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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

I expect lots of goals - and Liverpool have a great chance

The BT Sport pundit gives his verdict

The managerial battle could be key
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Liverpool are not going to change what they do in Kiev, nor are Real Madrid. We know exactly what to expect from both of these world-class sides.

The question is, whose style is going to come out on top?

Lay the draw and back goals would be my advice, because one style will overcome the other and there will be a winner. Identifying that winner is less easy because these are two such great teams with so many match-winners and you can obviously make a case for both of them.

We know that Real will look to play the ball out – that’s the Zidane way. And that will suit Liverpool who we know will look to press and nick the ball high – that’s the Klopp way. There are no secrets here.

I don’t see the magnitude of the occasion getting to Liverpool who seem to excel the bigger the fixture and the bigger the opponents.

And we know that Real Madrid are masters at getting this done. No team have won three Champions Leagues in a row so that they even have that as a target shows just what a special side they are.

Liverpool have grown up this year and look far more assured. Chiefly responsible for that is Virgil van Dijk, an absolute Rolls-Royce of a player. He has improved the defence which, in turn, has improved the stability of the team. The keeper’s confidence has grown and they look better organised.

And at the other end, of course, is the incredible Mohamed Salah, an absolutely world-class striker and the one player who will frighten the life out of Real’s defence and Zidane.

Make no mistake, they have been planning for Salah ever since the semis were done and dusted because they know the measure of the threat.

Salah is gold dust and because he believes in himself now his conversion rate goes up and up. No longer is he snatching at chances – he has a maturity and a confidence in front of goal that means he’s got time to make decisions.

And if Real are making plans for Salah then Liverpool will be doing likewise with Cristiano Ronaldo, and that’s arguably harder to do because he’s no longer the player he was.

Gone are the step-overs and beating players on their outside – he no longer has that in his armoury. But that means he’s had to adapt to extend his career and maintain his levels, rather like Ryan Giggs did at Manchester United.

Ronaldo has turned from wide receiver into quarterback and he will dictate Real’s tempo in the final third.

What we do know is that the bigger the game the more Cristiano Ronaldo rises to the occasion.

Weaknesses with Real? Maybe the keeper, Keylor Navas, has a question mark over him but in front he’s got the magnificent Sergio Ramos and defensively they are a well-oiled machine.

I absolutely can’t wait for the game. To me it’s the perfect final, especially having played for both clubs – though naturally I’m biased towards the Reds.

I honestly think this could be anything. I expect lots of goals and seriously believe that Liverpool have got a good chance of winning – but you write off Real at your peril.

Watch Real Madrid v Liverpool in the Uefa Champions League finalon BT Sport 2 & BT Sport 4K UHD from 6pm. For more info visit

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Ronaldo has turned from wide receiver into quarterback and he will dictate Real’s tempo in the final third
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