Saturday, May 26 – 9:45p.m Local time – Kiev Olympic Stadium, Kyiv, Ukraine
The Olympic stadium in the Ukrainian capital will provide the perfect backdrop for what will quite rightly be the biggest football match of 2018 – second only to the FIFA World Cup final to be held in July.
The showcase of the immortals is set to take place on Saturday night, with Liverpool- who are making their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League final after an eleven year hiatus- aiming to cause a major upset with victory against Real Madrid.
Real is a side that clearly believe the world is their oyster, which is no surprise that the Spanish giants have won the Champions League crown in three of the last four years. Nonetheless, the 12-time European champions will be pitting themselves against a Liverpool side inspired by a high flying Egyptian and a charismatic German manager.
There wasn’t much glamour and fanfare when Mohamed Salah signed for Liverpool in the 2017 English summer, given that his first spell in the Premier League was a grim, nonevent. The once peripheral figure in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea has however been the epicenter of the just concluded EPL season, having won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award and the golden boot with 32 league goals.
The 25-year old was likewise central to Liverpool’s campaign on the European front, as he scored a joint 10 goals with Roberto Firmino on their way to the final.
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Liverpool was one of the four English teams to have registered a blistering start in the competition, having finished at the summit of group E on 12 points. Although Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur finished top of groups A, F and H respectively, the Reds were the only ones who managed to stay firm as their Premier League counterparts were blown away along the course.
It was at the knock out stages that Jurgen Klopp’s charges stood out as the best attacking side bar none, after making light work of both FC Porto and Manchester City. The Merseyside club swamped over the Portuguese champions with a 5-0 aggregate win before galloping past the then title favorites Manchester City with a 5-1 victory on aggregate.
Inflicting a cruel defeat on Pep Guardiola’s City certainly had them as favorites to reach the final, a billing they lived up to despite exhibiting jitteriness in the 7-6 aggregate win over AS ROMA in the last four.
Real Madrid’s campaign to the final on the other hand has likewise been about personalities; personalities which don’t come any bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner played a pivotal role in Madrid’s charge to the final, as he scored an astounding 15 goals in his first 11 Champions League matches this season.
Real’s lethargic start in the La Liga was translated in Europe after the Los Blancos finished second in Group H- three points behind leaders Spurs. Zinedine Zidane’s men however came to the fore in the knockout stages with an opening 5-2 victory over an expensively assembled Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.
Successive matches would however not be without controversy, as a last gasp Cristiano Ronaldo penalty saw them sailing through against Juventus with a 4-3 win, before winning by a similar aggregate score line over Bayern Munich in the semifinal.
Madrid have maintained relative silence over the availability of players in the build up to the final, although Zidane is expected to have a near-clean bill of health in the encounter.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are all however sidelined with injuries for Liverpool, but Emre Can, James Milner and Adam Lallana should be up for contention.
Champions League Final betting prediction
Having a clinical edge is paramount in a Champions League final, with no room for developing cold feet. The current crop of Real Madrid players have a deeply engrained winning mentality, and could as such capitalize on Liverpool’s inexperience at the back; one that has bedeviled them throughout the season.
On the flip side, unlike Madrid whose primary goal scorer is Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool’s formidable trio of Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored a staggering 29 goals between them in the Champions League.
The Spaniards have experience, which more often than not counts for everything, but overconfidence may leave them with eggs on their faces.
Prediction: Both teams to score – $1.44 on William Hill
Real Madrid vs. Liverpool recent results
Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool (November 4, 2014)
Karim Benzema 27′
Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid (October 22, 2014)
Cristiano Ronaldo 23′
Karim Benzema 30′, 41′
Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid (March 10, 2009)
Fernando Torres 16′
Steven Gerrard 28′ (P), 47′
Andrea Dossena 88′
Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool (February 25, 2009)
Yossi Benayoun 82′
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