It's all about goals in the Champions League final, with Paul Higham predicting plenty of them in Kiev with Liverpool taken to upset the odds.
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Real Madrid v Liverpool (1945 BST, BT Sport 2)
This is the big one, the domestic European season comes to a climax with what has all the hallmarks of a classic encounter between two of the best attacking sides on the continent.
Real Madrid v Liverpool is in many ways a dream final pairing – the dominant European force of recent times led by one of the two best players of a generation are going for an incredible third straight Champions League title and fourth in five years.
In opposition, a young, hungry Liverpool side moulded in the style of their German leader – all action, no backwards steps and all-out attack. In their corner they have an attacking trio that is the envy of Europe – in short, anything could happen in Kiev on Saturday night.
Real Madrid rightly go into the game as warm order 4/6 favourites to lift the trophy but the sheer force of Liverpool’s attacking play means that, on their night, they can beat anyone – they have done it to Manchester City three teams this season.
The Reds have been breath-taking at times this season, especially in the Champions League where they’ve scored 40 goals (including six in the qualifying round) compared to Real Madrid’s 30 – who are the next best.
A trademark of this Klopp team is not just scoring, but scoring in bunches and not letting up once they sense blood – they’ve scored seven goals in a game twice in their 14 Champions League outings, scored five twice and three or more a further six times.
In fact, Liverpool have drawn just one blank this season, in the dead rubber against Porto, and it seems inconceivable that they won’t find the net again against a Madrid defence that kept just three clean sheets – two of those against APOEL Nicosia.
That’s reflected in the 4/11 on offer for both teams to score, while on the under/overs on goals you’ve got to go up to over 3.5 goals at 11/10 to find anything worth looking at. Six of Real Madrid’s last nine Champions League games had over 3.5 while seven of Liverpool’s last 12 also beat that mark.
It all spells goals, and that offers Liverpool hope, as does Real Madrid’s La Liga struggles this season, but, although they rode their luck at times, this team is still going for a third consecutive Champions League title and has beaten the French, Italian and German champions along the way this year.
The obvious individual clash is between Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah who have both been banging in goals left, right and centre. Salah won the Golden Boot while Ronaldo tops the Champions League charts again with 15 goals – but it’s much more of a team effort for the Reds with Salah and Roberto Firmino both bagging ten while Sadio Mane has nine.
James Milner has a competition-leading nine assists and, with him seemingly over his muscle injury, the 9/2 on offer on him making it ten in Kiev is worth looking at.
For Real, it’s all about Ronaldo, and most of the time he’s the man to make the difference – he’s scored 18 goals in 25 career finals including two in last year’s final in Cardiff, and nobody would bat an eyelid if he again bags the winner.
Sergio Ramos is Real Madrid’s heartbeat though, and he’s got a canny knack of getting involved in these big games as he’s scored twice in three finals, both against Atletico Madrid, and has also been yellow carded in all three.
That makes 16/1 on him being shown yellow and finding the net again of interest, even more so when you consider that Liverpool also have a penchant for allowing goals in from set plays.
Digging deeper, Ramos may also come under pressure from Liverpool’s main man Salah as a result of Marcelo’s love of striding forward from left back. The Reds are as good as anyone on the counter and that exposes Ramos to a speedy Salah coming at him one-on-one, which would cause all kinds of problems.
Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich scored in both legs from right back as this chink in the defence was exposed by the Germans, and the Bundesliga champions also missed a hatful of chances that Liverpool will need to finish off if they are to stand a chance.
The keys for Liverpool are clear, get a fast start, get in and around Luka Modric and Toni Kroos and prevent them from feeding Ronaldo and controlling the game – and an early goal would also cap off their dream start.
For Real, they will want to stifle Liverpool’s early energy, control the tempo and use their big-game experience to stay patient and carve out opportunities later in the game. Roma and Edin Dzeko in particular got plenty of joy with diagonal balls floated in between centre half sans full-backs, and the Modric/Ronaldo combination would be high on the list of the best in football at being able to pull off that trick again.
The huge fear with Liverpool is that their inexperienced side freeze on the big occasion, but if they’re at their best then they look to have the right formula to upset the odds, and it looks like being an entertaining ride along the way.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-3 Liverpool (Sky Bet odds: 22/1)
Alternative: Sergio Ramos to score & get yellow carded at 16/1
Alternative: Liverpool to be leading after 15 minutes at 6/1
Posted at 1555 BST on 24/05/18