MX23RW : Friday, January 18 00:01:24

Can Real Madrid win the Champions League for the third time in a row?

Real Madrid are hoping to make history by winning the Champions League for the third time in a row.

Cristiano Ronaldo scores an overhead goal during Real Madrid's 3-0 win at Juventus in the Champions League on April 3, 2018© Offside
Real Madrid are hoping to make history by winning the Champions League for the third time in a row on Saturday night. Los Blancos have endured a testing season in Spain, but they come alive in Europe's premier competition and they have won it in three of the last four years. They raised their game to surge past Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich and make it through to another final, and now only Liverpool stand in their way. But the Reds provide formidable opposition as they have been absolutely rampant in Europe this season, eliminating Porto, Manchester City and Roma on the back of some exciting heavy metal football.

Liverpool have certainly enjoyed an easier route to the final, but they deserve a huge amount of credit for beating Champions League favourites Man City home and away in the quarters. The Citizens have won the Premiership title in record-breaking fashion, racking up 100 points, and they were widely expected to extend their dominance into the Champions League. But they simply could not live with Liverpool's energetic pressing. Jurgen Klopp's men hassled and harried Man City players all over the pitch and forced them into conceding possession in extremely dangerous positions.

Going forwards, Liverpool have been utterly superb. They beat Spartak Moscow 7-0 and Maribor 7-0 in the group stages, and then beat Porto 5-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie. Man City have been strong defensively all year, but Liverpool put five goals past them over two legs. They then beat Roma 5-2 in the first leg of their semi-final, which was just enough to see them scrape through 7-6 on aggregate.

Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the second during the Champions League semi-final game between Liverpool and Roma on April 24, 2018© Offside
Mohamed Salah has been the star, banging in an amazing 43 goals this season. His brace in the first leg against Roma, his former club, was a thing of beauty. The Egyptian has already won three Player of the Year awards, usurping Man City's Kevin De Bruyne. Now he is the favourite to beat Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to the Ballon d'Or, although much rests on this final. Alongside Salah, Roberto Firmino has been sensational, while Sadio Mane has recently recaptured the strong form he displayed last season.

Yet when you review the best sports betting sites and find the best odds on the market, you will see that Real Madrid are the clear favourites to win this game. Ronaldo has been amazing since the turn of the year and his bicycle kick against Juventus was positively spine-tingling. He will not be happy at talk of Salah stealing his crown, and he will be desperate to prove his quality on the biggest stage once again. Real Madrid also have a far better midfield than Liverpool, and that is where this game could be won. Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Isco represent a brilliant blend of flair, technical ability and steel, and that was enough to see them past Bayern Munich in the semis, and the likes of James Milner and Jordan Henderson will be up against it in the final.

There are also huge question marks over Liverpool's defence, which conceded six times over two legs against Roma in the semi-finals. Virgil van Dijk has tightened things up a little since his record breaking transfer, but they still leave far too many gaps at the back. Having said that, Real Madrid – Sergio Ramos aside – are also pretty poor defensively, so we should be in for a great final, with chances and goals galore. If Liverpool get their pressing game right, they could overwhelm the ageing legs in the Real Madrid team - but beware Ronaldo.

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Barcelona19134253203343
2Atletico MadridAtletico19108127131438
3Sevilla1996431201133
4Real Madrid1910362824433
5AlavesAlaves199552219332
6Getafe197752116528
7Real Betis197572223-126
8Real Sociedad197482322125
9GironaGirona195952123-224
10Espanyol197392127-624
11Valencia1941141717023
12Levante196583035-523
13Athletic Bilbao1941052025-522
14EibarEibar195772128-722
15Leganes195771721-422
16Real Valladolid195771721-422
17Celta Vigo195683132-121
18Rayo Vallecano1954102234-1219
19Villarreal193882025-517
20Huesca1925121736-1911

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