It’s almost here. The countdown to the 2018 UEFA Champions League final is in its final stages and this year the anticipation could not be any higher. Kiev better brace itself, because when Real Madrid and Liverpool clash on Saturday evening, there’s sure to be fireworks.
We know it’ll be an exciting, enthralling and electric final. We know there’s a good chance the match won’t finish goalless. We know there’s history to be made. But what we don’t know – for certain, anyway – is exactly what will happen. But we can always guess. So, without further adieu…
Dan Jamieson, CEO
I’m with esteemed football writer Jonathan Wilson, who has argued that Real Madrid are a giant “sleep-walking into a hammering.”
I’m a born and bred Scouser and a big Liverpool fan, so forgive me for any perceived bias, but I just think Real won’t know what’s hit them. Lots of teams press but Liverpool are on a different level. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané are clocked as two of the top even fastest players in European football and it’s the Gegenpress that creates the chances rather than our more functional midfield. Marcelo will go walkabout, Sergio Ramos will push up too high and dive in too much, while Cristiano Ronaldo will get frustrated by a lack of service.
This is the end of the road for this great Real side but now the youngest, quickest and hungriest team they will have played will bring down the curtain on their regal rein. Exuberance triumphs over experience.
Score: Real Madrid 0-4 Liverpool
Man of the Match: Sir Bobby of Firmino.
Random prediction: After Madrid lose, they spend the summer trying to buy their conquerors.
Ben Soley, Sales and Marketing Manager
Real are the dream opposition for Liverpool – ageing, slow, over-confident. Madrid may have the experience in finals like these but Liverpool will have the hunger. There will undoubtedly be some early jitters and the occasion might get to some of the Liverpool players (as it did in the first 20 minutes of the first leg against Roma) but when they get their first chance they will quickly see how easy it is to get at Madrid’s defence.
Many of Liverpool’s games are won in the middle of the pitch, where a dynamic trio dispossess their opposite numbers, and get it to that forward three at pace. Injuries mean they are without linchpin midfielders Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain while Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro will prove to be the hardest opposition Klopp’s side have come up against. So, it will be up to Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, and the competition’s leader for assists, James Milner, to control the game.
I expect a high-scoring match but those who doubt Liverpool’s defensive qualities should re-watch the performances of Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s against Manchester City in the quarter-final at the Etihad.
Score: Real Madrid 2-3 Liverpool
Man of the Match: James Milner.
Random prediction: Marcelo will misplace a pass that leads directly to a goal.
Alistair Hunter, Senior Editor
Liverpool have all the tools to stop Real Madrid but there’s something about Zinedine Zidane’s side in these finals that makes them seem unstoppable.
Call it experience, call it genuine star quality, call it luck, call it whatever you want – there’s just something about them that has me believing that, especially if it goes beyond the 90 minutes, it’s they who pull through. I have been lucky enough to have attended the last two finals so I have seen this in action.
But, on a more practical note, I believe it’ll be Real’s strength in depth that will prove a decisive factor. After all, however Zidane chooses to line up his side in Kiev, he’ll have numerous options on the bench. One of Gareth Bale, Isco or Marco Asensio (or even all three) could be left out of the starting XI. Klopp doesn’t have that luxury and the more this incredibly high-octane, end-of-season game wears on, the more likely it is that fresh legs make the difference.
Score: Real Madrid 3-2 Liverpool (AET)
Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Random prediction: Ronaldo will win and convert a first half penalty.
James Tildesley, Head of New Business
Much has been said about Real Madrid’s weaknesses and, in particular, how Marcelo marauding forward would afford space to Liverpool’s key threat, Mohamed Salah. But I don’t think a team that has got itself to the final for a chance to win its third consecutive UEFA Champions League title could be that tactically naive.
Admittedly, I looked at Madrid against Bayern Munich and thought it to be promising for Liverpool and in the final Marcelo may well find himself out of position. However, I think mental strength will be a deciding factor and, given that Liverpool were rocked several times against Roma, I can see that coming to the fore again.
Score: Real Madrid 2-1 Liverpool
Man of the Match: Luka Modric.
Random prediction: Marcelo provides either the assist or a key pass for a Real goal while also being at fault for a Liverpool goal.
Jamie White, Social Media Producer
Being a Liverpool fan, I have to have faith in the Redmen to bring home that trophy even if my head says Real Madrid will win.
Given their experience in winning this competition over recent years and considering the players they have at their disposal, it’s hard look past the Spanish giants for a third straight title. Having said that, on our day, we can beat anyone and there can be no bigger or better occasion to prove that than this one. People talk up Liverpool’s powerful attacking trio but its that leaky back line that will have to prove itself in limiting the damage caused by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. I think that, should the game go to extra time, Liverpool may run out of steam with their high-pressure tactics. Real’s greater strength in depth will also play a key role in swinging the balance.
Score: Real Madrid 3-2 Liverpool
Man of the Match: Luka Modric.
Random prediction: (Not so random) Dejan Lovren will drop a howler.
Scott Hutchison, US Partner
If you’re looking for a defensive battle, this isn’t the match for you. Expect both teams to constantly press, setting us neutrals up to enjoy a free-scoring affair. I’m a firm believer in the intangibles, with experience being top of the list.
I can’t see Liverpool being intimidated by the occasion, but when that whistle blows, they’ll line up opposite the side who have reigned over this competition for three of the last four years. That will bring a certain confidence to Real and will put them up early, making this less of a competitive match than most would want.
Score: Real Madrid 4-2 Liverpool.
Man of the Match: Can it really be anyone other than Cristiano Ronaldo?
Random prediction: Chelsea showed that if you smother Mo Salah, you smother and ultimately stop Liverpool. He may get his goal but expect the Egyptian’s possession overall to be very limited.