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UEFA Champions League Final Preview

The biggest prize in European club competition

Champions League holders, Real Madrid meet five-time winners Liverpool in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final on Saturday 26 May, 2018 at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv with Serbian referee Milorad Mažić as the man saddled with the responsibility to officiate the game.
Former Ukraine striker and current national team coach Andriy Shevchenko is UEFA ambassador for the finals. The Ukraine coach won the competition with AC Milan in 2003.

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Last season Cardiff triumph saw Real Madrid become the first team to retain the Champions League title since the new format started in 1992. Los Merengues will be aiming to become the first club to equal a feat achieved by Bayern Munich between 1974-1976 by winning it three times in a row.
Real Madrid did not get to the finals all conquering, they made it through the hard way. A late penalty at the Santiago Bernabeu was required to eliminate Juventus in a game that may have produced one of the greatest comeback witnessed in recent time. In the both legs of the semi-finals, Real Madrid were outplayed for significant periods against Bayern Munich. Nevertheless, Zinedine Zidane’s team booked their place in the finals by knocking French champions PSG, Italian champions Juventus and German champions Bayern Munich.

Cristiano celebrating his 98th minute penalty against Juventus at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Los Blancos have a supremely strong squad but their star man is the ageless 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo who is the competition all-time leading scorer (120 goals). The Portuguese forward is the leading scorer in the competition this season (15 goals) and his goals have propelled his team to the final. Zinedine Zidane has a selection headache ahead of the final depending on the system he chooses to adopt. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez all vying for starting roles in Kyiv. His team is filled with world class players in every department and the bench is equally strong. In addition to Cristiano, club captain Sergio Ramos is another key player for Zidane. The Spanish national team captain is a man for the big moment and has proved this with his goals in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals. His absence in the second leg of the quarter finals against Juventus almost cost his team.

Against all odds, Liverpool are back in the finals for the first time since 2007. The Reds had to make it to the group stage of the competition via the play offs in August. This is Liverpool’s second European Cup final under Jurgen Klopp which is a testimony to the impressive work done by the former Borussia Dortmund coach – A team he took to the 2013 finals. The Reds are the leading scorers in this season’s competition, they have scored 40 goals so far which is an average of 3.33 per game. Porto, Manchester City and Roma were their opponents in the round of 16, quarter finals and semi-finals. Their run to the Kyiv final has been remarkable but their quarter finals performance against English Champions Manchester City home and away has to be the high point of their campaign.

Roberto Firmino and team mates celebrating the Brazilians goal at Etihad Stadium

The Reds may not have a very strong squad like Real Madrid but they have a formidable attack in Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. These trio have scored 29 of Liverpool’s 40 goals in the Champions League, a clear indication they are not a one-man team. Jurgen Klopp’s team are renowned for their high pressing play and ruthless counterattacks. The world’s most expensive defender Virgil Van Dijk is the team leader at the back. The Dutch defense marshal organizes his team at the back which allows exciting full backs Andy Robertson and local lad Trent Alexander-Arnold provide width for the team. Liverpool have some injury concerns and will not be at full strength in terms of playing personnel but what they haven’t lacked all season is the desire and passion which is provided in full dose starting with their manager.

VERDICT – Who will win the 2018 Champions League final?

Real Madrid are looking to win a third successive Champions League success when they face Liverpool in Kyiv in a repeat of the 1981 final which Liverpool won. On current form, Zidane’s team have managed a single victory in their last five matches but have won five of their six away Champions League matches away from the Bernabeu.
Liverpool face Real Madrid for the sixth time in the competition on Saturday and have won three of the last five meetings between the two. However, Real Madrid have won their last two Champions League meetings between the two sides. Klopp’s team have won only one of their last four matches and have kept just two clean sheets in their last six outings.
Liverpool have lost their last two European Cup finals while Real Madrid have won their last six.
Both sides love to attack and we are surely guaranteed goals in Kyiv. Expect over 2.5 goals in this Final.

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