What a final. A young Liverpool side, very much the underdogs, up against an aging team in white, looking to maintain a period of recent European success. Excitement, drama and goals galore.
But enough about Istanbul in 2005. Confession time: I’m a Liverpool fan, and as a Liverpool fan you never go too long without casting your mind back to that incredible evening. But it’s time to see if the current crop of Reds can write their names into history. Andy Robertson is on the brink of becoming the new Djimi Traore, which is the highest honour football can bestow.
Of course, it’s quite hard to write an objective preview for such a big match in this instance. My heart says Liverpool will win easily, whereas my head says they’ll make hard work of their victory. Ok, fine. Real Madrid might have a slight chance of winning. There, I said it.
The Spanish giants must definitely have a chance, as Paddy have them as 6/5 to win in 90 minutes, and just 4/6 to lift the cup. I’m going to have to put quite a bit on that to make my depression insurance winnings worth having.
There has just been a royal wedding, as there was in 1981 when Liverpool won the trophy. Who did they beat that year? Real Madrid. It’s a wonder Ronaldo and co. will bother turning up on Saturday at all.
But they probably will, so let’s take a look at what might happen. The obvious place to start is with goals, goals and more goals.
These sides have both rattled in 124 goals in the league and Champions League (proper) this season, so I think we can rule out the 12/1 on offer for a 0-0 draw.
The fact it’s identical odds for there to be at least eight goals shows what to expect here.
Real and Liverpool have played 12 knock-out matches between them this season, and only one of those games saw fewer than three goals. Even then, it was the Reds’ goalless draw with Porto at Anfield, which was a dead rubber after Liverpool had spanked them by five on their own patch. So when it has really counted, these teams have delivered goals.
It seems safe to assume both teams will score too, even though one side has drawn a blank in all five previous meetings. The simple fact is both teams have found the net in almost every Champions League match Real Madrid have played this season.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have scored in every European game in 2017/18 (and they’re the only team who made the last eight or better to achieve that) while simultaneously only keeping three clean sheets. As two of those were against the might of Apoel Nicosia, we can expect Liverpool to get on the score sheet, whatever the result ends up being.
Paddy is so confident both teams will score – the odds are just 2/5 – that they have a range of bets on offer in this market, which doesn’t usually happen. I like the look of both teams to score in the first half at 11/5.
Liverpool have scored their first goal in Champions League matches in the 21st minute on average, which is the earliest of all 32 teams this season, and they have scored 22 of their 40 goals in the first half too.
Seventeen of Real’s 30 goals have been after their half time oranges, but they still score their first goal in the 36th minute on average, so both to score in the first half looks a decent bet.
In terms of scorers, it’s boring to suggest Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah, even though they’ve both bagged over 40 goals this season and will surely add to their tallies here. The odds for a double on them both to score are only around 5/2, so there’s definitely better value to be had elsewhere. You’ll still want Salah to score in 90 minutes though, as you get your money back as a free bet if he does.
Bobby Firmino looks a good option, and not just as his teeth can help you see in the dark. The Brazilian is second only to Ronaldo when it comes to scoring away goals in the Champions League this season, and he has bagged four goals in his last seven starts.
Firmino has also either scored or assisted at least one goal in Liverpool’s last four European matches, so he should be in the thick of the action here. He’s available at 13/2 to break the deadlock, or 21/10 to net at any point.
Liverpool’s number nine might also be on penalty duty, though it’s so long since the Reds last had one that nobody knows who’ll step up. James Milner was reliable on them last season, so the 15/2 for him to score mightn’t be the worst bet.
For Madrid, Gareth Bale looks like the best non-Ronaldo option. He seems likely to start, as he did in Real’s final league match last weekend, and he is in form with five goals in his last seven starts. Bale is 17/10 to score, or 11/2 to get the opener.
The final market of keen interest is the cards, where the line is set at 50 points. The match referee is Milorad Mazic, and when looking at the 20 refs who’ve taken charge of at least 15 Champions League matches in the last five years, he’s ranked fifth for most yellow cards per game.
There have also been plenty of cards in Real’s last three finals. In 90 minutes (as two went longer) the average points tally was 78, and never less than 60, so a bet on over 50 points at 7/5 is worth a look.
Sergio Ramos is 7/1 to be shown the first card, and as he’s been booked in all three of his Champions League final appearances, it has to be a distinct possibility.
Whatever the outcome, it’s sure to be entertaining. My gut instinct is Madrid’s greater experience and dark arts will just edge it. Let’s hope the reverse jinx is strong with this one.