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Champions League Form
Liverpool undoubtedly enter this final as favourites following a stellar season that’s seen them lift both domestic cups and take the title race down to the wire.
However, Real Madrid possess plenty of experience at this level and as they demonstrated during the knockout stages, it’s foolish to rule them out of the running too early.
Jurgen Klopp’s side impressed in the group stages with victories in all six matches, despite a tough-looking pool featuring AC Milan, Porto and Atletico Madrid.
A kinder knockout route saw them down Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal, with the latter giving them a scare, but Los Blancos have certainly endured the more arduous opponents since the turn of the year.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side produced outstanding late comebacks against realistic contenders for the trophy in PSG, Chelsea and Man City, with a combination of vast experience, never say die attitude and Karim Benzema carrying them back from the dead in each tie.
However, they’ll likely need to make a better start here, as Liverpool have only conceded once beyond the 90th minute this season, as even that was a consolation effort as Man City went down 3-2 in their FA Cup semi-final.
Of course, Liverpool have played 62 times this season already, the maximum possible to them, and Real Madrid should find they possess fresher legs as a consequence. The Spanish outfit wrapped up the La Liga title in April and have subsequently had room to rotate during the run-in, with the end result a near full complement available to Ancelotti.
Gareth Bale is as ever a doubt, though wouldn’t have been in contention to start in any case. David Alaba is the only major concern having missed Real Madrid’s past six matches, with experienced back up Nacho ready to step into the void to partner Eder Militao at the back. Elsewhere, the team pretty much picks itself, with the biggest decision facing Ancelotti who to start on the right-hand side of attack alongside guaranteed starters Vinicius Junior and Benzema.
Klopp has bigger conundrums to contend with after a taxing schedule, though he’ll be relieved that key duo Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk recovered from injuries sustained in the FA Cup final to return to the squad for the final Premier League outing at home to Wolves.
The midfield provides a bigger headache however, with two more key men doubts in the shape of Fabinho and Thiago. The latter is expected to just miss out, though both would prove huge losses to the Red’s chances.
Elsewhere, Klopp has to decide whether Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip will partner van Dijk at the back, with the former having started five of Liverpool’s six knockout games, though Matip’s long-standing partnership with the Dutchman may see him chosen in such a pivotal encounter.
Up front, Roberto Firmino and Jota will likely have to do with a place on the bench after the impact of Luis Diaz, while there will be no last gasp heroics from Divock Origi, who misses out through injury.
Both Teams To Score
Both sides have extraordinary firepower at their disposal and given Liverpool have kept just once clean sheet from six appearances since the start of this month, there’s good reason to think both can leave their mark here.
The last three Champions League finals have seen the winners register clean sheets, though each of the previous eight had seen both sides on the scoreboard, including all four of Real Madrid’s victories over this period.
Benzema To Score Anytime
In the goalscorer markets, Benzema looks the pick of the bunch following another stellar campaign. The Frenchman has delivered 44 goals and 15 assists this season, averaging a goal involvement every 65 minutes, with 15 goals in this competition alone.
Further boosting Real’s chances of a goal is Vinicius Junior, who has 21 goals and 20 assists this term, and certainly caused Trent Alexander-Arnold some problems in last season’s quarter-finals with a brace in the first-leg encounter at the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid To Lift The Trophy
Although Liverpool start as favourites, Real Madrid are more than adept of exploiting Liverpool’s high backline on the counter. In addition, van Dijk and Fabinho are expected to start, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll be operating at 100% on their returns from injury.
On balance, the Spanish outfit appear to have been overlooked slightly after the phenomenal campaign Liverpool have enjoyed, but they arrive in better physical shape for the big showpiece event.
It’s also worth noting that Spanish sides have won all four Champions League finals against English sides (Barcelona v Arsenal in 2006, Barcelona v Man Utd in 2009 and 2011, as well as Real Madrid v Liverpool in 2018).
In fact, Real Madrid have won four of five unbeaten clashes with Liverpool over the past decade, and quite possibly offer better value in a one-off encounter on this occasion all things considered.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
BENZEMA TO SCORE ANYTIME
REAL MADRID TO LIFT THE TROPHY
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