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Dublin: 2 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018
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Hello! And welcome to our coverage of tonight’s mouthwatering Champions League final as Real Madrid and Liverpool battle it out for European football’s highest honour.

This year’s final takes place at the 70,050 seater capacity Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev — the location of the 2012 European Championship final.

Real Madrid are pining for their third, yes third consecutive Champions League triumph, while Liverpool are aiming for their first since that night in Istanbul almost 13 years ago to the day.

Strap yourself in, because it really and truly could go down as a classic here tonight.

Let’s get started with the team news…

There are no major surprises as Jurgen Klopp names his starting eleven for tonight’s game.

The back four which has served him so well in the second half of the season remains as is, as does that deadly front three, with Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield.

The only upset that could have been anticipated was the re-introduction of Emre Can, who has regained full fitness. The German, however, must be content with a place of the bench.

No spanner in the works then, as we await Madrid’s selection.

Liverpool: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Subs: Mignolet, Clyne, Klavan, Moreno, Lallana, Can, Solanke.

How are we feeling about tonight’s game? There are understandably a lot of nervous Liverpool supporters who fear what Madrid could bring on the night with players like Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale, Modric, Isco, Kroos, et al… to boast.

That said, the Reds were massive underdogs heading into their last Champions League success against AC Milan. Were this a tw0-legged knockout game you could understand favouring Madrid. But as the old cliche goes with a one-off final… anything can happen.

Let us know your predictions below.

The big talking point from Zinedine Zidane’s selection sees Gareth Bale dropped to the bench. The Welshman scored a superb header in the 2014 final to help seal La Décima, but four years on does not make the cut.

In a frustrating season which could prove to be his last in Madrid, Bale has actually been enjoying a purple patch of form in recent weeks.

Bale being dropped to the bench would not have been big news two months ago, but with five goals in his last four La Liga games many predicted he would make the grade tonight. Alas, he does not.

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro; Modric, Kroos; Isco; Benzema, Ronaldo.

Subs: Casilla, Nacho, Bale, Theo Hernandez, Lucas Vazquez, Asensio, Kovacic.

With just under an hour to go before kick-off, who’s going to win the 2018 Champions League? Let us know below!


Poll Results:




Some men who know a thing or two about European Cup finals pass on some advice to tonight’s men in Red. It’s been a while, but Liverpool have returned to the top table of European football.

The last man to lift the Champions League for Liverpool says it is perfectly normal for players to be nervous ahead of what could be the biggest game of their lives. As the great David Bowie said: “We can be heroes… just for one day.” For Madrid it could be a third day in three years, mind.

The man himself — Mohamed Salah pictured ahead of kick-off. How will he shape this final? The forward has had an incredible season but undoubtedly faces his biggest test tonight. There are suggestions he could be in line for a potential Ballon d’Or with the year he’s had.

Both Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo have 44 goals to their name this season. Ronaldo has done it in eight fewer appearances, but also with six more penalties. Which talisman is going to write the headlines tonight?

962727880 Source: Lukas Schulze - UEFA

With just 20 minutes to go, both teams are running through their final warm-ups.

FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-REAL MADRID Source: AFP/Getty Images

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

962732894

Serious support from the thousands of travelling Liverpool fans in Kiev tonight. Planes, trains and automobiles for many of them to get to Ukraine.

Dua Lipa has, alongside Jim Beglin, predicted a 3-2 Liverpool win. One of countless things the pair have in common no doubt.

2Mins

An early attack for Liverpool sees Mohamed Salah in possession right on the edge of the box dangerously. He slips in Sadio Mane who made an untracked darting run, but Raphael Varane managed to outmuscle the forward to the ball first to end the danger. A busy, busy first minute.

4Mins

Madrid cause havoc via Cristiano Ronaldo down the left wing at the other end. He crosses into the box but the referee’s flag is raised for offside before Isco can attempt a free header.

Then, at the other end, Liverpool counter rapidly. Georginio Wijnaldum finds a pocket of space with which to unleash a strike, but his long-range effort is blocked down by the commanding boot of Sergio Ramos. It’s cagey.

6Mins

The game’s first free-kick comes courtesy of Salah yet again causing issues in the final third for Madrid.

He tries to get the ball out of his feet to try and take on his man, but is barged to the floor by Marcelo.

James Milner takes the free short for Salah to try a shot at goal — but once again it’s blocked down at the first hurdle.

6Mins

A cracking atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium tonight.

8Mins

A minor scare for Madrid as Keylor Navas has to come from his line to gather. Trent Alexander-Arnold saw the ball fall on a plate five yards out and dashed to have a strike at goal, but the Madrid shot stopper was too quick off his line.

A promising start for Klopp’s men here. Madrid are a little bit unsettled.

13Mins

A few really decent chances for Liverpool to break the deadlock as Madrid completely panic at the back. Salah, Mane and Firmino all get a bite at the cherry as the ball spills from player to player in a chaotic spell inside the box.

The Madrid defenders were very cautious not to stick out a loose leg and concede a penalty and likewise the Liverpool front three just couldn’t manage to find enough space to let rip and have a go at goal.

Madrid really struggled to clear it there, but have survived a nervous spell.

15Mins

At the other end Madrid very nearly break the deadlock. Ronaldo found an ocean of space down the right wing, dribbled into the box and let fly — but his shot narrowly evaded the crossbar and flew over. A lucky escape for Liverpool.

18Mins

19Mins

Virgil van Dijk rises high from a corner kick, but his header has too much height on it and flies over the crossbar. The corner came about in bizarre circumstances – Dani Carvajal completely misjudging a crossfield pass and putting the ball out of play under no pressure whatsoever.

21Mins

23Mins

CHANCE! Alexander-Arnold comes so close to breaking the deadlock! Roberto Firmino managed to carve out a pocket of space to force a shot, which was blocked. The ball fell to the young defender who lashed it with all he had — but the effort was low and right into the dive of Navas. So very nearly for the 19-year-old.

24Mins

28Mins

Liverpool continuing to apply pressure, breaking from midfield at any given chance. Sadio Mane this time forces a corner following some spirited work down the right wing, however James Milner’s corner is punched clear before a free-kick is awarded for some pushing and shoving.

28Mins

Some worrying signs for Liverpool fans now as Mohamed Salah goes down injured. The medics are on to assess his shoulder following a clash with Sergio Ramos.

30Mins

Mohamed Salah going off injured now and will be replaced by Adam Lallana. A massive loss for Jurgen Klopp’s side after just half an hour.

30Mins

Substitution for Liverpool: Adam Lallana replaces Mohamed Salah.

33Mins

There were worried looks on the face of Liverpool supporters and Klopp himself as soon as Salah went down. His game is over before it even got going and if Liverpool are to win their sixth European Cup, they are going to have to do it without their talisman.

35Mins

Replays of the incident show Ramos and Salah got tangled together, with Salah falling awkwardly after they collided. There didn’t seem to be any intent to cause harm on behalf of the Madrid captain, but that will be little consolation now.

35Mins

Another change now as Dani Carvajal goes down injured. The defender is walking off in tears, and his night will end prematurely too. Goodness me.

36Mins

Substitution for Real Madrid: Nacho replaces Dani Carvajal.

42Mins

The game has lost a lot of its impetus and attacking edge since the two departures. There will no doubt be a chunk of stoppage time to come to make up for the switches, but both sides have appeared a bit lacklustre in the last ten minutes.

44Mins

Goal! But it won’t count…

The game explodes into life as Karim Benzema sweeps the ball into the back of the net, but the assistant raises his flag for offside. Cristiano Ronaldo forced a stunning save from Karius following a floated header, with the French forward following up with the rebound.

Zidane and his players celebrated wildly on the sideline, but were quickly stopped in their tracks. It remains 0-0.

46Mins

CHANCE! Another effort from Madrid as Nacho buries the ball into the side-netting. Ronaldo picked out the right-back with a sweeping cross which went above the head of Andy Robertson, but Nacho could only volley wide. A close call.

45Mins

There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.

45Mins

Well, what did we make of that? A tight, cagey final so far with no goals to speak of. The game’s talking points have undoubtedly been the premature departures of Mohamed Salah and Daniel Carvajal within minutes of each other.

It’s fair to say Salah’s loss will be felt more by Liverpool than Carvajal for Madrid. The Egyptian’s stunning form inspired his team to Kiev, but if they are to go all the way they will have to do it in his absence.

The game began in sprightly fashion, with Jurgen Klopp’s side dominating their opponents in surprising fashion inside the opening half an hour. Both side’s have had their chances, but it’s been close nevertheless.

The second half to come shortly…

45Mins

There were tears from Mohamed Salah as he went off injured after just 31 minutes.

962757248 Source: Shaun Botterill

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

47Mins

Rio Ferdinand did not believe it was a foul from Sergio Ramos on Salah.

47Mins

Awful news for the Egyptian as his World Cup could now potentially be in doubt.

48Mins

CHANCE! Isco smashes the crossbar for Real Madrid and his side really should be ahead. The ball drops frantically to the Spaniard inside the box — Karius had come to gather and there was an empty goal in which to shoot.

Isco, however, tried to dink the ball into the back of the net with a side-footed effort, but his shot just didn’t come back down in time and instead hit the bar. A lucky escape for Liverpool.

53Mins

Goodness me, one of the most bizarre goals in Champions League history comes courtesy of a dreadful Loris Karius mistake.

A routine ball over the top was gathered by the German goalkeeper, he attempted to roll the ball out to his defender only to see Karim Benzema stick out his leg and see the ball roll into the back of the net. It’s 1-0 Madrid in unbelievably circumstances.

53Mins

56Mins

Liverpool have equalised! We’re all level as Sadio Mane pops up at the back post to poke the ball beyond Navas. A corner swung in deep was headed back across goal tremendously by Dejan Lovren, with Mane providing the killer touch to make it 1-1. Game on.

57Mins

The game has completely exploded into life with two goals in the space of four minutes. Karius’ dreadful, dreadful mistake is forgotten thanks to Mane’s deft touch. The Liverpool supporters have found their voice once again and we have a game on our hands. Woof.

59Mins

Karim Benzema gave Madrid the lead, but his elation was only momentary with the equaliser coming just four minutes later.

FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-REAL MADRID Source: AFP/Getty Images

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

60Mins

SAVE! Karius makes a brilliant low save to deny Isco who managed a header inside the box. Despite his blunder, the German goalkeeper has made some really significant stops tonight.

65Mins

WHAT A GOAL! Real Madrid regain the lead and it’s absolute genius from substitute Gareth Bale. He was only on the pitch a minute or two and the Welshman provides a stupendous overhead kick which flies into the top corner. 2-1 Madrid!

68Mins

You really could watch that goal all day long. It could have been Bale’s first touch, as he was only on the pitch three minutes. The forward leapt like a giant and scissor-kicked the ball flying into the back of the net.

It was almost a carbon-copy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike against Juventus.

70Mins

OFF THE POST! Sadio Mane almost grabs a second equaliser. The forward shoots low along the ground on his left foot and it very nearly creeps into the bottom corner — instead hitting the woodwork before bouncing back out. Drama everywhere.

72Mins

Ronaldo’s well jealous. Definitely. Without a doubt.

962768458 Source: Christopher Lee - UEFA

74Mins

There are appeals for a penalty, but they fall on deaf ears. Roberto Firmino tried to cross into the box but instead it bounced off the elbow of Nacho. No decision given, however.

75Mins

At the other end Ronaldo comes close to putting some distance between the two teams. He bears down on goal and — just as he is about to pull the trigger — is blocked down by a brilliant last-ditch challenge from Andy Robertson no more than seven yards out from goal. Well-timed from the defender to prevent what looked like a certain goal.

77Mins

Here’s the goal everyone is talking about. Gareth Bale with a sublime overhead kick in a Champions League final having just come off the bench. Wow.

81Mins

SHOT! Karius is forced into yet another fine save. This time it’s Karim Benzema seeking his second goal of the night. A cross towards the back post finds the French forward unmarked, but his volley is palmed away by the Liverpool goalkeeper.

82Mins

Substitution for Liverpool: Emre Can replaces James Milner.

84Mins

It’s another for Gareth Bale! And it’s another absolute howler from Loris Karius. The Welshman takes the ball down on the right wing, releases a decent shot but the German completely fluffs his save and lets the ball seep through his hands and into the back of the net. 3-1 Madrid!

85Mins

87Mins

You really have to feel for Karius at this stage. Two horrendous mistakes from the goalkeeper has cost his side dearly tonight. Bale has made a stunning impact off the bench and this looks like Real Madrid’s third consecutive European Cup, with just three minutes to go.

89Mins

Substitution for Real Madrid: Marco Asensio replaces Karim Benzema.

90Mins

There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come but this game is all but up. Liverpool have been decimated with Bale’s two goals and the final moments now are nothing more than a formality.

Well there we have it. Real Madrid are Champions League winners for 2018 and for the third year in a row!

It was a tight final until the departure of Mohamed Salah and the introduction of Gareth Bale.

The Welshman scored one of the all-time great Champions League final goals before adding another thanks to an absolute howler from Loris Karius — who made another dreadful mistake for Karim Benzema’s opening goal.

Sadio Mane brought Liverpool level, but Bale’s double off the bench has decided this game emphatically.

Plenty more reaction to come over the next while, thanks a million for joining us!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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