CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – PLAY OFFS – FINAL : LIVERPOOL VS REAL MADRID
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Will Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti win a record fourth UEFA Champions League (UCL) title as a manager or can Liverpool thwart him and claim a treble of cup successes this term? Those and other questions will be answered as two of Europe’s finest sides clash in what promises to be a mouth-watering final in Paris.
Liverpool have faced the more gruelling build-up due to their unsuccessful down-to-the-wire fight for the Premier League title after winning both domestic cups, and while the quadruple dream is over, they’ve still gone 18 competitive matches unbeaten (W15, D3) with five of their last six fixtures featuring both teams scoring (W5, D1).
Further highlighting their fighting qualities, they’ve done most of their recent UCL work after the break, scoring their last seven European goals in the second half. As the ‘Reds’ led none of their last three UCL matches at half-time (HT: D2, L1), more second-half action wouldn’t surprise, and it’s worth noting that all four goals in the 2017/18 final between these sides (Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool) came after the break.
Having seen off English contenders Chelsea and Manchester City in the previous rounds – after trailing at some point in each tie – Ancelotti’s side won’t fear the six-time champions as they haven’t lost a H2H since 2009 (W4, D1). Another good omen is that Spanish sides (Madrid in 2000, Barcelona in 2006) won both previous finals held at this stadium!
Although ‘Los Blancos’ finished their La Liga campaign with a 0-0 draw against Real Betis, Ancelotti has had the luxury of rotating his squad as they sealed the title with four games to spare. They’re unbeaten in three matches (W1, D2) and with their players fresher than Liverpool’s, couldn’t have demanded much better preparation for their 17th UCL/European Cup final.
Players to watch: Mohamed Salah laid on assists in both legs of Liverpool’s semi-final win over Villarreal, while Karim Benzema (RMA) has netted 15 UCL goals this term, including one after the 80th minute in each of his last three appearances, and needs two more to equal Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 in 2013/14.
Hot stat: The side scoring first won all seven previous H2Hs to feature goals (Madrid: W4, L3).