Real Madrid v Liverpool: Goals should flow in vintage Champions League final
Jack Lang is expecting attack to trump defence when the holders play the Reds in Kiev this Saturday...
"Both Liverpool and Real Madrid have produced fireworks throughout the competition: there have been 107 goals in the 26 games involving these sides, at an average of 4.12 a match"
Real Madrid v Liverpool
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Madrid's continental class
Ordinarily, you would be slightly worried about a side coming into a major cup final having won just four of their previous 11 matches. But Real Madrid are no ordinary team and these no ordinary circumstances: having given up on winning the Spanish title months ago, Los Merengues have been drifting in the league, using games to test options rather than going full gas.
In Europe, they have ridden their luck at times: both Juventus and Bayern Munich came close to overturning first-leg deficits at the Bernabéu. But with each step, Madrid's otherworldly grip on the Champions League seems to tighten. There's just something about them in this competition that defies logic, and Zinedine Zidane now stands on the brink of a third successive continental success. 'Historic' doesn't quite cover it.
We know what to expect from this team, for the most part. Dani Carvajal has made a timely return at right-back and Isco's excellence in the knockout rounds should ensure he starts ahead of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić. But while Karim Benzema has been the preferred foil for Cristiano Ronaldo, there is just a chance the Gareth Bale has played himself into contention with five goals in his last five outings.
Ruthless Reds have been a delight to watch
Salah, Firmino and Mané. Firmino, Mané and Salah. Mané, Firmino and Salah. Salah, Mané and Firmino. Mané, Salah and Firmino. Firmino, Salah and Mané. What was that? Oh, sorry, I was in a trance there, just thinking about all the possible combinations. It's Liverpool in the Champions League, for heaven's sake; cut me some slack.
Here we are, then: judgement day for Jürgen Klopp's merry band of gung-ho pirates. It has been a ludicrously fun Champions League campaign from the Reds, who have scored 46 goals since taking the field against Hoffenheim at the Play-Off stage back in August. That's an average of well over three a game, and they've hardly slowed down in the knockout rounds, rattling in five against Porto, five against Man City and seven against Roma. Who needs defence when you've got that kind of firepower?
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out, Klopp's side picks itself, although it's worth noting that two players have rejoined the fray since the Roma tie: neither Adam Lallana nor Emre Can is likely to start, but they're decent options off the bench if required.
Experience could be the difference
Liverpool played with so much conviction against Manchester City and Roma that it is hard to oppose them. No defence in the world can cope when Klopp's charges build up a head of steam, and it's difficult to imagine them not having some joy against a backline that will always give you a chance.
Yet Madrid's big-game nous cannot be matched: they have been in this situation three times in the last four seasons and come out on top every time. This is a side with remarkable resilience and a natural feel for the ebbs and flows of the occasion - plus, quite obviously, a decent number of top-class performers.
Liverpool are the romantic choice, but there's a reason their opponents are [1.72] to lift the trophy and [2.3] to win in normal time. Experience counts for a lot and could be the difference in Kiev.
Goals on the menu
Four of the last seven Champions League finals have produced three or more goals in 90 minutes, and two of those that didn't deserve an Atlético Madrid asterisk. Both Liverpool and Real Madrid are far stronger in attack than in defence, a tendency that has produced fireworks throughout the competition: there have been 107 goals in the 26 games involving these sides, at an average of 4.12 a match.
Think about the duels: Mo Salah vs Marcelo, Cristiano Ronaldo vs Dejan Lovren, Roberto Firmino vs Sergio Ramos. There should be goals here, and while over 3.5 holds some appeal at [2.3], we like the chances of this being a real thriller and will be backing both sides to score twice or more at 12/5.
You Know Who can make mark
Ronaldo managed not to score in either leg against Bayern, but that looks like a statistical oddity. He notched in every one of Madrid's Champions League games before the semi-finals (15 goals in 10 games) and has 30 in his last 21 appearances for club and country. [1.8] is the price.
Read all our Champions League final coverage here
Jack Lang's Champions League P/L, 2017/18
Back both teams to score two or more goals at 12/5 (Sportsbook)
Back Cristiano Ronaldo to score at [1.8]