Real Madrid are out for a third straight Champions League title while Liverpool have another chjance to win a final 13 years after beating AC Milan in Istanbul. Neither look like they want sit back and defend.
Real Madrid and Liverpool will both be looking for their attacking flair to create scoring chances and to expose their opponents’ perceived defensive weaknesses in a highly-anticipated Champions League final in Kiev.
Real are out to win an unprecedented third straight title since the Champions League replaced the European Cup for the 1992-93 season and will start as favourites in the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on Saturday.
If Zinedine Zidane’s side are triumphant the former France star will be the first coach to win the title in three consecutive seasons for the same club.
On paper 12-time European champions Real look the stronger, and if games are won in midfield then the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Marco Asensio, Isco or Casemiro should give them an element of control.
Up front, of course, the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way, with the Portugal international and tournament top scorer seeking a fifth Champions League title.
However Liverpool – seeking to become European champions for a sixth time 13 years after last winning in Istanbul against AC Milan in 2005 – have shown how dangerous they are with balls over the top for their potent front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
With 46 goals, Juergen Klopp’s side have broken the record for goals in a single Champions League campaign. Egypt international Salah – with 44 goals in all competitions – has had a campaign which makes him a candidate to wrest the world-player-of-the-year trophy from Ronaldo.
“The number of goals we scored is simply crazy,” Klopp told UEFA.com.
“We’ve scored seven goals twice and five goals twice, too. That’s really [crazy], because we aren’t Barcelona, we aren’t Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. We aren’t anyone else. We are Liverpool, on the way to becoming a really good team. And performing at such a high level is very cool.”
How Real cope in particular with Salah could be crucial, and Brazil left-back Marcelo is likely to be a key player for Zidane in dealing with the right-sided attacker and the threat posed by Sane and Firmino.
At the centre of defence, Real can also call on the vast experience of 32-year-old captain Sergio Ramos, who said of Salah: “He’s just one of 11 players.”
At the other end Liverpool will be looking for centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren to be at their best to keep Real away from the goal of keeper Loris Karius.
“He [Ronaldo] has been scoring goals for fun over the last few years and he has a lot of quality obviously,” Dutch international Van Dijk told Liverpool TV.
He added: “They will be aware of our team as well. It’s going to be a very good game, both teams have a lot of quality.”
The two sides meet for a second time in the major club competition final following the the 1981 European Cup final in Paris which the English side won 1-0. Liverpool’s last final appearance was a 2-1 loss to AC Milan in Athens in 2007.
Klopp is meanwhile back at a second Champions League final after 2013’s 2-1 loss with Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich at Wembley, but says he has learned “nothing” from that defeat.
“At the end of the day, it’s about putting in the best performance you possibly can on the day. That’s what you do and then you need a bit of luck in the crucial moments,” he said.
Real’s greater recent experience – they are seeking a fourth Champions League title in five seasons – “counts for nothing,” Zidane meanwhile insists.
A lot of their players have not played a final – but so what? “They are going to go out and give everything on that pitch to win the game and we have to be ready for that,” he said.
Ronaldo is one of the few guaranteed starters as Zidane mulls his line-up, with some indications Wales star Gareth Bale could join him after a recent run of good form.
“If you put in one you are leaving out another. But the player who does not start can still be important because he can come on and make the difference,” he said.