UEFA Champions League
It’s the final day of the calendar as far as European club soccer is concerned this Saturday, with two of the continent’s heavyweights aiming for one last knockout in the Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine at 2:45 pm ET.
Setting the Stage
The usual suspects in the form of Real Madrid (+123) are the favorites, that’s for sure, but Liverpool (+211) are a rejuvenated giant relishing their underdog status. The Spaniards are aiming for an unprecedented third consecutive title, while the Reds are hoping to spoil the party and reclaim the crown after a 13-year wait since that remarkable night in Istanbul.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo or Mohamed Salah live up to their reputations as the real match winner for either side, or could a teammate step into the spotlight on the biggest stage in club soccer? It’s a contest that promises entertainment and goalmouth action galore. — Martin Laurence
Liverpool’s highest odds to win the title reached +3500 in late September while Real Madrid peaked at +800 in late January.
How They Got Here
While Real Madrid may be the bookmakers’ choice to win this weekend, their path to Ukraine hasn’t run as smoothly as their opponents’. Zinedine Zidane’s men have lost twice in this season’s tournament and very nearly let a big first-leg advantage slip in their quarterfinal with Juventus. Los Blancos also tasted defeat to English opposition in the form of Tottenham in the group stages.
That will certainly give Liverpool confidence, and while many have labeled Madrid fortunate to have made it this far based on a few controversial decisions, the same can’t be said of Jurgen Klopp’s side. Barring a couple of shaky displays in the group stages, they’ve steamrolled every defense that they have played this far, scoring three or more goals in a game against each of their seven opponents.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, have found the net in all 12 of their matches to this stage, and two prolific offensive lines will certainly be confident of causing real problems for the fallible defense of their competitors. — Martin Laurence