The UEFA Champions League final is one of the most hotly anticipated events in the annual sporting calendar — particularly as far as football fans are concerned.
As a sign of the growing prestige of the UEFA Champions League final, it is the biggest annual sports competition globally — with an estimated 400 million viewers tuning in to watch each year. In addition, recent polling by YouGov Sport has revealed it to be one of the most powerful sporting brands among fans, with the annual competition stirring up the most buzz among sports fans of any major sporting competition.
For Spanish sports fans in particular, this competition holds special importance. Since the competition first got started in 1955, Spanish teams have claimed the greatest number of victories with 18 Championship wins.
Sitting just behind Spain in terms of victories, however, is England. Although the English national team has lagged behind their European counterparts in recent years, this is not true at the club level, where English teams continue to perform at the very highest levels of the sport.
This, perhaps, helps to explain why Spanish and British football fans alike get so competitive when it comes to the European Crown. If the activity at online bookmakers around this time of year is anything to go by, this competition means a huge amount to people. Many fans love to show support for their favourite teams by placing wagers on them to win.
This can only serve to heighten the elation of a win, as fans could be celebrating for two reasons! With the activity already heating up ahead of this year’s clash, it looks like we could be seeing new records set in terms of the total volume of wagers that football fans are placing!
It is with this context in mind that Liverpool and Real Madrid will face off in the UEFA Champions League final this year, with Liverpool not only hoping to claim a seventh Championship title, but also to edge English football one win closer to being on top of the historic league tables.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid: The story so far
Although they have come out on top six times in the past, Liverpool in no way has an easy task ahead of them. With Real Madrid having won the UEFA Champions League final a staggering 13 times previously, the odds are well and truly stacked against them.
The upcoming clash will not be the first time Liverpool and Real Madrid have faced off in a UEFA Champions League final, however.
Most recently, Liverpool and Real Madrid both played in the final in the 2018 season when the Spanish titans ultimately came away with a dominant 3-1 victory over the Liverpudlians.
Before this, however, the two teams had not faced off in a final since 1981 when Liverpool secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Madrileños. However, English football was very much in a different place back then.
Liverpool as UEFA Champions: What are the odds?
Despite Real Madrid having experienced substantially more success in the Champions League since this early clash, Liverpool certainly has a strong chance of coming out on top this year.
For example, Liverpool has more recently achieved success in the UEFA Championship, with their last victory coming in 2019 when they secured a dominant win over Tottenham. Real Madrid, on the other hand, last experienced victory in 2018.
Liverpool has also been performing well on the domestic circuit and many are anticipating that the Liverpudlians will secure a quadruple win at this year’s Premier League Final, which is due to be held just six days before the Champions League clash.
Liverpool has also just secured an FA Cup Final win over Chelsea, which also bolsters their chances. This is in addition to the fact that Liverpool is also tied with Manchester City for the most goals scored in the Premier League this season.
Do the Madrileños have what it takes?
Despite all this, however, the Madrileños should not be counted out. With 13 UEFA Championship titles to their name — which is over double the number Liverpool has secured — the numbers are hard to ignore.
However, Real Madrid has not performed quite as strongly as Liverpool has this season. Reflective of this, they are currently ranked fifth in the UEFA Rankings, while Liverpool is in second place. Real Madrid also floundered somewhat last season, failing to gain momentum as they had in previous years.
An argument might also be made that Real Madrid’s current star player — Karim Benzema — has not enjoyed quite the same level of success this season as his Liverpudlian counterpart — Mohamed Salah — who continues to reach new heights as a player. Provided Salah stays fit and healthy ahead of the 28 May clash, this could prove to make all the difference.
However, Salah is just one player on a team of 11. If Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp doesn’t have a decent bench to play with, the Liverpudlians might not have a particularly strong chance of coming out on top.
Things are looking particularly tense for Liverpool with other key players such as Thiago Alcantara – who recently picked up an injury in the Premier League final against the Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Perhaps most notably, Klopp has already conceded that this will hamper their chances against the Madrileños. Liverpool will also have to make do without Divock Origi, who is also out of action with an injury.
Will Salah make all the difference?
As is always the case in the run up to important games such as the UEFA Champions League final, much of the attention is on the star players who will play a key role in implementing the game day strategy.
For Liverpool, this star player is Mohamed Salah, who is coming off a truly incredible season of career-defining performances. In recognition of these performances, Salah won awards for the Premier League’s top assist provider as well as the Golden Boot award for the 23 goals he scored in the season — with the latter shared with Son Heun-Min of Tottenham Hotspur.
Although Salah’s participation in the Champions League final looked questionable in light of a groin strain he picked up during the FA Cup Final, he is supposedly now fully recovered. This means Salah will be able to avenge the defeat he suffered against Real Madrid four years ago in Kyiv.
In a post about these recent achievements on his social media accounts, Salah tweeted out pictures of his award with the caption “We’re not done yet” — which is a sign of where his mindset is at going into this weekend’s final.
However, whether Salah will deliver on the day remains to be seen. With Klopp forced to make some last-minute roster changes due to player injuries, things still look somewhat uncertain — particularly given that Real Madrid chief Ancelotti recently confirmed that he has a full squad to choose from.
Although the Liverpool vs Real Madrid predictions are still uncertain going into the match this weekend, what is more certain is that this will be a game for the ages. Both teams clearly have something to prove, which all but guarantees an explosive UEFA Champions League final.