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    Champions League Final 2018: Real Madrid vs Liverpool Match Preview


    Liverpool have the chance to win a sixth European title on Saturday when they go head-to-head with Spanish giants Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League.

    The final, to be played in Kiev, promises to be an exciting contrast between the greater experience and more measured approach of the Spaniards and the more youthful and free-flowing philosophy of the English team.

    Both sides have saved their best performances for the European stage this season, with Madrid finishing 17 points behind La Liga champions Barcelona and Liverpool ending the season 25 points adrift of Manchester City.

    Real Madrid

    Real Madrid are appearing in a 16th European final against Liverpool on Saturday and have the chance to be the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to lift the trophy for a third successive year.

    The club's path to the final has not been smooth-sailing, however, with Tottenham and Juventus both recording victories against Zinedine Zidane's side before Bayern Munich came agonisingly close to causing an upset in the semi-finals.

    The 12-time European champions only finished second in their group at the last 32 stage of the competition, where they were held to a 1-1 draw against Tottenham at the Bernabeu and subsequently lost 3-1 to the English side at Wembley.

    An impressive 5-2 aggregate victory against Paris Saint-Germain in last 16 stage seemed to signal that the club were back to their brilliant best, while that was followed by another convincing win against Juventus in the first-leg of the quarter-final.

    However, the Spanish side saw their 3-0 lead from Turin cancelled-out by a more determined Juventus team in the return-leg before a 97th-minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty sealed their place in the semi-finals.
     
    Ronaldo, whose 15 goals in Europe this season spanned his side's first 10 consecutive matches in the competition, failed to score at the semi-final stage as Madrid narrowly held-off a brilliant comeback by Bayern Munich to prevail 4-3 on aggregate.
     
    Despite not producing their best form on a consistent basis throughout the campaign, the Spanish giants have demonstrated a stubborn streak in critical moments and have reached the final through a combination of experience and ruthlessness.
     
    The failure of Zidane's side to challenge for the La Liga title this season has allowed the club to fully-concentrate on defending their European title, while champions Barcelona and second-place Atletico Madrid suffered early exits from the competition.
     
    Madrid finished the season in third position with 76 points, suffering losses against Real Betis, Girona, Barcelona, Villarreal, Espanyol and Sevilla as well as bowing out of the Copa del Rey to Leganes in the quarter-finals.
     
    Cristiano Ronaldo is the club's top-scorer with 44 of his side's 145 goals in all competitions, while Gareth Bale has scored 19 times and both Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema have found the net on 11 occasions apiece.
     
    Liverpool

    Liverpool will be appearing in their eighth European final this weekend and have the chance to lift the trophy for the first time since 2005, when the club beat AC Milan 3-2 on penalties after the teams drew 3-3 in Istanbul.

    Although this particular generation of Liverpool players lack that same level of experience in the competition, they have reached the final as a result of their fearless attacking football and an ability to be clinical in front of goal.

    The 'heavy-metal' style that manager Jurgen Klopp promised to deliver upon his arrival at the club in October 2015 was first evident in the competition against Hoffenheim in the final qualifying round, with The Reds prevailing 6-3 on aggregate.

    Liverpool failed to win either of their opening two matches in the group stages but a 7-0 victory over Maribor at Anfield on matchday three and another 7-0 triumph away to Spartak Moscow on matchday six allowed the club to top the group.

    FC Porto were the next side to be put to the sword, with The Reds winning 5-0 in Portugal to help set-up a mouthwatering quarter-final tie against Premier League champions-elect Manchester City.

    Three goals in the opening half-an-hour gave Anfield one of its most memorable nights against Pep Guardiola's side as the club built-up a 3-0 lead, while a 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium six days later secured a comfortable passage to the semi-finals.

    The subsequent draw threw-up a intriguing clash between Liverpool and Italian side Roma, conquerors of Barcelona in the quarter-final stage and the club who sold Mohamed Salah to The Reds last summer in a £36.9 million deal.

    Salah proved to be the scourge of his old side, scoring twice in the first-leg to earn his current team a 5-0 lead, although two late away goals in addition to a 4-2 win for Roma in the second-leg gave the 7-6 aggregate scoreline a somewhat flattering look.

    The Reds will be hoping to exert some of the same devastating attacking football on Real Madrid this weekend which has served them so well throughout the campaign and has delivered 134 goals in all competitions.

    A lot of that will depend on the form of the so-called 'Red Arrows' of Salah (44 goals), Roberto Firmino (27) and Sadio Mane (19), who have found the net an impressive 90 times between them throughout the course of the season.

    Real Madrid Team News

    Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema are both vying for a spot in Real Madrid's starting line-up on Saturday, where they will play alongside Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo in a three-pronged attack.

    Zinedine Zidane has a fully-fit squad at his disposal and is expected to make at least one change from the side that drew 2-2 with Villarreal a week ago, with Kaylor Navas replacing his son Luca Zidane in goal.

    If Benzema is chosen ahead of Bale, it will be the same line-up which started last year's final when Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff courtesy of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (two), Casemiro and substitute Marco Asensio.

    The back-four of Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo almost picks itself, while Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric are set to form a three-man central midfield.

    Liverpool Team News

    Jurgen Klopp is unlikely to spring any surprises when announcing his starting line-up to face Real Madrid, with James Milner set to replace Dominic Solanke after he missed the 4-0 victory over Brighton with a muscle problem.

    Emre Can has also recovered from the back injury that had ruled him out of action since the 5-0 win over Watford on March 17, and he is likely to be named alongside Solanke on the substitutes bench.

    Joe Gomez (ankle), Joel Matip (thigh) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) all remain on the sidelines, although the options available to Klopp still include Adam Lallana who is on standby for England's World Cup squad.

    Danny Ings, Nathaniel Clyne, Alberto Moreno and Ben Woodburn will all be vying for the two remaining places on the substitutes bench alongside Simon Mignolet, Ragnar Klavan, Lallana, Can and Solanke.

    Head-to-head

    Real Madrid and Liverpool have only met on five occasions in the past, with The Reds edging the head-to-head by three wins to two, although the two most recent matches have both been won by the Spanish side.

    The two teams met in the final of the 1981 European Cup when an 82nd-minute goal from Alan Kennedy gave Liverpool a 1-0 win in Paris and denied a Madrid team, that included Englishman Laurie Cunningham, the trophy.

    The first meeting in the revamped Champions League came in the round of 16 of 2009, when a Yossi Benayoun goal earned The Reds a 1-0 win at the Bernabeu before they produced a stunning performance to win 4-0 in the return-leg.

    Madrid exacted their revenge in the 2014-15 season group stages, Liverpool's last campaign in the competition, with the visitors winning 3-0 at Anfield and 1-0 in Spain to help knock their opponents out of the competition.

    Score Prediction

    Real Madrid 2-1 Liverpool
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    Item Reviewed: Champions League Final 2018: Real Madrid vs Liverpool Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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