Part 1: Kiev 2018: Zidane vs. Klopp
Part 2 – How did they get there?
The routes taken by the 2 teams could not have been more different. Liverpool joined the Champions League at the play-off round via the league route (for league non-champions) while Madrid entered straight in the group stage having won the competition the previous year as well as winning La Liga.
Real Madrid had a shaky start to the european campaign. Being pitted in what was labeled as the group of death with Spurs, Dortmund and minnows APOEL Nicosia, the holders ended up second of their group, which resulted in a tie against french champions Paris St Germain (PSG). PSG had acquired Brazilian superstar Neymar the previous summer, hoping the ex-Barcelona star would finally bring Champions League glory to Paris. It was in vain as Madrid hit top form in the second part of the season and easily finished off the french outfit. Next came the italian and german champions respectively and Madrid persevered, suffered through four nerve-wrecking games and edged both Juventus and Bayern to book their place in the final showdown.
On the other hand, Liverpool, having defeated Hoffenheim in their play-off game, struggled to top their relatively easier group consisting of Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor. After contending with star player Philippe Coutinho leaving in the middle of the season, Klopp’s men upped their gear and started a trend of taking an almost unassailable lead in the first leg of their knockout games, leaving their opponents with no choice but to attack from the onset in the return leg, thus creating space for the triumvirate of Salah, Firmino and Mane to finish them off. The most notable opponent to bite the dust was Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and the 0-5 annihilation of Porto away from home was proof Liverpool was here to challenge.
On paper, Liverpool has a better record when it comes to goals scored and conceded but when you consider the opponents faced by both teams, Madrid comes on top.
Real: 30 goals scored, 2.5 goals scored per game, 1.2 average conceded per game.
Liverpool: 40 goals scored, 3.33 goals scored per game, 1.1 average conceded per game.
We can without an ounce of doubt claim that Real Madrid had the toughest road to Kiev but will this have better prepared them for what Liverpool will throw at them on Saturday? Not necessarily. In 2016, Real Madrid won the cup against Atletico Madrid. Real beat Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City in the run-in to the final while Atletico had the much harder task of dispatching Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Real have gone through hell to be in the final and attempt to win an unprecedented 13th european crown. Liverpool demolished opponents with aplomb in the knockout stage and will hope to add a 6th title to their name. Both teams deserve their place in the final. This will be beyond any doubt a spectacular game of football.
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