Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde has fired back at Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for claiming he would rather face the La Liga champions in the Champions League final than Manchester City. The mind games have already begun ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster showdown in Paris.
Liverpool will vie for their seventh Champions League crown when they face the record 13-time winners in the French capital. The Reds navigated past an early scare in their semi-final second leg against Villarreal to comfortably progress 5-2 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Real staged an incredible late comeback against the tournament favourites, Man City, at the Bernabeu before netting in extra-time to progress 6-5. But ahead of the second leg, which the Citizens entered with a 4-3 lead after a classic at the Etihad Stadium, Salah made it clear who he wanted Liverpool to face in the final.
After Real inflicted final heartbreak on Liverpool in 2018 – a game where Salah was forced off with an injury – the 29-year-old winger pinpointed them as his preferred foe. He told BT Sport: “I want to play Madrid. We lost in the final against them, so I want to play against them and hopefully win it from them as well.”
And ahead of this weekend’s clash, Valverde was asked whether Salah’s preference motivated him and his Los Blancos teammates. And the Uruguay international accused Salah of ‘underestimating’ Real’s crest and squad as they search for a 14th crown.
“Yes,” Valverde admitted. “Obviously, they are words that everyone can take as they want. I’m a rival, and it’s like underestimating the Real Madrid shield, the players… All we have to do is give our best, try to show why we’re in the final and hopefully, we can give another trophy to the fans and to Real Madrid.”
Liverpool would’ve hoped to be playing to complete an unprecedented quadruple after winning the Premier League. However, Man City denied Jurgen Klopp’s side with a stunning 3-2 comeback triumph over Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa on Sunday.
The Champions League alone is enough of a prize to deem a successful season, though, so adding it to both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup would be a phenomenal conclusion to the 2021-22 campaign. If the Reds are to better Real this time around, Salah will undoubtedly have a significant say.