Soccer

Where is the Champions League final?: Stade de France and Paris region get ready for Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

France and the capital region of Paris will play host to this weekend’s UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET | CBS and Paramount+) when the two meet in a heavyweight clash at Stade de France in a remake of their 1981 Parc des Princes clash.

Parisien darling Kylian Mbappe has dominated the build-up so far after choosing to extend his stay with Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain instead of joining Los Blancos after a failed move last summer and a lengthy courting process.

“I wish to sincerely thank Real Madrid and its President Florentino Perez,” wrote the French superstar in the wake of his choice. “I recognize my luck and privilege to have been wanted by such an institution. I do not doubt their disappointment. It was the greatest of hesitations. I will be their first fan for the Champions League final in Paris, my home.”

First and foremost, though, before looking back at Stade de France and Paris-based Champions League finals of the past, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that this edition was not even intended to be held here and is shrouded in darkness.

UEFA’s original intended host venue was the Gazprom Arena home of Zenit in Saint Petersburg but that had to be moved following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war which has also seen Gazprom dismissed as one of the Champions League’s main sponsors.

Emmanuel Macron, who was recently reelected as the President of the French Republic, played a key role in bringing the event to Paris as the rest of Europe quickly moved to isolate Russia as much as possible after the country’s aggression towards Ukraine.

Losing the Champions League final was not the only consequence for Russian soccer with the national team and domestic club sides barred from international and continental competition which has resulted in a wave of foreign players departing the Russian league and leaving Ukraine semi permanently.

Stade de France is no stranger to high-profile soccer matches having played host to Les Bleus’ 1998 FIFA World Cup success as well as two previous editions of the Champions League final in the eight years following that.

Real were 3-0 victors against fellow Spaniards Valencia CF in 2000 while bitter rivals FC Barcelona triumphed six years later when they beat Arsenal 2-1 through late Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti goals after the Gunners led through Sol Campbell despite Jens Lehmann’s early red card.

That is not the extent of the Paris’ region’s association with the UCL or European Cup, though, with PSG’s home Parc des Princes the previous venue to both Real and Liverpool successes on the continental stage.

Back in 1981, the Reds beat Los Blancos 1-0 through Alan Kennedy’s late goal while six years previous saw Bayern Munich win 2-0 against Leeds United thanks to second half Franz Roth and Gerd Muller strikes.

The 1956 edition was a particularly good vintage with Real beating Stade de Reims 4-3 in the French capital in an encounter which boasted the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano scoring for the champions while Michel Hidalgo was part of the unlucky loser who threw away an early two-goal lead.

So, Paris is a happy hunting ground for Real given that they have won two of their three finals in the city, but that one defeat came against Saturday’s opponents who are aiming to go joint second behind the Spaniards (13 titles) in the all-time list of winners with a seventh crown.

Mbappe’s decision may well continue to overshadow the build-up to the event itself, but it should not take away from what has been a thrilling run to the final on both sides which has produced a somewhat unexpected matchup and a chance for Liverpool to avenge their 2018 heartbreak in Kyiv.



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