season but their most important player is Virgil van Dijk. He is their most valuable asset. Salah, Mané and Thiago rightly get a lot of plaudits but if I were to take one player from the Liverpool team, I would take Van Dijk. He will need to be at his best because Liverpool will have to keep Karim Benzema quiet. When I watched Real Madrid at Chelsea, it was a one-man Benzema show. He is the best player I’ve seen live in 18 months.

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