#RoadToKiev – All is now set for one of the greatest night in world football; the greatest night in European football – The 2018 UEFA Champions League Final which will kick off at 7:45PM at the Stadium of the Olympic National Sports Complex in Kiev, Ukraine.
Defending Champions, Real Madrid are set to take on England’s most successful team in European competitions, Liverpool FC in what promises to be a breath-taking encounter. While Real Madrid will be gunning for a third consecutive triumph and a fourth in five years, Liverpool will be aiming for a first Champions League glory since 2005.
Even though Liverpool have won the trophy five times (four as European Cup and one as UEFA Champions League) and Real Madrid have won it a record 12 times being the only team to have achieved such feat, it is not enough to describe Liverpool as the underdog in this year’s final, with the team putting up a brilliant display in their journey to Kiev.
naijmobile.com takes a trip back to see how both team reach Kiev.
Having defeated Middlesbrough in the last premier league game in 2016/2017 season, Liverpool finished fourth, finding themselves in a champions league spot for the first time since 2015. They went on to defeat Hoffenheim and qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League where they were pitted alongside Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor.
Surely everyone would expect the Reds to come out favourites but it was not really easy; it as a frustrating group stage, one that did not portray them as candidates for the Finals. However after sloppy displays against Sevilla and Spartak Moscow in the first two games, a sorry Maribor received 10 goals from the Reds in two legs to put them on course for qualification to the next round.
For Real Madrid, there was a lot of pressure as winners of the last editions of the UCL and so they started sloppily, finishing second in their group after Tottenham, they were paired with the rebranded Paris Saint German in the round of 16. Many saw it as an early exit for Zidane’s men who were nothing to write home about compared to high scoring PSG who fired 25 goals in their group stage – the highest from any team.
However, Real Madrid and Ronaldo seem to have a sensational feeling when it comes to the Champions league as they came from behind to defeat PSG 3:1 in the first leg and 2:1 in Paris to setup a meeting with Juventus in the Quarter Finals. Meanwhile Superman, Christian Ronaldo kept setting records as he scored his 12th goal of the European campaign against PSG, scoring against every side they met.
Having managed to avoid big names such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Liverpool were drawn with the FC. Porto. Interestingly, Liverpool ran to the next round having recorded a 5:0 first leg win away and comfortably playing a goalless draw in the reverse fixture. Consequently they were set up against premier league rivals, Manchester City in the Reds first Champions League Quarter Final since 2009.
The buzz around this game was too much, with most fans eventually writing off Liverpool, considering Manchester City’s more than excellent run in the premier league. However, capitalising on the status of the being the only team to have defeated the Cityzens in the league as at then, Liverpool went on to shock the world with a 3:0 first leg win at Anfield. Yet many felt City would bounce back, especially after Roma came from a 3 goal down to beat the almighty Barcelona 4:0 at the second leg. Gabriel Jesus’s first goal in less than 3 minutes into the second leg proved this fact but Klopp and his boys had better plans of not walking alone. They walked away with a 2:1 win from Anfield, making it 5:1 on aggregates.
Playing Juventus was a repeat of last year’s final with many fans gunning for Juventus to finally win the UCL at least for Buffon but Real Madrid are not a charitable organisation and so they sent an early message to the Turing Faithful, winning 3:0 in the first leg. Juventus came with another agenda, beating Real Madrid 3:0 in the second Leg till Ronaldo fired a last minute penalty, to send his side through to the Semi-Finals amidst protest of poor officiating. It was indeed a dramatic encounter with referee, Michael Oliver sending Buffon off after protesting against the spot kick. It was Buffon’s last Champions League appearance with the Old Ladies.
The only fear Liverpool had meeting Roma in the semi-final was probably the stunt Roma pulled against Barcelona – that qualification victory will certainly last long in history. The Reds didn’t want any drama and so in the first leg, they quickly tidied things up, beating Roma 5:2 in the first Leg. The Romans still had plans of a repeat Episode of the Barcelona movie when the Reds went to Rome for the reverse fixture. Liverpool were indeed lucky to lose 4:2 in that fixture and eventually winning 7:6 on aggregates, they booked a place in the table of men – the finals.
Bayern was another tough opponent but Madrid proved to be equal to the task. As usual, they sealed the first leg with a 2:1 win in the first leg. For the first time this season Ronaldo did not score in a Champions League encounter however, Marcelo and Ascensio were on ground to do the needful. In the second Leg, Bayern came in with full force, hoping to do a Roma but then Karim Benzema proved why he’s still relevant, scoring two goals to force a two all draw, sending Real Madrid to the finals for the third time in a row.
As it stands, the lot seem evenly casted. Liverpool has what it takes to defeat Madrid and win the UCL. It will surely be a sensational moment for the traveling Anfield fans. However, there is a problem of consistency for the Reds. They can easily slip during the late stages of the game; an advantage Real Madrid have over them. Don’t forget, they lost to Sevilla in last season’s Europa Cup Final.
Real Madrid are in no mood to handover the trophy any soon as they are preparing so hard to win it for a record 13 times overall and a third consecutive time since 2015/2016. They are obviously used to the UCL Final and in all truth, faced the hardest oppositions in the road to Kiev. You just might want to give it to them.
Meanwhile, while all eyes will be on Ronaldo and Salah, there just might be a mystery goal scorer; a mystery match winner. This is football, anything is possible.