The biggest prize in the European game is on the line when Real Madrid and Liverpool meet in the 2017-18 Champions League final at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on Saturday (19:45 BST, live on BT Sport / free live stream on Youtube).
Real Madrid are the reigning two-time champions, have won the competition in three of the last four years and are the most successful team in its history, with 12 overall triumphs. They have a special relationship with the Champions League that no team can match.
Domestically, it has not been a good season for Madrid. They finished third in La Liga, a full 17 points shy of champions Barcelona, and also suffered an early elimination from the Copa del Rey. Zinedine Zidane’s side have looked disorganised at times and there have been complaints about his underutilisation of certain players. His future at the club is not necessarily secure.
Yet here Madrid are, in another final. After becoming the first team to successfully defend the trophy in the Champions League era with their triumph over Juventus in last year’s final, they are now just one victory away from becoming the first to win three in a row.
Their route to the final has been far from easy. Madrid defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16, then Juventus and then Bayern Munich. While their performances haven’t always convinced, things have just seemed to go their way at key moments. Their collection of supremely talented individuals, with their ability, experience and will to win, are able to keep progressing in this competition – round after round, year after year.
There were, however, plenty of moments in both their quarter-final and semi-final encounters in which they looked vulnerable. Juventus were able to overturn a three-goal, first-leg deficit in the last eight before losing out in the final minutes of the return, and Madrid’s success in overcoming Bayern Munich in the final four had more to do with their opponents’ lack of sharpness in and around the area than their own strengths.
Madrid’s susceptibility to swift counter-attacks has been evident throughout this year’s competition, going way back to their group-stage defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur, and certainly gives Liverpool reason to believe they could emerge victorious on Saturday. The pace and vitality of their attack has been a key facet of their own progress to the final.
Liverpool have averaged over three goals per match in this season’s Champions League, and their rate has barely slowed during the knockout stages. They scored seven over the two legs of their semi-final against Roma. While the large majority of Madrid’s goals have been scored by competition-top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool’s have been shared out amongst their front three. Sadio Mane has nine, while Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino each have 10.
Salah has clearly been the breakout star of Liverpool’s season, scoring 44 goals in all competitions and winning a glut of awards in England. He was decisive in the first leg of their semi-final triumphant. It would be unfair to downplay the importance of Firmino, who helps link together the attack with his movement and combination play.
Liverpool will need those two to be in top form on Saturday given that their own defence has its weak points. They have become more solid over the course of the campaign and are certainly capable of defending well, as they showed in their quarter-final victory over Manchester City, but they still conceded six times over the two legs of their semi-final. Madrid have the attacking quality to punish them for any slackness.
Coach Jurgen Klopp has lost each of the last five finals his sides have contested, including the 2013 Champions League final, when his Borussia Dortmund side lost to Bayern Munich, and the 2016 Europa League final, when Liverpool were defeated by Spanish side Sevilla. But Liverpool won 1-0 the last time they met Real Madrid in a European final, back in 1981.
Given the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides, Saturday’s encounter is all but certain to feature plenty of goals. While it is very difficult to bet against Madrid in a Champions League final – they have, after all, won each of their last six – Liverpool are more of a threat than some of the major UK bookmakers’ odds would suggest. In Kiev, Klopp’s side have every chance of providing Liverpool with their sixth triumph in this competition. This Champions League Final preview will back that view up with our recommended betting tip below.
Our Preview’s Real Madrid vs. Liverpool Champions League Final Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Liverpool to lift the trophy (to win in normal time or extra time or on penalties) @ current best odds of 5/4 with William Hill or Coral.
- For the latest Champions League Final betting odds comparison tables, click here.