Durban - Local supporters of English giants Liverpool are hoping their team will rise to the occasion of the Uefa Champions League final and overcome the more fancied Real Madrid of Spain when Europe’s biggest club prize is contested in Kiev on Saturday night.
Liverpool supporter groups across the country mean a sea of red will crowd out minority Real backers at popular football screening venues come the 8.30pm kick-off.
Durban’s Britannia Hotel and Hotel Savera in Chatsworth are expected to be packed with Liverpool followers, with the Britannia an official meeting point for the Reds’ faithful.
In Gauteng the official Liverpool group will take in the spectacle at the Ridgeway Racebar in Greenstone, Edenvale.
The Liverpool contingent will hope it is unlucky 13 for Real.
The 12-times European champions are favourites as they gun for a hat-trick of continental trophies, against a Liverpool outfit that will need to play above themselves, and hope for some defensive luck, if they are to capture their sixth title.
Whereas Cristiano Ronaldo-led Real are in familiar territory, the English club last featured on this stage in 2004-2005 when they came from 3-0 down against Italy’s AC Milan to sneak the title on penalties.
“Our defence is not that grand and with Real Madrid’s firepower, we’ll have to give them one goal,” said Phoenix resident Clive Venketsamy.
He hoped for “a 3-1 win with goals from Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino”.
“I’ve been an avid follower from the age of nine, and this game is up there with the AC Milan game where we came from 3-0 down to win.
I’m banking on Jordan Henderson to lead the way. He has lifted the team spirit and is a real leader,” said Venketsamy.
Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren is calling for a team effort, particularly to stop the individual prowess of Ronaldo who scored twice in last season’s final.
The Portuguese forward is the only player to have scored in three Champions League finals.
“We play in the Premier League against the world’s best strikers and we know how to defend. We will stop him together."
"In parts of the game it will be one against one and it will be tough, but it is a challenge I will be ready for,” said the Croatian.
Lovren believes Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who has scored 44 goals in all competitions, ranks with the world’s top players, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
“Ronaldo, Salah, Messi, you need to respect these players and Ronaldo is already proven in this kind of game - 12-15 years."
"Every year he scores more than 30 goals. Even if he has a bad season, he scores 30 goals,” Lovren told reporters.
Ronaldo has scored 15 goals in the Champions League this season and became the first player to net in all six group games.
He also struck in each leg of both the last 16 and the quarter-final, although he failed to find the target in the semis.
“He will be a threat in the air if he gets proper supply,” fellow Red Kavi Gareeb said of Ronaldo.
“We haven’t won a trophy for a while and this will be a cherry on top of our season."
"Salah is going to be marked like hell, but with Firmino and Mane we are just going to have to run at their defence.”
Gareeb plans to watch the showdown at home in Isipingo, where he will be outnumbered by sons Daksh, 12, and Abhay, 7, who favour Liverpool’s English rivals Manchester United and will therefore back Real.