Real Madrid will be aiming to make continental football history when they take on Liverpool in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. The Spanish giants are seeking not only a third consecutive triumph in the competition, but also a fourth European crown in five seasons that would take their overall historic haul to 13 titles.
Boasting a rich continental pedigree of their own, Liverpool are the most successful English side in the competition, having lifted the famous trophy on five occasions. Adding a little extra historical spice to proceedings, Real Madrid haven’t lost a Champions League final since 1981 at Parc des Princes in Paris, when the Merseyside club achieved victory with a single goal from Alan Kennedy.
Despite being two of the most successful sides in the history of the competition, surprisingly, these two continental titans have only crossed paths on five previous occasions, the first of which was the 1981 European Cup final. Since then, the expanded Champions League format has brought about round of 16 clashes which Liverpool emphatically won 5-0 on aggregate during the 2008-09 campaign and two in which Real Madrid exacted their revenge during the 2014-15 season, beating the Reds 0-3 at Anfield and 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu during the group stages.
This latest meeting promises to be a pulsating encounter, so let’s take a look at how Real Madrid and Liverpool reached the final, along with the movers and shakers in their teams who could make the difference in Kiev in this Champions League betting preview.
English opposition proved to be a serious hurdle for the La Liga side in the group stages, after they were held to a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu by Tottenham Hotspur, then beaten 3-1 at Wembley Stadium. However, those two slips didn’t prevent Zinedine Zidane’s men from securing comfortable victories against Borussia Dortmund and APOEL Nicosia in the other four matches, easing through to the knockout rounds just behind Spurs in Group H. From there, Los Blancos couldn’t have asked for a more challenging route to the final.
After sweeping aside the opposition posed by Neymar and company at Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, Real Madrid were paired with their 2017 final opponents, Juventus. Zidane’s side looked comfortably in charge of the quarter-final tie after a commanding 3-0 win at the Bernabéu, but the Italians made a spectacular comeback in Turin. However, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was controversially sent off deep into stoppage time, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring from the penalty spot to send his team through.
No two sides have faced one another more frequently in the Champions League than Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. When the two continental heavyweights were paired in the semi-finals, Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring in both games for the Bavarian giants, making for two very tense and evenly contested encounters. Following a 1-2 away victory in the first leg, Zidane’s men thought the job was done after Karim Benzema struck twice in the return leg at the Bernabéu. James Rodríguez scoring was a scare, but the German outfit couldn’t find another away goal.
Los Blancos’ key areas
Even though they boast a side packed with stellar talent, many pundits in Spain still believe that success for Real Madrid still hinges greatly on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star is the leading scorer in the Champions League, with 15 of their 30 goals in the competition this season underlining his importance. The 33-year-old will once again be the focus of attention if his side are to emerge victorious, so he looks a good First Goal Wincast bet at 5/1 odds for Zidane’s team.
While there’s no shortage of good scoring options for Real Madrid, considering the likes of Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale could also weigh in, a solid defensive display will be just as crucial in the final, given that Los Blancos have already shown they’re prone to conceding throughout the competition this season. Liverpool are hardly a rival who will sit back and defend, meaning that Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas can expect a busy night between the posts.
The Merseyside club made an early start to the competition in August against German opponents Hoffenheim in the final qualifying round, highlighted by three goals in 21 minutes in the second leg, as they swept through 6-3 on aggregate. Jürgen Klopp’s side continued banging in the goals in Group E, scoring a whopping 23 in 6 games, including impressive 7-0 routs against both Maribor and Spartak Moscow.
The fearsome attacking trio of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were again on target in the round of 16, thrashing FC Porto 0-5 in Portugal, then settling for a 0-0 draw at Anfield. When the Reds were paired with Manchester City in the quarter-finals, Pep Guardiola’s runaway Premier League leaders were expected to dominate, but Liverpool proved that no rival is unbeatable, winning both thrilling legs in spectacular fashion.
Klopp’s men were again hitting the headlines with their scoring prowess against AS Roma in the semi-finals, racing into a 5-0 lead at Anfield in the first leg, before Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti grabbed two important away goals. Those almost proved pivotal in the second leg, with the Italians refusing to give up. The 7-6 aggregate score in favour of Liverpool became the joint highest scoring knockout tie in Champions League history.
The Reds’ key areas
Capturing the headlines throughout the 2017-18 season for Liverpool has been Mohamed Salah, with the ‘King of Egypt’ netting 43 goals in all competitions, including 32 to top the Premier League scoring charts. However, he isn’t the only leading marksman in the Champions League for the Reds. Tied on 10 goals in Europe is Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino, who also boasts 7 assists, while Sadio Mané has also weighed in with 9 goals. Salah is an attractive 17/5 to score two or more goals in the final and, with the potential for a successful World Cup campaign, he’ll be looking to impress here.
Although nobody can doubt the attacking potency Klopp’s side have produced throughout the campaign, plenty of doubts remain about defensive frailties. Whichever back four the German coach goes with, they’ll undoubtedly be facing the game of their lives against Real Madrid, but with midfield protection from the likes of Jordan Henderson all the more crucial, cohesiveness both defending and attacking will be paramount.
Pick of the bets
This is a Champions League final that has all the right ingredients to be a festival of goals, underlined by defending that has been decidedly shaky for both teams, pitted against some of the most fearsome and in-form attacking players in Europe this season. It’s fair to say that with Both Teams To Score odds at 4/9 during the normal ninety minutes proving a popular Champions League bet, nobody is expecting a bore-draw from this clash.