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Prediction and Betting Picks for the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final
The top-level soccer season across Europe always ends with the biggest game of the year – the Champions League final. Real Madrid will face Liverpool on May 26 in Kiev, and both clubs are among the most successful in the tournament.
However, Real Madrid are head and shoulders above with their 12 trophies compared to Liverpool’s 5. On top of that, the Spaniards have won the last two editions of the Champions League, while the last title of the team from Merseyside came in 2005.
If you go from there, it seems like Real Madrid is the favorite, and the bookies seem to agree. However, is that really the case?
In this post, I will take a look at what we know about both teams and explore the betting opportunities related to the Champions League final.
Let’s start with the favorite in this game. The Spanish giant has struggled all year long and was nowhere near the title in the local La Liga. Real Madrid finished third and was 17 points behind the champions of Barcelona.
I can barely remember the last time when the club was so far behind first place. There are many reasons for such a failure.
For a start, Coach Zinedine Zidane has struggled to find his best starting lineup for large parts of the seasons, especially up front. Some injuries to key players didn’t help either, so Real was way off since the start of the campaign.
The main problem is the team’s inability to defend well and control games. Real Madrid had the fifth-best defensive record in La Liga after conceding 44 goals in 38 games.
The problems at the back were also evident in the Champions League. The club lost 3-1 against Tottenham in the group stages, conceded three times at home against Juventus in the quarters, and a total of three more in the two-legged semis against Bayern.
It’s safe to say that this hasn’t been the most convincing run to the finals. At the same time, beating PSG, Juventus, and Bayern Munich in a row shows that Real Madrid is certainly hungry for the trophy.
The leader of the team, Cristiano Ronaldo, has been scoring for fun and is as ambitious as ever. He is the top scorer in the Champions League history and has proven to be a clutch player when the going gets tough.
Actually, the Real Madrid team is full of players that have won the last two editions of the competition, so experience is certainly on their side. They’ve done it all before, and the same can be said for Zinedine Zidane. He has a couple of Champions Leagues as a player and one as a coach.
Simply put, this Real Madrid team is full of winners who love playing in the Champions League. It has been in the club’s DNA forever.
- Strongest Points: Experience, formidable attack, stronger bench, solid keeper
- Weakest Points: Leaky defense, inability to control the tempo
- Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Despite the role of an underdog, Liverpool certainly fancy their chances to lift the trophy. The team managed to dismantle the mighty Manchester City on the road to the final and survived a scare to beat Roma in the semifinals as well.
Jurgen Klopp has managed to transform the club ever since arriving in 2015. Liverpool still lacks the depth to fight for the trophy in the English Premier League but plays exciting football and can beat any club in Europe on its day.
Even Zinedine Zidane is impressed with Klopp’s work, and the fan base of Liverpool firmly stands behind the German and his players.
Another positive point is that Liverpool did manage to qualify for the Champions League through the EPL. This relieves the pressure to an extent and potentially softens the blow of an eventual loss against Real Madrid.
The team has some incredible talent up front, and Mohamed Salah is having the season of his life. The Egyptian forward has scored more than 40 goals and is a legitimate contender for the Ballon d’Or if Liverpool wins the league. I believe Salah himself didn’t expect such a maiden season in Merseyside.
The guys around him are performing well, too, with the likes of Mane and Firmino providing a constant thread. The mean reason for Liverpool’s success is Klopp’s high-pressing tactics.
It allows the team to win the ball high up the pitch and instantly transition from defense to attack. It works wonders, and this is how Manchester City got trashed.
However, Liverpool is vulnerable at the back. The team doesn’t have a goalkeeper or defenders who are on the same level. This is the reason they conceded 6 games in total against Roma in the semifinals.
- Strongest Points: Belief, high pressing game, formidable attack
- Weakest Points: Shaky at the back, inconsistent goalkeeper, limited experience at such level
- Key Player: Mo Salah
Final Prediction and Betting Picks
If you look at the odds of most bookmakers, Real Madrid is the favorite to win the game. Not a big one, but most sportsbooks and punters expect the Spaniards to lift the trophy. They are priced around 1.65, while the odds of Liverpool winning are about 2.20-2.30.
In my opinion, it’s closer than that for a couple of reasons. Let’s start with the psychological aspect of this final.
Both teams certainly believe they could win it for different reasons. Liverpool simply have exceptional momentum, an exciting coach, and a strong support that can lift the team. The atmosphere around the club is magnificent.
At the same time, no one knows how to win the Champions League better than the current Real Madrid squad and manager. They’ve both done it twice, and experience is on their side.
This is why I believe none of the teams have some extra edge in terms of mentality. Both want it, and both believe they can win it.
So, let’s move on to the style and quality of both sides. Their situation is extraordinarily similar, too. Both play direct soccer and rely on speed in attack. They have one top scorer and leader in Ronaldo and Salah. And both teams are suspect at the back.
However, there are two reasons I slightly favor Real Madrid. For a start, they have a much better goalkeeper that could make the difference. They also have the better bench if things go wrong.
The likes of Gareth Bale and Isco could be left out of the starting lineup but will be eager to get their chance. Liverpool doesn’t have such a firepower ready to go.
With that said, let’s take a look at my picks.
Cristiano Ronaldo was accused of hiding in big games early in his career. I don’t think anyone would dare to say the same today. The guy thrives under pressure and has scored tons of important goals for both his club and country.
The Portuguese striker scored twice in last year’s final and was Man of the Match. He didn’t manage to score in the semifinal against Bayern, but he had three goals in the round before against Juventus.
Ronaldo will certainly have plenty of chances to punish the shaky Liverpool defense. He can score with both feet and is good in the air, too. On top of that, he takes both penalties and dangerous free kicks. Under the circumstances, the odds of 1.79 for him to score anytime seem too tempting to miss. In fact, this is my main bet on the final.
The 1.79 odds for this wager were the best I found online at the time of writing, available at 888sport.
I don’t really like making bets that have a negative correlation, but the odds seem too good to miss. As I already explained, I feel the game is close, and Real Madrid is just marginally ahead. However, the odds of 1.72 for Liverpool to either win or draw during regular time are too good to pass on.
Going for the English team to get the victory would be too risky, but if you combine it with the draw, it’s more than possible.
On top of that, CL finals that are tied around the 70th minute mark tend to become cagey affairs. This is why I see some good value in a price of 1.72.
I honestly think this game has the potential to be one of the most entertaining Champions League finals since the Istanbul 2005. Both teams are determined to push hard and will rely on their attacking players. We will also see two of the best forwards this season: Ronaldo and Mo Salah.
All signs point at a goal fest, so let’s hope the game doesn’t disappoint at the end!