What are their strengths and weaknesses? Who are their main men? Where might the game be won and lost? UEFA.com’s team reporters Joe Walker (Real Madrid) and Matt Howarth (Liverpool) cast their expert eye over Real Madrid and Liverpool ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final.

Real Madrid

Why have they reached the final?


Watch goals from Madrid’s 12 European Cup wins

Is it too simplistic to say: because they are Real Madrid? This is their competition and they have the knowhow and quality to get the job done, even when they don’t play well. That has never been more evident than in this season’s quarter-finals and semis. In a spell of 20 minutes, they can take the game away from any opposition with all their attacking talent.

Where might they be exposed?

In the full-back positions. Liverpool’s flying front three have the kind of pace and directness that can cause anyone problems, and with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal both attack-minded, there could well be plenty of space on the counter for the likes of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah to exploit.

Who might be their key player?

Ronaldo's overhead kick and five other classic #UCL goals


Ronaldo’s overhead kick and five other classic #UCL goals

Stating the obvious here, but it has to be Cristiano Ronaldo. The tournament’s top scorer, Madrid’s main man, the Portuguese No7 loves this competition almost as much as Real Madrid, and as a former Manchester United player there will be added incentive for him to help see off Liverpool.

What is their key battle?

Marcelo v Mohamed Salah. As previously mentioned, Marcelo will need to curb his attacking instincts at times if he is to keep man of the Mo-ment (forgive the pun) Salah at bay. Put simply, if Marcelo plays his best and nullifies the Egyptian, Madrid win. If he is exposed, then they will be in trouble.

Liverpool

Why have they reached the final?

Real Madrid v Liverpool: Their previous meetings


Real Madrid v Liverpool: Their previous meetings

Jürgen Klopp’s side have reached Kyiv on a tidal wave of attacking football, breaking the all-time record for goals in a single UEFA Champions League campaign (46) along the way. Their relentless front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have been sensational, but January acquisition Virgil van Dijk has also played a crucial role, bringing much-needed leadership and composure to Liverpool’s defence.

Where might they be exposed?

Despite the back four’s obvious improvement, defensive question marks remain following the 4-2 defeat to Roma in the semi-final second leg. By Klopp’s own admission, Liverpool brought pressure on themselves by dropping too deep at the Stadio Olimpico. While it would be foolish to adopt a high line against Real Madrid, the Reds will need to be more compact in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday.

Who might be their key player?

Marcelo: No special plan for Mohamed Salah


Marcelo: No special plan for Mohamed Salah

It is hard to look beyond their ‘Egyptian King’. Salah has broken a host of records in his debut campaign at Anfield – most recently establishing a new Premier League high for goals in a 38-game season (32). He was unusually quiet during the reverse in Rome, but more often than not the Reds’ No11 rises to the big occasion. When he plays well, Liverpool play well.

What is their key battle?

Marcelo played a pivotal role in Real Madrid’s semi-final victory over Bayern München, scoring one and setting up another in the 4-3 aggregate win. The left-back was caught out of position on several occasions, however, most notably for Joshua Kimmich’s opener in Germany. If Salah is afforded as much space down the right flank in Kyiv, the 25-year-old could have a field day.


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