Two giants of European football meet in the Champions League final
Last updated: May 24, 2018 by Leon Marshal
|Coverage:||BT Sport 2|
|Home Team Form:||WDDLW|
|Away Team Form:||WDLWD|
|Last Meeting:||Real 1 – 0 Liverpool|
Here we are, the wait is almost over. After a full season of domestic and European football, just two clubs and one match remain before the summer starts and with it the 2018 World Cup. Those two teams are of course Liverpool and Real Madrid, who will meet on Saturday in Kiev in what most are expecting to an enthralling game of football.
No-one can argue that Liverpool don’t deserve to be here. They’ve convincingly beat their opponents in the knock-out stages and are comfortably the tournament’s top scorers. Real Madrid on the other hand have rode their luck significantly. Easily the second best side against Bayern in the semi-finals, Madrid somehow made it through, after only clawing their way through the quarter-finals thanks to a contentious last-minute penalty. Madrid finished third in La Liga, but they are a different beast in this competition. Winning here would be their third Champions League win in a row, a feat achieved just twice before.
Liverpool too are a big game team. A fourth place finish in the Premier League was enough to ensure them Champions League football next season, but Klopp gets his men roused for the big occasion in the same way Zidane seems to do for Madrid. Coming into this match as the underdogs and with Real as the clear favourites among the bookies will be just fine by Liverpool and their manager. In fact, it’s what they thrive on. Key to their success is the front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane and the high, gegen-pressing style famously applied by Klopp. For Salah – winner of multiple awards in his first season as a Liverpool player – scoring and victory here would be the ultimate icing on the cake.
Undoubtedly, if Liverpool are successful here, goals and credit will likely be directed at any number of those three. But, we feel it’s in the midfield where the hard work will really be done. Milner, Henderson and Wijnaldum are the likely starters, and they will be tasked with pressing high, turning over possession quickly and feeding the strikers. They’ve done it well all season, so it’s a case of continuing the good work. Focus will also be placed on Dejan Lovren. The defender has had his fair share of critics and mistakes still exist in his game. Handling Ronaldo, Benzema and co will not be easy and Zidane may look to exploit the mistakes frequently made by the defender.
As mentioned, Madrid are favourites and the news from Spain is that victory here is expected. Whether that will weigh down on the players remains to be seen, but many of these players featured in the team that won this competition for the last two years, so they have the experience. Nevertheless, this would be the club’s eighth Champions League and third consecutive, so there is an extra level of pressure.
Zidane has the luxury of an almost full-strength squad to choose from, so the question about Madrid’s lineup are more towards formation. While he’ll be well aware of how Liverpool will set up – to press high, pressure defenders into mistakes and release their speedy forwards – Zidane has always shown flexibility in his approach. Dealing with the aforementioned qualities of Liverpool is task number one and it’s possible Zidane will go with an extra man in midfield. Madrid too typically like to press high, but that could be suicide against this Liverpool team. Rather, allowing his midfielders to drop deeper and control the pace and possession of the game could frustrate Liverpool. Many teams in the Premier League have utilised this approach to great effect, so it will be interesting to see how Madrid shape up.
Both these teams are known for their high-speed, high-scoring styles, with more focus on attack than defence. Many are expecting a high-scoring clash that will see end-to-end football throughout as a result. However, we think that neither manager will be quite so Gung-ho. Patience could be a virtue for Zidane, whose players are much more comfortable playing a possession-based game, with Modric and Kroos two of the best midfielders in the world to do so. Whatever happens, we think it will be a fascinating, but not necessarily high-scoring, affair between two clubs that are built for occasions like these.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury means he misses this game and the World Cup, which is a shame for the player who has started to realise his full potential at Liverpool..
The match will come too soon for Emre Can and Adam Lallana, though James Milner should be over his injury scare to start.
The main question for Zidane is formation and whether to pack an extra midfielder in to deal with Liverpool’s attacking threat.
That would mean little chance of a starting role for Gareth Bale, with Asensio or Isco the more likelier to start.
|Liverpool (4-3-3):||Karius, Robertson, Lovren, Van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane|
|Subs:||Clyne, Klavan, Moreno, Lallana, Mignolet, Ings, Solanke|
|Injured:||Oxlade-Chamberlain, Can, Gomez, Matip|
|Real Madrid (4-3-3):||Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Isco, Ronaldo, Bezema|
|Subs:||Zidane, Nacho, Bale, Kovacic, Hernández, Vázquez, Asensio|
Head to Head
|Last Five Competitive Meetings Between The Sides|
|Date||Game Result||Round||First Goal-scorer|
|04/11/2014||Real Madrid 1 – 0 Liverpool||Champions League||Benzema 27′|
|22/10/2014||Liverpool 0 – 3 Real Madrid||Champions League||Ronaldo 23′|
|10/03/2009||Liverpool 4 – 0 Real Madrid||Champions League||Torres 16′|
|25/02/2009||Real Madrid 0 – 1 Liverpool||Champions League||Benayoun 82′|
|27/05/1981||Real Madrid 0 – 1 Liverpool||Champions League||Kennedy 82′|
Conclusion & Betting Tips
Real Madrid are the bookies favourites here, but as we mentioned above, we think that will be just fine by Liverpool. It could even play to their advantage, as they relish the underdog role and taking it to bigger opponents.
We also think this might not be the all-out attack game from both teams as many expect. While both teams are certainly known for that, we think Zidane especially will be more cautious in his approach, especially after seeing how easily Juventus carved his team apart, and how many chances Bayern created with ease.
But, with the attacking talents on both sides, goals will surely eventually come. The defending from both teams has been far from perfect at many times this season and due to this we think that both teams to score is a great bet for this match. You can get this bet for a great price at Net Bet.