The NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev awaits Champions League finalists Real Madrid and Liverpool on 26th May 2018, as two of the most successful teams in the elite continental competition go head to head for European glory.
The English Premier League can quite justifiably lay claim to being the most popular domestic league in the world, with the highest international viewing figures around the globe each season, plus the highest average stadium attendances on matchdays anywhere in Europe. It’s also the richest, boasting no fewer than ten of the twenty wealthiest clubs in Europe, according to Deloitte Football Money League 2018 data.
Nevertheless, none of that really matters when it comes to what counts most of all for the fans, which is performances and results on the pitch, along with silverware in the trophy cabinet. In that regard, when looking at European Cup and Champions League history, no other country comes remotely close to Spain and their most successful side in the competition, Real Madrid.
Despite having lifted the famous trophy five times themselves throughout their history, Liverpool at 2/1 odds are regarded as the underdogs for the 2018 Champions League final, compared to 6/5 odds strongly favouring Real Madrid and for very good reason. The Spanish giants have won the competition in three out of the last four seasons, with their eternal rivals Barcelona the only other winner in that time.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 1, 2018
Real Madrid are also aiming for what would be a third consecutive Champions League triumph, plus the chance to lift the trophy for a remarkable thirteenth time in their history, since first winning the inaugural version of the European competition in 1956. Indeed, after that first triumph, the famous side in white won each of the first five editions of the European Cup, between 1956 and 1960.
However, the 2018 final is not without some added spice. Of the five English teams competing in the Champions League this season, which included Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, it’s fair to say that Liverpool were possibly the least fancied to make progress, having struggled to make any headway towards winning domestic silverware during the 2017-18 campaign.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 2, 2018
Nevertheless, while their English counterparts stumbled and stuttered on the continental stage, the Reds have overcome every obstacle placed before them, including Jurgen Klopp’s team securing a memorable 5-1 aggregate triumph against Manchester City over two legs in the quarter-finals, followed by an enthralling 7-6 aggregate victory against AS Roma in the semi-finals.
There’s also an interesting anecdotal fact worth noting, given the 2018 final is a meeting of the competitions most successful teams from England and Spain. Real Madrid and Liverpool have crossed paths numerous times throughout European Cup and Champions League history, but only once have they met in the final.
Real Madrid y Liverpool se vuelve a enfrentar en una Final de Campeones de Europa, el 27 Mayo 1981 los Ingleses se coronaron por marcador 1-0 con gol de Alan Kennedy al minuto 82, el juego fue en el Parque de los Príncipes de Francia. pic.twitter.com/1Wl6osox9P
— GEBDeportes (@GEBDeportes) May 2, 2018
At Parc des Princes in Paris for the final of Europe’s premier cup competition in 1981, a single goal from Alan Kennedy was enough to win Liverpool the trophy. Bob Paisley became the first manager to win the competition three times, in a period when the Anfield club were leading a period of English dominance on the continent. They were also the last side to beat Real Madrid in a European final.
Zinedine Zidane is hoping to accomplish the same feat as Paisley with Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final, but after such a remarkable journey to get there this season, only a fool would expect an easy victory for the Spanish outfit. Liverpool will be battling with everything they’ve got and, just maybe, they could spark a red revolution that could bring English clubs back to the forefront of the most prestigious competition in European football.