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EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool Captain Jordan Henderson Believes Real Madrid Could Be 'Playing Mind Games' Ahead Of The Champions League Final

Rory O'Callaghan

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EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool Captain Jordan Henderson Believes Real Madrid Could Be 'Playing Mind Games' Ahead Of The Champions League Final

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson believes some of Real Madrid's most experienced stars could be playing "mind games" ahead of the Champions League final.

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Liverpool and Madrid meet in the showpiece event at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday in a repeat of the 2018 final, which ended in a 3-1 victory for the Spanish side in Kiev.

Reds forward Mohamed Salah has spoken of wanting "revenge" for that defeat, in which he was forced off with a shoulder injury after being dragged to the floor by former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

Real defender Dani Carvajal has issued a firm response to Salah, saying he hoped that Liverpool losing another final against Madrid would not be too much of a "burden" for the Egyptian. 

Meanwhile, Madrid striker Karim Benzema has accused Liverpool of complacency ahead of the final.

"They think they have already won the match, maybe," said Benzema.

Mohamed Salah has spoken of wanting 'revenge' for the 2018 Champions League final (Image: PA)
Mohamed Salah has spoken of wanting 'revenge' for the 2018 Champions League final (Image: PA)

"Maybe they think this isn't the same Real Madrid as last time. Maybe they think they're favourites."

Henderson suspects Benzema and Carvajal are attempting to psyche out Liverpool in the build-up to the match but insists his teammates are unfazed by their comments.

"A lot of players, especially the experienced players, they're probably playing mind games and like to chuck things out," Henderson told SPORTbible, after helping to launch McDonald's new Fun Football grassroots programme which will provide over one million children the opportunity to enjoy free coaching in the UK.

"I think Benzema said something about us thinking we'd won already, or something like that.

"But we know that's not true, especially with the mentality in this dressing room. We always respect the opponent and we know how difficult it will be. Anything can happen in the final.

Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal have taken digs at Liverpool in the build-up to Saturday's final (Image: PA)
Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal have taken digs at Liverpool in the build-up to Saturday's final (Image: PA)

"I'm not sure we've actually beaten Madrid in the last five times we've played them so that shows just how difficult it is to beat them. It's going to be another difficult challenge but we're not too bad ourselves. If we give absolutely everything, we've got a chance."

Salah and Benzema are two of the frontrunners for this year's Ballon d'Or, with Liverpool forward Sadio Mane also in contention.

When asked if a Liverpool player would deserve to win the individual award this year if they win on Saturday, Henderson said: "I think it's a possibility for sure.

"The amount of big games we've played this season… don't get me wrong, I think Benzema has been outstanding this season. He's in the running for it.

"But we've got many players in the team that could be challenging for that. The two that probably stand out are Sadio and Mo.

Henderson believes Sadio Mane and Salah have a good chance of winning the Ballon d'Or (Image: PA)
Henderson believes Sadio Mane and Salah have a good chance of winning the Ballon d'Or (Image: PA)

"I don't think we're too bothered about that at the minute though. Our focus is on winning the final on Saturday. That's the most important thing, the team awards. Individual awards will come along if you're winning things as a team."

Liverpool are sweating on the fitness of midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who limped off in the 3-1 win over Wolves on the final day of the Premier League season.

Thiago was expected to return to full training on Thursday and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is hopeful the Spain international can feature in the final, saying his prognosis is "surprisingly good".

"It would be a big boost [if he played] because he's been a really important player since he's come in. The last few months he's been outstanding,” added Henderson.

Henderson is aiming to win the Champions League for a second time with Liverpool (Image: PA)
Henderson is aiming to win the Champions League for a second time with Liverpool (Image: PA)

"Performance wise he's been a big player for us so fingers crossed he can be available and play some part in the game. He's a world class player and he'll make a big difference if he does."

While their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple are now over, Liverpool could still end the season with three major trophies having already won the Carabao Cup and FA Cup.

Asked if he would still view the season as a success even if Liverpool lose on Saturday, Henderson added: "It's not something that I've thought about to be honest. I don't want to think about whether we lose or not. All the focus has been on trying to be ready for Saturday.

"After the season people will have their own opinion on whether this season has been a success or not. But what I can say is that we've given absolutely everything we can in all competitions, and that's all you can ask.

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"I don't think there's been another team that's played in every single game in every single competition for the full season so I think that in itself is pretty special.

"Whatever happens on Saturday, I'm very proud of the lads. They've given absolutely everything this season. And I just hope that we can get over the line and bring a European trophy back to Anfield."

Jordan Henderson and McDonald’s Fun Football is calling on parents to kick start their child’s football journey by signing up to their brand new and largest grassroots football programme in the country. Visit McDonalds.com/Football and follow @FunFootballUK on Twitter and Instagram to find your nearest session.

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

Topics: Champions League, Football, Jordan Henderson, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Karim Benzema, Spotlight

Rory O'Callaghan
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