Liverpool vs. Real Madrid: Who has edge in Champions League final?

Craig Forrest, Danny Dichio and Paul Peschisolido join James Sharman to discuss the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.

Well, this is it. The European campaign ends with the biggest match of the season in Kyiv, Ukraine as Liverpool takes on Real Madrid in what promises to be an excellent UEFA Champions League final.

Normally, a two-time defending champion like Real Madrid would be heavily favoured in this scenario. However, due to Liverpool’s sensational campaign in this competition, this game is almost too close to call.

With the margins for error at their absolute thinnest, all 11 players will have to be sharp in order to lift the trophy. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of Saturday’s final.


If it wasn’t for Keylor Navas, Real Madrid probably wouldn’t have overcome Bayern Munich in the semifinals. In the second leg alone, the Costa Rican goalkeeper made 10 saves. Across both games, Navas stopped 15 shots. He’s also been a significant figure during Madrid’s run of success in the Champions League.

As for Loris Karius, he experienced a tumultuous start to the season but eventually solidified his place in Jurgen Klopp’s side. His command of the box has improved tremendously well and he’s far more decisive. It’s easy to forget that Karius is still 24 years old and in his fifth season as a No. 1 goalkeeper.

That relative inexperience – especially on this grand stage – is what gives Navas the advantage. He’ll never be fully appreciated by Madrid fans and the Spanish media, but he’s undoubtedly important to Real Madrid and should be vital yet again on Saturday.

Advantage: Real Madrid


Neither defence is very convincing, yet Liverpool’s back line has been quite solid in the vast majority of a match. However, the Reds’ inability to contain Roma highlights their defensive inefficiencies. Nine of the 13 goals conceded in the Champions League this season (excluding qualifiers) have been scored in the second half. Four of the six goals allowed against Roma in the semifinals came after the 75th minute.

However, Real Madrid’s defence hasn’t been sturdy, either. When examining the expected goals, an advanced metric used to quantify the quality of a shot, from the semis versus Bayern Munich, there was a large discrepancy.

The amount of big chances surrendered in that match wasn’t an anomaly, either. The second leg of the quarter-final against Juventus was equally jaw-dropping.

It’s a very close call, but Liverpool edges it here. The defensive solidity against Manchester City, Porto and for most of the Roma games shows that the Reds are capable of shutting down an opposing attack, even without the counter-pressing.

Advantage: Liverpool


It’s difficult to bet against a midfield with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Both players are two of Europe’s elite passers and have been vital for Real Madrid over the past few seasons. Casemiro is also vital as a defensive shield and is among the top tacklers in the Champions League, per

Liverpool will likely deploy a midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner. They’ve all proven to be effective players in Klopp’s system, whether they’re pressing the opposition or driving forward with the ball.

However, in terms of sheer quality in midfield, Madrid has the distinct advantage and should be able to beat the Liverpool press.

Advantage: Real Madrid


This one isn’t much of a debate, either. Liverpool has scored an astounding 40 goals in 12 Champions League matches. The trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino has combined for 30 of those strikes.

It takes a special attack to outdo Cristiano Ronaldo, who has bagged 15 goals of his own in the competition this season. However, only Porto has been able to successfully shut down Liverpool’s forwards in a game, and that was after a 5-0 thrashing in the first leg in the round of 16.

Advantage: Liverpool

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There is no doubting Jurgen Klopp’s achievements with Liverpool so far. He’s taken the club back to the Champions League final and has done so with a midfield containing the likes of Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It proves that the Reds are more than just a group of individuals. No matter who slides into the lineup, that player can do an effective job.

However, the inability to shut down Roma in the semifinals, plus the two comebacks by Sevilla in the group stage, show that Liverpool is still figuring out the right balance.

Zinedine Zidane, on the other hand, has provided more tactical flexibility with Madrid. Yet despite his success in the Spanish capital, he’s arguably the most polarizing coach in the world. Some wonder if the strength of the squad or brilliant individual performances from the likes of Ronaldo mask Zidane’s deficiencies.

With that said, it’s tough to argue against a coach who has won two straight European Cups. He stabilized the team after Rafa Benitez’s departure during the 2015-16 campaign and commands respect from his players unlike any Real Madrid coach in recent memory. Some of Zidane’s in-game changes have been quite astute even though he claims he’s not a great tactician.

Advantage: Real Madrid


Experience is definitely on Real Madrid’s side, having won the last two editions of the Champions League. The team has been in this situation multiple times, whereas the vast majority of Liverpool’s squad has never played in a final of this magnitude.

Additionally, Madrid has a completely clean bill of health, so they have plenty of intriguing options off the bench. The likes of Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Gareth Bale and Mateo Kovacic have all been relied upon by Zidane this season.

Liverpool, meanwhile, would experience a vast drop in quality if someone like Salah or Firmino was replaced by Danny Ings or Dominic Solanke. Adam Lallana is probably the only reliable player off the bench and he’s lacking in match fitness.

The form of both sides is practically even. Liverpool has two wins, one draw and two losses in their last five games. Madrid has only earned one victory in that same span, but Los Blancos have only suffered one defeat.

Advantage: Real Madrid


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