Real Madrid have been favourites to win the Champions League for most of the 2017/18 season. Their dominance of Europe’s premier competition in recent years has been impressive, but this season has perhaps been the most remarkable run of all.
Will Los Blancos hold the big-earred trophy aloft again? We take a look at their chances…
Zinedine Zidane is one of the most decorated men in football. He has led Real to back-to-back Champions League triumphs, a La Liga and picked up a large cabinet worth of individual honours.
Oh, and that’s before we even mention the Champions League, World Cup and European Championship he won as a player. His pedigree before taking the job has certainly helped in his management of a squad littered with stars.
Zidane admitted this week that he is no master tactician. His success as a manager has been down to motivation as much as tweaking the line-up. Despite his silverware haul, his managerial ability is still doubted. Maybe it’ll take a third Champions League trophy to end that.
Real Madrid have won 12 European Cups and Champions Leagues. They are far and away the most successful club in the history of continental competition.
Saturday’s clash with Liverpool will be Real’s 16th final. You have to go all the way back to 1981 to find the last time they lost a final, which is even more remarkable when you consider that they have won the competition six times since then.
The five straight wins in the 1950s are the greatest achievement in European football history. There’s a chance this side can make a real challenge to that.
Real Madrid finished third in La Liga, a massive 17 points off of Barcelona. That’s a nightmare campaign for a club of their stature, particularly as their poor start meant the title race was as good as over in September.
A challenging group with Borussia Dortmund and Spurs saw Real scrape through in second place. The draw didn’t get any easier after that, as they saw off PSG, Juventus and Bayern to make it to the final in Kyiv.
They are the second-highest scorers in the competition but scored a mammoth 10 fewer than their final opponents.
Zidane’s side have won just four of their last 11 matches in all competitions. In part, that’s down to a focus on the Champions League.
This less than impressive run came after a streak of winning 11 out of 12. While that might suggest inconsistency, we have a pretty good idea that we’ll get the better version of Real on Saturday.
Confidence – as you may expect from the reigning champions – will be high, even against a Liverpool team with such a potent attack.
Yes, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo. After a dodgy start to the season, Ronaldo has exploded. The Portuguese star finished the campaign with 38 goals in 39 matches.
Ronaldo has scored 15 of Madrid’s 30 Champions League goals this season. Although a quiet tie against Bayern might give Liverpool hope of keeping him quiet.
Few expect Liverpool can keep Ronaldo out of the match. Liverpool’s press must stop the supply if they are to have any chance of doing so.
Player To Watch
Marcelo is one of the best footballers to watch on the planet. His combination of superb skill and defensive lapses makes him entertaining, even if a little frustrating for his teammates.
His job, in part, will be to track some of Mohamed Salah’s darting runs from wide positions into the centre of the pitch. Balancing defensive duties with his marauding runs will be crucial.
Just like with Liverpool halting Ronaldo, you feel Real are strong favourites if they can nullify Salah.
Cristiano Ronaldo at 7/2 to score at least twice is the best price of the match. A high-scoring affair is probable, and Ronaldo scoring two seems a lot more likely than those odds suggest.
Even if you’re backing a Liverpool win, that might be a worthwhile bet.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*