Liverpool’s thrilling run in this season’s Champions League has taken them into the final of the competition against Spanish giants Real Madrid in Kiev on Saturday.
Zinedine Zidane’s side are looking to win the trophy with the big ears for a staggering third year running but Jurgen Klopp has assembled an attack to trouble any defence in Europe and belief is certainly strong among the club’s fans.
Madrid have won the last two iterations and have found a way to grind out results in this year’s competition, seeing off three domestic champions in PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to the final.
However, they have not been convincing for extended periods in those games and have won only two of their last six league matches.
Liverpool were rampant going forward in both legs against Roma but rotation has dampened their momentum in the league, also with just the two domestic wins in their last six.
Real are the conservative bet to win but Klopp and his team fear no-one and this Madrid team is there to be got at. It’s anybody’s game.
It looks like there could be goals in this one, even before examining the stats. Liverpool’s defence is notoriously leaky and Madrid have conceded 44 league goals this season, while both attacks are absolutely formidable.
There’s an average of 3.63 goals in each Madrid game and 3.21 in Liverpool’s. 47% of Real’s games contain over 3.5 goals, and that figure is 42% for the Reds. 3 or more could be the way to go here.
It’s hard to look past two men here; Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Salah.
The Portuguese superstar has 15 goals in this season’s Champions League and has the ruthlessness to punish a Reds defence that is still prone to giving up chances.
Salah broke the record of Premier League goals in a season, previously jointly-held by Ronaldo and while Ian Rush’s record of 47 goals in a Liverpool campaign looks just out of sight, he is the man Madrid will be most worried about.
Liverpool get, on average, 6.05 corners per game, while conceding just 3.32, while Madrid top the divisional rankings with 7.32 earned alongside a league low 3.53 against.
Both sides are stingy with what they do give away – Liverpool are surely conscious to do so given how poorly they defend set-pieces – but in an end-to-end encounter, a shout towards the higher end of the scale may be worthwhile.
There’s more scope for choice here but one that may appeal is one team to come from behind to win. Liverpool will shoot out of the blocks and may well go ahead but Madrid have such a strong belief in their ability and may find a way to grind out a win.
James Milner scored a comical own goal in the second leg of the semi-final against Roma and that’s also an option on offer to choose.
Sergio Ramos is prone to a tactical foul, with three Champions League yellow cards to his name this season and against this flying Liverpool attack, looks a solid bet.
His club and international teammate Dani Carvajal has four bookings in the competition this term and up against Sadio Mane, could go into the notebook again.
From a Liverpool perspective, skipper Jordan Henderson can match Ramos’ trio of cautions and charged with stifling a midfield containing Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, he could also be a good pick on this question.
This is a monster bet but a look at the numbers shows two patterns that may be the key to nailing it.
The average time it takes both sides to open the scoring is the earliest in their respective leagues; Madrid net the first goal after 25.19 minutes, while Liverpool’s flying starts sees them bag after 29.23. Going between 25 minutes and half an hour may be a good shout.
Meanwhile, the average time it takes for the first goal against both teams is remarkably similar; Real’s is 46.21 minutes, Liverpool’s is 45.82 – so right after the interval could also be worth a stab.
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