The Champions League Final is upon us at last. It’s only been a week since we last saw Real Madrid on the pitch, but it feels like an eternity. Real Madrid will face Liverpool on Saturday at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv, Ukraine. Real will be trying for the decimotercera, their 3rd European title in a row and their 4th in 5 years. Meanwhile, Liverpool will be trying for their 6th Champions League trophy, their first since 2005.
Real Madrid finished their La Liga campaign in 3rd, not where they ideally wanted to finish this season. However, they are back in the Champions League Final and are looking to at least take this trophy back to Madrid yet again. Liverpool finished 4th in the Premier League, but clearly showed their European dominance over the other English teams this season. Their scoring trio of Mane, Firmino, and Salah have been absolutely dominant and will be the central threat from Liverpool.
While Real had Cristiano with 15 goals in the Champions League campaign, Liverpool have clearly not been shy themselves with Firmino and Salah scoring 10 apiece and Mane scoring 9. This could be one of the most interesting matchups in the Champions League Final over the last few years and certainly one of Real’s most formidable opponents going in.
Both Carvajal and Ronaldo returned against Villarreal and are ready to start in this match as well. Everyone else on the roster is healthy and available at Zidane’s disposal.
On Liverpool’s side, Emre Can and James Milner are back from injury. Can may feature off the bench, but with the rumored move to Juventus he likely won’t get the start from Jurgen Klopp. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who suffered a season-ending injury against Roma, and Joe Gomez are both out for the Final.
Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema
For most there’s some controversy between only two players getting the start, Isco and Bale. It’s truly unpredictable who Zidane will choose between the two, but my money would be on Gareth Bale. He has been great since returning from injury, even with him starting mainly on the bench. He was the club’s second-highest goal scorer behind Ronaldo in La Liga this season, despite missing significant time due to injury. And since starting in the last 2 La Liga matches, he looked like absolute money and scored in both matches. Isco has been great this season as well, but Bale should be rewarded for his performances. I also think Bale’s pace will work better against a counter-attacking team like Liverpool. I don’t think Benzema should miss because of Isco either just for the sake of Ronaldo. Cristiano seems to play much better and score more when he is paired with Benzema.
Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Mane, Firmino
4-2 Real Madrid-Liverpool
This is likely going to be a match that features quite a bit of goal scoring. Liverpool and Real have scored the most amount of goals in the Champions League this season, but have struggled from keeping the goals out of the net as well.
While many would say Real is the favorite, they cannot perceive Liverpool as inferior and must take them seriously. The attacking trio for Liverpool have been even better without Philippe Coutinho and are deadly if you give them chances. Mo Salah has been money this season and it’s going to be up to Marcelo to make sure he stays off the scoresheet. The only two teams that have really stopped Salah from scoring this season were Chelsea and Manchester United. But, even without Salah scoring they still have Firmino and Mane to worry about. If there was ever a time for the Real defense to have a perfect match, this would be it.
As dangerous as the Liverpool attack is, so is Real’s. Cristiano Ronaldo lives for these huge matches and he’s going to be determined to take the spotlight in Kyiv. He will be a handful for 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, even though he has played very well in his first season as a starter. Should Bale start, he may give Andy Robertson some problems as well.
I think Real’s true advantage will come in the midfield where I believe they are better at than Liverpool. While James Milner has arguably had his best season this year, Real still have the advantage. Kroos and Modric should be huge factors in this match, as well as Casemiro could be as he was against Juventus last year.
The biggest factor here is experience. Real have been to the grandest stage with this lineup several times now, this Liverpool side has not. While Liverpool has beaten Real in the Champions League, those were entirely different squads. The nerves likely won’t be as present for Real, they may be for Liverpool.
Whatever happens, this has been a huge feat for Real to make it back to the Champions League Final for the 3rd season in a row. This should be a great matchup as both teams are highly effective on the counter-attack and a lot of goals may end up in the back of the net. The last match of the 2017/18 football season hopefully ends with Real getting their 13th European title. And, as always, Hala Madrid y Nada Más!
HOW TO WATCH, STREAM CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Time: 21:45 local, 20:45 GMT+2 (Spain), 02:45pm EST, 11:45am Pacific.
Venue: Olimpiyskiy Kiev, Kiev, Ukraine.
Available Streaming: FOX Match Pass (USA), Fubo.TV (EVERY Real Madrid game with a high-quality and legal stream, click here to sign up and benefit from a spring discount for new members and Managing Madrid readers).