Champions League: Clash of the Titans…

The European club football season comes to a conclusion this evening, with Liverpool taking on Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris.

Real are the masters at this tournament, having won on 13 previous occasions, and made this year’s final after completing remarkable comebacks against Paris St-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City. That said, they did concede 11 goals in six matches during the knockout stages and could be vulnerable against a dangerous Liverpool attack.

Liverpool are also no strangers to European success, having won this competition six times before. They sauntered through one of the toughest group-stage draws, winning home and away to Atletico Madrid, Milan and Porto, and had a much easier path to the final although they too had to deal with a couple of tense moments.

Most pundits would say that Chelsea and Manchester City were the better teams for long spells against Real, and a translation of form through the Premier League would make Liverpool favourites for this clash. However, the Reds have looked tired over the last few weeks, after all they have played 62 matches in all competitions this season suffering title heartbreak last weekend, while Real had the Spanish league sewed up weeks ago.

Much will depend on whether Liverpool’s midfield, of which there are injury doubts to Thiago and Fabinho, can swarm all over their talented opponents, depriving them of time on the ball. If they can, then the attacking talent available to the Reds will cause major problems. If not, the pace of Vinicius Junior will cause difficulties down Liverpool’s left flank, especially if Trent Alexander-Arnold ventures forward as frequently as he often does.

Vinicius has been one of Real’s main stars this campaign, and will test the Liverpool right-back’s defensive vulnerabilities when isolated one-on-one. We think the 4/1 on offer than Alexander-Arnold sees yellow offers value.

That said, if Liverpool do get on top, one of the most likely sources of danger is likely to come from Sadio Mane. The Senegalese star is likely to play as center forward, with Mo Salah on the right and Luis Diaz on the left. He has been outstanding in the latter half of the season, as Salah’s form has dipped, and has hinted that this could be his last game for the club. He will want to go out with a bang, and we’ll take him to have over 2 shots on target during the 90 minutes.

Finally, there’s Karim Benzema. The Real striker has been in the form of his life, and has been instrumental in getting the Spanish side to the final. He has had 20 shots on target in the Champions League this season, scoring two sensational headers at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea in the quarterfinals. He’s 10/1 to score a header tonight.

Recommendations:

Alexander-Arnold to be booked, 1 pt, at 4/1, William Hill

Mane to have over 2 shots on target, 1 pt, at 15/2, William Hill

Benzema to score a header, 1 pt, at 10/1, SkyBet

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