The city of Kiev will come alive on Saturday night as Real Madrid face Liverpool in the final of the UEFA Champions League at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium.
The White angles will be featuring in their third straight final having made it in 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 while the Reds last won the trophy in 2005 after coming back from three goals down to win via a penalty against AC Milan.
Attention will be focused on Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah, who has torn defences apart with his pace, trickery and goal-scoring prowess both in Europe and the domestic scenes.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring has been as relentless as ever, having found the back of the net 25 times in his last 17 Champions League games and 15 times in this season’s competition alone – five more than Salah and Firmino and a tally only he himself has beaten in Champions League history.
Liverpool will be hoping to maintain their perfect unbeaten record in the Champions League against a Real Madrid side that will be aiming to make history as the first team to win the competition three times in a row.
Real have not been as dominant as previous seasons, when their BBC (Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo) strike force was in full flow and Luka Modric and Toni Kroos ran the midfield. This team is more pragmatic. Centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane and defensive midfielder Casemiro form a strong spine and Zidane can usually rely on Ronaldo for a moment of magic.
Klopp’s gegenpressing style has been used to devastating effect this year thanks to the relentless front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Liverpool will pin their hopes on that trio and their harassing style.
Road to final
Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool, Liverpool 4-2 Hoffenheim (6-3 agg win)
Qualified from a group that consists of Sevilla, Maribor and Spartak Moscow unbeaten on 12 points.
ROUND OF 16
Porto 0-5 Liverpool, Liverpool 0-0 Porto (5-0 agg win)
Liverpool 3-0 Man City, Man City 1-2 Liverpool (5-1 agg win)
Liverpool 5-2 Roma, Roma 4-2 Liverpool (7-6 agg win)
Real Madrid had a contrasting resulting before qualifying to the knockout stages of the competition after losing one game against Tottenham at Wembley Stadium.
ROUND OF 16
Real 3-1 PSG, PSG 1-2 Real
Juve 0-3 Real, Real 1-3 Juve
Bayern 1-2 Real,Real 2-2 Bayern
Zidane and Jurgen Klopp have experienced contrasting fortunes in finals. The former has won both of the Champions League finals he has been involved in as a boss. Meanwhile, Klopp has lost his previous five finals as a manager, including in the Europa League against Sevilla two seasons ago.
“We were in a League Cup final and didn’t win it. People don’t tell me in the street since then: ‘Thank you for bringing us to the final’. We were in the Europa League final too. Nobody tells me thank you.
“I see no trophies after these games. They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood. That’s a pity, but that’s the game. There’s still a job to do.
“You cannot be more experienced in this competition than Real Madrid.
“I think 80 percent of their team played all these finals. They are four times in the last five years and still together. They are experienced, we are not, but we will be really on fire.”
“They remind me of Madrid three or four years ago.
“Their three front players, they’re very quick… they are powerful in attack and I respect them.
“But Madrid are better. We have to play to our level, but we also have to respect the opposition.”