Clubs

Real Madrid‘s players have been motivated by Mohamed Salah “disrespecting the badge” when he said he would prefer Madrid over Manchester City as Liverpool‘s Champions League final opponent, midfielder Fede Valverde has said.

Salah revealed after Liverpool’s semifinal win against Villarreal that he wanted to face Madrid — who beat City a day later — in the final in Paris on May 28.

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Madrid and Liverpool last contested the Champions League final in Kiev in 2018, with Madrid winning 3-1 and Salah forced off with a dislocated shoulder after clashing with Sergio Ramos.

“I want to play Madrid, I have to be honest,” Salah told BT Sport on May 3. “City are a really tough team, we played against them a few times this season, but I think if you ask me personally, I would prefer Madrid.

“Because we lost in the final against them, I want to play against them, and hopefully win against them.”

Valverde — speaking in an interview with Spain’s ‘Club del Deportista’ magazine and published by Marca on Monday — said those comments would serve as extra motivation in Saturday’s final.

“Obviously they’re words that everyone can take however they want,” Valverde said. “I’m his opponent and it’s like disrespecting the Real Madrid badge, the players… The only thing we must do is give our best, try to show why we’re in the final and let’s hope we can give another trophy to the fans and to Real Madrid.”

Madrid have enjoyed a rollercoaster Champions League campaign this season, with comebacks at the Santiago Bernabeu required against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City in the knockout stage to reach the final.

“The first thing to do is thank the fans, because when the game seems lost, when you can’t find spaces, the team isn’t feeling good, the fans are always there to support us,” Valverde said. “That gives us a plus, an energy that you can’t explain. The game isn’t over until the referee says so.

“The biggest one was against City. It’s very difficult to go through again when you’re losing in the 89th minute, you blink and you’re winning. They’re things that don’t happen often in life.”

He added: “I don’t know if it’s fear [that opponents feel], or the pressure that the stadium and the fans generate. They know they’re playing Real Madrid and they’re capable of doing anything, and you can see that. When the coaching staff, the team and the fans feel that, it’s like the Bermuda Triangle.”

The final pits Madrid’s LaLiga winners against a Liverpool team who missed out on the Premier League title by one point on the final day of the season.

The clubs are two of the most successful sides in Champions League history, with Madrid having won a record 13 European Cups, and Liverpool joint-third in the all-time rankings with six.

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