The domestic football season is finishing this weekend with one of the greatest spectacles in the sport. The UEFA Champions League final is being contested between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Kiev. Between them, these two clubs have lifted the trophy an impressive 17 times. It is the Spanish side that has dominated the competition with 12 of those wins and they have been the team to beat recently. Zinedine Zidane’s men are looking to win the trophy for a third successive season and they head into Saturday as favourites to do just that.
Liverpool have surprised many across the continent this season with their entertaining brand of football. Jurgen Klopp has now reached the final of this competition with two different clubs, but he will be hoping to go one better with the Reds. This is his third European final and he has lost his previous two, the first in the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund and the second with Liverpool in the Europa League. He will believe that he has a point to prove and knows that his squad have enough about them to overcome Real Madrid on Saturday.
The La Liga season was one to forget for Real Madrid as they didn’t put up much of a fight as Barcelona romped to the league title. However, Zidane and the current players thrive in the Champions League. On their route to the final, they have had to beat PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich, a much harder run of ties than Liverpool. They aren’t perfect, but they are difficult to live with, in Europe. Unlike their opponents, they have lots of experience of winning major trophies and that will give them the edge in Kiev.
- James Milner has got eight assists in this season’s Champions League. If he gets another on Saturday, he will have recorded the most assists in a single campaign.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is the competition’s top scorer with 15 goals. If he scores a brace on Saturday, he will match his own record in the Champions League of 17 goals in a single campaign.
This season will be remembered for the record-breaking exploits of Mohamed Salah in the Premier League. The Egyptian arrived during the summer and many had doubts about his ability to break into this Liverpool team, but he finishes the campaign as the club’s most important player. In the Champions League, he has ten goals and four assists. It would take a brave man to back against him having an impact on Saturday. He will certainly have been marked out as the main danger by Zidane and his coaching staff. The reason Salah is so difficult to defend against is his close ball control and low centre of gravity. He seems to brush past opposition players with ease and thrives in tight spaces. There are likely to be goals on Saturday and if the 25-year-old is at his best, Liverpool have a fantastic chance of causing a surprise.
There is only one choice to be the key man for Real Madrid and that is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar continues to dominate European football, despite reaching the age of 33. Another Champions League triumph would see him emerge as the leading candidate to win a third Balon D’Or award. It would mark the fifth time that he had lifted the trophy and further reinforce his position as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. As mentioned above, Ronaldo has scored 15 times in this season’s competition and he is going to finish as the leading scorer for another campaign. As he has progressed in age, the forward has had to adapt his game. He now makes fewer runs, but his movement is intelligent and he regularly finds a yard of space in the final third. In previous years, Ronaldo has stepped up a level in the final. Zidane will be hoping that theme continues on Saturday.
James Milner and Emre Can have both been passed fit for the final. It would be a risk to start the latter considering he has barely kicked a ball in anger during recent months. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez won’t be available for the Premier League team as both are injured.
Real Madrid are expected to have a fully fit squad to select from on Saturday. Lucas Vasquez is expected to start for the Spanish team with Gareth Bale having to make do with a place on the bench.
This is a very difficult game to predict, as both teams have plenty of goals in their teams and question marks at the back. It is more than likely that there will be action at both ends and it would be a surprise if either keeps a clean sheet. An entertaining score draw followed by a crushing Ronaldo winner in extra time would be a horrible way for the season to finish for Liverpool, but it is a scenario that could play out.
Liverpool 2-3 Real Madrid (After Extra Time)