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Champions League and IPL finals

A sports lover’s ultimate guide to the Champions League and IPL finals

All you need to know before two of the year’s biggest sporting competitions culminate this weekend

Priyam Marik | Published 28.05.22, 04:23 PM
Both the UCL and IPL finals are on the same weekend for the fifth time in history

Both the UCL and IPL finals are on the same weekend for the fifth time in history

UEFA/BCCI

Twenty-three hours. That is the duration within which two of the most anticipated matches on the sporting calendar will reach their climax, crowning two new champions of two coveted prizes. First, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) final will take centrestage, as Liverpool battle Real Madrid to become the kings of Europe. Then, barely 17 hours after the drama wraps up on club football’s greatest night, the focus will shift to the showpiece event of the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), where the Gujarat Titans (GT) and the Rajasthan Royals (RR) will go head-to-head for the right to be called the best in the land.

In the past, the UCL and IPL finals have shared the same weekend on four different occasions. The first one was in 2011, when the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) outmuscled the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on home turf, hours before Barcelona outplayed Manchester United in London. Two years later, the order was reversed, with football going first in the form of Bayern Munich’s narrow win over Borussia Dortmund, followed by the inaugural IPL title for Mumbai Indians at the expense of CSK. The last two times the UCL and IPL finals came as part of a double package, it was Real Madrid who came out on top in their side of the draw, beating Atletico Madrid in 2016 and this year’s opponents Liverpool in 2018. As for the IPL’s end of the equation, it was the Sunrisers Hyderabad who bettered RCB in 2016, before CSK rattled the Orange Army two years later to return to their perch.

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With both history and context laid out, here is what a sports lover's dream weekend holds for 2022.

UCL final: Liverpool versus Real Madrid

When and where?

Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 the last time Stade de France hosted a UCL final, back in 2006

Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 the last time Stade de France hosted a UCL final, back in 2006

UEFA

The headline game in club football will take place at the Stade de France in Paris. After an opening ceremony starring Camila Cabello, the action is expected to get underway in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 29, at 12.30am IST. The match will be live on the Sony network as well as on the Sony LIV app.

Why you cannot miss this

Loris Karius had a night to forget the last time Liverpool and Real Madrid met in the UCL final

Loris Karius had a night to forget the last time Liverpool and Real Madrid met in the UCL final

UEFA

Simply put, European club football does not get bigger than this. After the World Cup final, scheduled for December in Qatar, this is the most high-stakes football encounter you can hope to watch all year. To add to the importance of the occasion, this year’s final is a rematch of 2018, when Liverpool were hard done by thanks to an early in-game injury to talisman Mohamed Salah and a couple of fatal errors by their luckless goalkeeper Loris Karius.

The story so far

Real have made a habit of returning from the dead in this season’s UCL

Real have made a habit of returning from the dead in this season’s UCL

UEFA

Liverpool have been going all guns blazing since the start of the year, becoming the first English team to reach all the cup finals in a single season. They have already pocketed the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup and only missed out on the Premier League because of an inspired comeback by Manchester City. Real, on the other hand, have enjoyed the most sensational run to the UCL final in recent memory, with a hat-trick of resurrections against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Chelsea and City, each more improbable than the last. On paper, Liverpool have the edge, though doubts over defensive stalwart Virgil van Dijk and midfield maestro Thiago Alcantara could nullify that. On the pitch, though, it is Real who have history and destiny behind them, not that Jurgen Klopp and his men will care too much about either.

The men who can make the difference

Rodrygo has been worth his weight in gold as a supersub for Real

Rodrygo has been worth his weight in gold as a supersub for Real

UEFA

Rodrygo: While all eyes will be glued to Karim Benzema in Real’s attack (as they should be), Rodrygo could once again end up being the difference-maker just when all seems lost for Los Blancos. The Brazilian forward has come up with game-saving lifelines against Chelsea and City in the knockouts and will be Carlo Ancelotti’s trump card to come on from the bench and swing the match in Real’s favour.

Fabinho is the heartbeat of Liverpool’s midfield and will have a lot more on his plate should Thiago Alcantara not be fit for the final

Fabinho is the heartbeat of Liverpool’s midfield and will have a lot more on his plate should Thiago Alcantara not be fit for the final

UEFA

Fabinho: If Thiago indeed goes missing for the Reds on Saturday night, Fabinho’s workload in Liverpool’s midfield will multiply, as he will be tasked with keeping the ball moving with gusto besides performing his regular defensive duties. Often slipping under the radar in Liverpool’s midfield three, Fabinho will also be the one charged with shutting down Luka Modric, the former Ballon d’Or who keeps Real’s midfield engine ticking. Should the Brazilian succeed in his job, it is difficult to see how Liverpool will not be in control both on and off the ball during the final.

It is time for Mohamed Salah to exorcise the ghosts of 2018

It is time for Mohamed Salah to exorcise the ghosts of 2018

UEFA

Mohamed Salah: Four years ago, Salah was left in tears as a horrible tackle from the then Real captain, Sergio Ramos, forced the Egyptian off the pitch in the UCL final inside half an hour in Kyiv. Having already admitted there is a “score to settle” this season, Salah will be a man on a mission. Fresh off the Golden Boot in the Premier League, where he was also the competition’s leading playmaker, this could be one of those games that determines whether Salah is remembered by the Anfield faithful as just another world-class forward or as an immortal who seized the moment when it mattered most.

Stat attack

Carlo Ancelotti could become the first manager to win four UCL trophies on Saturday

Carlo Ancelotti could become the first manager to win four UCL trophies on Saturday

UEFA
  • Real Madrid have won seven out of seven finals in the Champions League era (since 1992/93), with their last four wins coming after 2014. Liverpool have two wins out of three in their UCL final appearances, with their latest triumph secured against Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 in Madrid
  • No UCL final since 2018 has produced more than two goals, with none in that time featuring goals from both finalists. Liverpool and Real are poised to change that, having netted 58 times between them in the UCL this season
  • With 15 goals in the UCL this term, Real’s Karim Benzema is guaranteed to finish as this season’s leading marksman. However, if Benzema can find it in him to seal a hat-trick in Paris, he will break the all-time record for goals scored in a single UCL reason, which currently stands at 17, held, inevitably, by his ex-Real teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Should Real conquer Liverpool on Saturday, Ancelotti will be the first manager in the UCL era to win the trophy with the big ears four times. At the other end, Klopp is looking for his second honour, having already lost two finals (2013, 2018). Ancelotti’s finals record reads three victories (2003, 2007, 2014) and one loss, which came in 2005 against… Liverpool

IPL final: Gujarat Titans versus Rajasthan Royals

When and where?

The Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad will be hosting its first IPL final on Sunday

The Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad will be hosting its first IPL final on Sunday

BCCI

After a little more than two months and 73 games, the title bout for the IPL will be hosted for the first time at Ahmedabad’s newly revamped Narendra Modi Stadium. Following a marathon build-up, the first ball of the final should be bowled just past 8pm IST on Sunday evening. The live match will be available across multiple languages on the Star Sports network as well as the Hotstar app.

Why you cannot miss this

Gujarat Titans have been the team to beat in the IPL so far

Gujarat Titans have been the team to beat in the IPL so far

BCCI

While death by excess is something the IPL might be guilty of, there is no question of dwindling interest in the final, the match that ends the cricketing extravaganza for 2022. With GT reaching the final in their debut season, expectations are sky high from the home team to make their first match on home soil instantly memorable. But at the other end, RR are on a roll and on the verge of emulating their remarkable title run from the inaugural edition in 2008 and paying a fitting tribute to the late Shane Warne, who had led them to the crown some 14 years ago.

The story so far

Rajasthan Royals are on the brink of repeating their wondrous run from 2008, when they upstaged CSK to win the first IPL

Rajasthan Royals are on the brink of repeating their wondrous run from 2008, when they upstaged CSK to win the first IPL

BCCI

GT have been the best team during the IPL’s league stages, with 10 wins out of 14. Led by an inspired Hardik Pandya and coached by the imperturbable duo of Ashish Nehra and Gary Kirsten, they have found the right balance between anchors and match-winners with both bat and ball, earning their place in the final with a comprehensive chase against RR on Tuesday. As for Rajasthan, Sanju Samson’s outfit have shown considerable resilience in putting aside the defeat against GT to bounce back and land a final spot after dispatching RCB in the second eliminator. At the top, Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal are in full flight, while the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Prasidh Krishna are set to be tough customers with the ball. Even though GT have the psychological edge from the first qualifier, RR have the experience of having already played on the Ahmedabad pitch that GT are yet to get a taste of this season.

The men who can make the difference

Rahul Tewatia has enjoyed a remarkable season as GT’s finisher-in-chief

Rahul Tewatia has enjoyed a remarkable season as GT’s finisher-in-chief

BCCI

Rahul Tewatia: Should the final go down to the wire and GT are the ones pursuing a target, there is every chance that a certain Tewatia will be asked to do what he does best — finish the contest in a nerveless fashion. Tewatia’s ability to soak up the pressure and play his natural game has made GT virtually invincible during close shaves this season. On Sunday, he could once again emerge as the difference-maker, should the heavyweight batters before him end up missing their beats under the limelight.

Sanju Samson has been in fine fettle in the IPL this year without scoring a big one

Sanju Samson has been in fine fettle in the IPL this year without scoring a big one

BCCI

Sanju Samson: It has been an IPL of cameos for the RR skipper, with an aggregate tally of 444 runs this season at a strike rate of 147.50. Even though a big innings has eluded him thus far, there is no doubting that Samson is a potential showstopper, who has it in him to come up trumps on the night of the final. Batting at three, Samson has benefited from strong opening partnerships, doing his bit to keep RR’s momentum alive this season. On Sunday, however, he might have to go one step further, playing the kind of knock that goes from decorating a match to deciding it.

Rashid Khan has it in him to win the final with both bat and ball

Rashid Khan has it in him to win the final with both bat and ball

BCCI

Rashid Khan: He may have only picked 18 wickets this year, but Rashid has been as important to GT’s performances as initially projected, thanks to his phenomenal economy rate of 6.73. Most opponents have chosen to be cautious against Rashid, which has built pressure at the other end. Come the final, such a strategy may not be wise, especially if GT have a big score to defend. Ahmedabad’s track has always been conducive to spin, which means that Rashid will be in the game, even with a wet ball under lights. Moreover, let us not forget Rashid the pinch-hitter, who is capable of sealing a game at the death with the bat, as he proved against SRH this season.

Stat attack

KKR were the last team to win an IPL final at the first time of asking, back in 2012

KKR were the last team to win an IPL final at the first time of asking, back in 2012

BCCI
  • No IPL team playing in their first final in the competition have been crowned champions since the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in 2012, not the most encouraging omen for GT
  • In the last five IPL finals on Indian soil, only one has been clinched by the team chasing, with CSK being the trendbreakers against SRH in Mumbai in 2018
  • RR are the only team in IPL history to have a 100 per cent record in the finals, although they have played just the one, beating CSK in 2008 to be crowned the first IPL champions
  • With Buttler and Chahal set to win the Orange and Purple Caps, respectively, 2022 will be the third time that two players from the same team have bagged the two leading individual awards in the IPL. The last time this happened was in 2017, when SRH’s David Warner finished as top-scorer while his teammate Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the most prolific wicket-taker. Four years before that, it was CSK’s turn to do the double, with Michael Hussey topping the batting charts and Dwayne Bravo leading the wickets’ column
Last updated on 28.05.22, 04:23 PM
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