Tonight, we will be treated to the biggest game in club football: the Champions League final. Real Madrid and Liverpool will battle it out at the NSC Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, with the game due to kick off at 7:45pm. Real Madrid are attempting to win their 13th title, and their third in a row, while Liverpool are trying to upset the odds and win their sixth. Real Madrid are clear favourites to win the game, but make no mistake: Liverpool can win this.
Real Madrid have an advantage in experience coming into this game as they attempt to win their third Champions League in a row, and their fourth in five years. They will be unbelievably confident that they can get the job done, as they view the Champions League as being their trophy. From what I have read, they almost feel like they have a divine right to win this trophy at the end of the season, and they fully expect to be lifting it before the night is over. I would be extremely surprised if the players were being as complacent as the reporters and fans in Spain are.
I have seen it described as ‘a piece of cake’ and ‘the easiest final Real Madrid have had’. I’m not sure about that in the slightest, and I would warn these people that they could be extremely disappointed by the time the game ends if that’s the attitude they have. They aren’t just being confident, they’re being cocky, and that doesn’t always end well. With Real Madrid being the most decorated club in European Cup history, you can understand their cockiness. But we have seen Liverpool upset the odds on more than one occasion this season, and they’re more than capable of doing it again.
The 40 goals Liverpool have scored in this season’s Champions League is more than anybody else. Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored 29 of those, which shows how dangerous they are. It’s not as if you need that stat to know they’re dangerous though, as they have been immense all season. They are right up there with the best strike-forces in Europe, and can really hurt anybody they face. Real will have to be extremely wary of the threat they pose.
I think it will be very interesting to see how this game plays out. Real Madrid will look to take control of the game, and will probably have the majority of the ball as they try to break Liverpool down. The Reds will have to be immense defensively if they’re going to keep Real out. I would be very surprised if they managed to keep a clean sheet, so the lads up the other end of the pitch will have to be at their best. It looks likely that Gareth Bale will start, so keeping him, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema out will be a big ask. Real can hurt you from anywhere though, as they attack in numbers, so we could even see the likes of Marcelo or Sergio Ramos grabbing a goal.
As I said, Real attack in numbers, and I think this is where Liverpool can really take advantage. I love watching Marcelo (except for when he’s being a cheating little fuck) because he is so attack minded and he can really hurt you when he gets up the pitch. But he leaves a huge amount of space at the back when he wanders up the left wing, and I think Liverpool can really exploit that. We’ll see Marcelo in Liverpool’s half as much as in his own half, I think, and this will allow Mo Salah to have all the space he wants out on the right. One of the centre-halves will cover, of course, but they won’t want a one-on-one against the Egyptian.
Similarly, Real’s right-back, Dani Carvajal, loves to get forward. He’ll also leave a lot of space in behind him, and we could even see some situations where Carvajal and Marcelo are both 70 yards up the pitch when Real are attacking. This is when I think Liverpool can catch them out. I think they have to play this game down the wings and target both of those. Salah, Firmino and Mane can terrorise any defence, and Real Madrid are no exception just because of who they are. If they over-commit when attacking, they will be punished. And I think they will over-commit constantly.
It’s all well and good for me to say that Liverpool can catch them on the break, but they need to stop them from scoring and win the ball back for that to happen. It’s not going to be as easy as I’m making it out to be. Real are absolutely amazing and Liverpool are going to have to put in their best defensive performance of the season if they’re going to stop Real from absolutely hammering them. They need to be at their absolute best.
The thing about catching Real on the break is that Salah and Mane will need to get back and help their defence out, and will likely be deep in their own half when they look to counter. Salah is going to have to get back and help Trent Alexander-Arnold out, because as good as he has been, he’s still just 19 years of age and inexperienced. Real’s attacking players will be licking their lips looking at him. But I said I was worried about him when they played Man City in the quarter-final. I thought Leroy Sane was going to rip him to shreds in that game, but the young lad bossed it. He was amazing, and let’s hope he is again tonight.
Real’s midfield is star-studded, and while I don’t mean any disrespect to Liverpool, theirs isn’t. But what Liverpool have is three extremely hardworking midfielders who are willing to give absolutely everything they have for each other. Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum will leave absolutely everything out on that pitch tonight. They’ll be everywhere, and if the game requires blood, sweat and tears, they’ll provide them. I don’t think those three get anywhere near the amount of credit they deserve. They have been brilliant, so let’s hope they are again tonight.
So, while Real will look to have most of the ball and dominate the game, Liverpool will definitely get a spell of the game in which they’re on top. They always get a spell like this, and when they do get that spell, they’re usually absolutely ruthless. We have seen them batter teams in short spells like that this season, and all they need is 10 minutes of dominance and they can score two or three times. Let’s hope they’re not already behind by the time they get that spell.
Liverpool will have Emre Can and Adam Lallana available, and both will take their place on the bench.
Predicted Liverpool 11: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Real Madrid have no injury concerns, and Zinedine Zidane has a full squad to choose from. It has been rumoured that Gareth Bale will start the game.
Predicted Real Madrid 11: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
I would have thought Real would have gone with Benzema and Ronaldo up front, but the Bale rumours have changed my mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bale didn’t play and Ronaldo partnered Benzema, with Isco coming into the midfield. We’ll just have to wait and see.
I read earlier that Liverpool’s five Champions League wins have all come against teams wearing white. I haven’t been able to check the accuracy of that, but it’s unbelievable if true. We’ll see if they can claim their sixth white-wearing victim tonight. I am quietly confident that Liverpool will get the job done tonight. But at the same time, there’s always a chance of a Real Madrid walkover, and they could win it 4-0. I hope that’s not the case.
I don’t particularly like Real Madrid, so I would be happy enough seeing Liverpool win this. I have absolutely loved watching them all season as they have been brilliant. Watching their amazing football has brought me a lot of joy this season, and I don’t even support them. I hope they can do the job. Allez Allez Allez!
The team news will be out at 6:45pm, and you’ll get that up here as well. There won’t be minute-by-minute updates on Twitter like I usually do. This is partly because there’s no need to since everybody will be watching it anyway, partly because I want to watch the game properly and not sit on my laptop, and partly because I’ll be watching it with my fiancée, and it would be quite rude for me to do that. She’s a Liverpool fan you see, so she’ll be screaming at the TV tonight. She says she’s going to be a full-kit wanker for the game, but I really hope that’s not the case. I would be very disappointed. I don’t think she even has the full kit anyway, so that’s not really a worry for me.
Enjoy the game. Come on you Reds.