Real Madrid vs. Liverpool is a meeting of the established old hands and the up-and-coming pups who are unaccustomed to this level of European competition. Madrid have many key players in their 30s, but more importantly they have won this tournament in three of the last four seasons. They will face a Liverpool team who are one of the youngest in the Premier League, and whose players had amassed little Champions League experience prior to this season, never mind playing in the final.
In many ways it’s similar to 2005, when the Reds were underdogs against a successful but aging AC Milan side. Nobody will forget what happened that night, but can we expect similar levels of drama and excitement in Kiev on Saturday? It’s unlikely one side will come from three goals down to win, with an Istanbul-esque 3-3 draw priced at 35/1, but it’s definitely safe to assume there will be goals.
Eleven of Real Madrid’s Champions League matches in 2017/18 have seen at least three goals, and it has occurred in 10 of Liverpool’s games too. The only exception for either side in the knockout rounds was the Reds’ 0-0 home draw with Porto, and that was a dead rubber thanks to their 5-0 first leg win in Portugal.
Real were also top in La Liga for games with over 2.5 goals this season, and Liverpool were joint-third in England’s top flight. The bet here has to be for over 2.5 goals, and that’s priced at 5/11 with Karamba. As these teams have both had over 3.5 goals in seven of their Champions League matches this season, I wouldn’t rule that out either, and that’s available with the same firm at 23/20.
With goals looking guaranteed, surely both teams will score? One side has failed to score in all five previous meetings, but as the last of those was in 2014, the head-to-head history has little relevance here. The teams’ European form this season suggests it’s likely both will net. Real have scored in every Champions League match in 2017/18, and they also haven’t had the strongest defence, as two of their three clean sheets so far were secured against Apoel Nicosia.
Liverpool have been the stronger defensively, with six opposition shut outs in the competition, but both sides have found the net in three of their last four games in the competition. Back both teams to score at 10/23 with Sportnation. In terms of scorers, it would be natural to opt for Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah, as both have netted over 40 times this season. However, it’s more interesting to look for value elsewhere, and for Real that appears in the shape of Gareth Bale.
The Welshman is likely to start alongside Ronaldo, as he did so last Saturday in Real’s final league match of 2017/18. He is in good form with five goals in his last seven starts, and while he has only scored one Champions League goal in an injury hit campaign, it was away from home and it was the opener. You can back Bale with 888sport, where he is 9/5 to get on the score sheet, or 6/1 to get the first goal.
For Liverpool, Roberto Firmino has been just as potent as Salah in Europe, as they both have 10 goals. The Brazilian may have bagged one fewer opener than his team mate, but he has the edge when it comes to finding the net away from Anfield; Firmino has done so six times, which puts him second behind Ronaldo for most away goals in the competition this season. Liverpool’s number nine is priced at 7/1 with BetBright to break the deadlock, or 9/5 to score at any time with the same bookmaker.
One other player market of interest could be for yellow cards. Milorad Mazic will take charge of the final, and of the 20 referees with at least 15 Champions League matches under their belts in the last five seasons, he’s ranked fifth for yellow cards per game. While Daniel Carvajal is understandably the 11/10 favourite to pick up a booking with William Hill, as he has picked up the most on either side this season, there’s slightly better value in the shape of Sergio Ramos at 6/5.
With both sides having clocked up over 120 goals in league and Europe this season, it’s an incredibly difficult task to try to predict the outcome of this final. Real are clearly the bookies’ favourites, both to win in normal time or outright. They are priced at 6/5 to win the match or 4/6 to lift the trophy with Mintbet, while Liverpool are available at 2/1 and 6/5 respectively. It’s sure to be an entertaining match with a few goals, and while my head says Real, my heart definitely believes the Reds can do it.
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