La Liga titans and Premier League giants, Real Madrid and Liverpool, will face each other in the ultimate test of supremacy, when they take the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv on May 27, 2018. While the Reds have won five UEFA Champions League titles, Los Blancos are world beaters when it comes to the tournament, taking home a total of 12 UCL titles since the cup took birth more than half a century ago. In this article, we take a look at the 5 top players from both teams who could decide the 2017/18 Champions League final, featuring Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo.
These 5 players have been in a red-hot form throughout the 2017/18 Champions League season, and are being expected to be at the center of some hair-raising action which could decide the result of the 2017/18 Champions League final.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid would need someone who they can bank on to score goals and showcase leadership in the 2017/18 Champions League final against Liverpool, and the Whites need to not look any further or farther as the answer to their curiosities is Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 33-year-old has scored 15 goals this Champions League season (in 12 appearances), some of which were quite crucial, for example, Ronaldo scored three goals collectively against Juventus in both of the UCL quarter final legs, owing to which Real won the fixture on 4-3 aggregate. While the ex-Manchester United star has been showcasing strong dedication to win the 2017/18 Champions League final, it was the No.7 clad striker only, who had scored a brace in last year’s UCL final.
2. Mohamed Salah
Liverpool’s hero of the ongoing season, Mohamed Salah or ‘Mo Salah’ as the Egyptian is known fondly among his fans, is in the form of his life and does not only pose a threat to Real Madrid’s claim at the 2017/18 Champions League final, but also heavily decreases the chances for Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or this season.
Salah is a crucial piece of the lethal attacking trio that Liverpool possess, something that Cristiano Ronaldo had admitted himself of being reminiscent of an older Real Madrid team. Alongside Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, the Reds have one of the most deadly tridents in the game with a record breaking 29 goals between them in 14 games in this year’s competition, with Salah bagging 10 of them in 11 UCL appearances. Word of advice: watch out for Mo Salah exploiting Real Madrid defender Marcelo at the 2017/18 Champions League final.
A major proportion of the result of the 2017/18 Champions League final will be dependent upon Real Madrid left-back Marcelo. The 30-year-old has been key in Real’s defence, and also has a unique combination of having skills on the flank, which are as good as any winger in the current era of football. However, it is not his attacking that will need enhancing when the Whites face Liverpool on May 27.
A lot of Liverpool’s game will go down on the right flank and field, where Mo Salah will play. And coincidentally, it’s Real Madrid’s weakest spot. Marcelo is a wonderful left-back when it comes to going forward but there is an ocean of space between him and Sergio Ramos a lot of times, which Marcelo would need to seal, as that is where Salah can find opportunities to exploit the Brazilian.
In fact, it was what Villarreal used as their plan of attack recently, getting in behind Marcelo on a few occasions to find chances, which were cleared away by the centre-backs. However, as Salah will be less sparing, it will be time for Marcelo to step up and give the Reds not even a loose inch of space, to help the Whites win the 2017/18 Champions League final.
4. Roberto Firmino
“A footballer from his head to his toes” in the words of Jürgen Klopp, Roberto Firmino is the orchestrator of the lethal attacking system that runs in Liverpool’s front field, the two set-pieces of which, are Salah and Sadio Mane. Firmino has been the unsung hero of Liverpool wins, setting up Salah or Mane, and netting screamers when he couldn’t find either of the two. The Brazilian has been so consistent with his key passing and scoring, that he was described by Thierry Henry as “the most complete striker in the league”.
The 26-year-old has scored 10 goals in 12 UCL appearances this season, and has been behind 7 assists that have earned the Reds the much-needed wins in their race to the 2017/18 Champions League final. Speaking about his performance in the Premier League, no Liverpool player has covered more ground than Firmino, and his total of 347.7 km (average 11.3 km per game) is remarkable for a forward, as it underlines his importance to Klopp’s system and the boss’s reluctance to withdraw him even when the Reds are in a comfortable lead.
No Liverpool player has made more sprints in the Premier League than Firmino’s 2,353, which were 366 more than Salah, averaging 76.3 sprints every 90 minutes. Even when it comes to something as crucial as interceptions, the Liverpool forward has made 18, i.e. double of the amount of Sadio Mane’s second highest nine, more than three times of Salah’s five. In simple words, Firmino is a promising player who could affect the result of the 2017/18 Champions League final single-handedly.
5. Loris Karius/Keylor Navas
Both of the teams’ goalkeepers – Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas and Liverpool’s Loris Karius – are going to be extremely crucial for their teams in the 2017/18 Champions League final. It goes without saying that these two gentlemen are going to be the last line of defence against their opponents, and beating them, would mean beating the team. And the challenge for each of them gets sevenfold tougher, when the fact comes to the fore that both the teams – Liverpool and Real Madrid – have been the most prolifically scoring sides in European football this season.
With Ronaldo and Salah leading the attacks for the teams, Karius and Navas have a great deal of a task ahead of them, i.e. to keep the scoring low. And both of the keepers have struggled to keep clean sheets this season, something which would be highly sought-after, and even historic, if maintained in the 2017/18 Champions League. With doubts surrounding both the shot-stoppers, it will be highly exciting to see if either one of the two step up to their task, as succeeding in it would mean getting their teams the coveted European trophy.
Watch: Real Madrid Top 30 Incredible Goals 2017/2018