It was a journey that began in Hoffenheim on August 15, and took in the delights of Seville, Moscow, Maribor, Porto, Manchester and Rome. And it ends on Saturday in Kiev when Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
It has been a long old campaign and yet, looking back, we have hardly been made to sweat at any point; perhaps barring the dying embers of the semi-final against Roma. Unbeaten in the group phase, we won our last 16 and quarter final ties by five and four goals respectively.
Compare and contrast that to the progress of Real Madrid, who have very much done things the hard way. They came through fraught, frantic clashes with Juventus and Bayern Munich to seal their place in a third consecutive Champions League final, and from their perspective of hat-trick of continental titles will be well deserved given their trials and tribulations up until this point.
You wonder how much they have left in the tank….can they go to the well once more? Judging by some of the photos taken at their Spanish getaway this week, the Liverpool players could not be any more relaxed ahead of the continental showpiece. Jurgen Klopp, looking tanned and refreshed, has been in jovial mood too.
When asked about the team’s break in Spain, he said: “Back home when we have the day free we dedicate them to doing all sorts of things, and I just wanted us to have a few days together doing the absolute minimum.
“To recharge our batteries, do things well in training, have tactical meetings and all that sort of stuff. We need to go into the final with refreshed legs and minds.”
Compare to Real’s preparations. They had their last La Liga game of the season as recently as Sunday, and after taking a 2-0 lead they had to settle for a disappointing 2-2 draw that cost them second place in the division to their city rivals Atletico. That’s not ideal.
So the early skirmish has arguably been won by Liverpool, although bookmakers still have us pegged as an outsider for this match at somewhere around the 2/1 mark.
But we have upset the odds before….and are quietly fancied to do so once more in the thrilling climax to the 2017/18 season.
Liverpool Team News
It’s the one that nobody wants to miss, but unfortunately Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can do nothing more than watch on with the rest of us.
That injured trio was at one point a quartet, although it appears that Emre Can is winning his race to be partially fit for the final. Despite rumours linking him with a move to Juventus, the German has upped his intensity in training this week and should be fit to take his place on the bench.
Adam Lallana is also approaching full fitness, and his presence on the bench offers Liverpool a different option in the final third – should we need one, that is.
And there are no concerns about James Milner and Sadio Mane either as Liverpool appear to be well prepared for their date with destiny.
Real Madrid Form
As mentioned, qualifying for the final was a real task in itself for the Galacticos.
After recording a 3-0 win in Turin against Juventus in the quarter-final first leg they were completely dominated in the second: going three down in an hour as the Italians looked to force extra time. But Ronaldo’s 98th minute penalty was just about enough to get Madrid – like a boxer covering up on the ropes for dear life – over the line.
There was further trauma in the semis, too. After winning 2-1 in Munich, Real once again caved in front of their own supporters; after their former player James Rodriguez made it 3-4 on aggregate with half an hour to play, Zinedine Zidane’s men had to cling on and prevent a further Bayern goal that would have secured the aggregate win for them.
After signing off their La Liga campaign W5 D4 L1, it would be fair to suggest that the Galacticos are not in the finest fettle at present.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid Betting Tips
It’s fair to say that football matches of this magnitude have a whole bunch of external factors to consider, rather than simply concentrating on the action out on the pitch.
Who will handle the occasion better? It’s a fair ask, and as we have seen in the past teams/players can freeze on the big stage. Real Madrid have won the last two Champions League finals, and so we have to give them the edge there.
But you just wonder if the sparkling attacking play of Liverpool will seize the day. Think about that right-hand side of the pitch from our perspective: Cristiano Ronaldo refusing to track back, meaning that Mo Salah will be left one-on-one with Real’s attack-minded left back, Marcelo.
That will be a fascinating battle between the Egyptian and the Brazilian, and in a game where one moment of magic could win the thing, it will be interesting to see if Salah gets a fitting opportunity to cap an unbelievable season with the winning goal.
It’s a final in which small margins will make all the difference, and really it is tough to choose a winner here; even if Liverpool are the value bet at 2/1.
You just sense that goals are inevitable: the stats tell us as much, as does the knowledge that both of these sides are much better in an attacking sense than they are defensively.
If we let our heads govern our hearts, as we must when parting with our hard earned cash, then goals-based bets are the way to go: there’s Over 2.5 Goals & Both Teams to Score at 8/11, and Over 3.5 Goals at 6/5. Either are worthy of further scrutiny.