Both English Premier League club Liverpool and Spanish La Liga giant Real Madrid survived scares in their semifinal, second-leg matches this week. Both escaped with victories on aggregate score and will now square off in what promises to be a classic UEFA Champions League Final between two teams that have a combined 16 European championships between them, since the international competition began in 1955.
Liverpool entered their match on Wednesday with a seemingly insurmountable first-leg lead of 5-2 over their Italian opponents, AS Roma, only to watch Roma fire four past Loris Karius, including a James Milner own goal — enough for a historic comeback, if Liverpool hadn’t snuck in two goals of their own to head home with a 7-6 two-leg triumph.
In Madrid on Tuesday, Real took a 2-1 lead into the second leg, but thanks in part to a crucial error by Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, managed a 2-2 draw in the second leg to advance to their third straight final by a 4-3 aggregate.
Now the 16-time European champions from the Spanish capital face the five-time winners from the northwestern English port city on Saturday, May 26, at 70,000-seat Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex in Kiev, Ukraine, where Real Madrid will attempt to become the first three-peat champions since the Champions League era began with the 1991-1992 season.
Liverpool have never won a Champions League-era crown, but this edition of the Reds, with their two tallies against AS Roma, are now officially the most prolific goal-scoring side in Champions League history. They have needed just 14 games to rack up 46 goals, one better than the previous record set by Barcelona in the 1999-2000 campaign, though Barcelona took 16 games to accumulate 45 goals.
While not on a record-setting pace, Real Madrid has also been generous with goals, putting in 30 in 12 games. As a result, experts, including former Manchester United skipper Roy Keane, predict a high-scoring affair in Kiev, a game that, Keane believes, could be the first Champions League final since 2005 that both teams have tallied more than a single goal.
But oddsmakers have already installed the defending two-time champs as narrow favorites, with the Irish betting firm Paddy Power giving 5-4 odds on Madrid to win, but somewhat longer 9-5 odds on Liverpool. Oddschecker is offering 13-10 odds on Real Madrid, but 23-10 odds on Liverpool.
The British betting house Betfair also has Liverpool at 9-5, with Real Madrid at 23-20.
But Sky Sports pundit, and former Liverpool star, Danny Murphy believes his old team has “a hell of a chance” against the Spanish powerhouse.
“I don’t see Real Madrid play and not concede lots of chances. They might score but Liverpool will create so many chances in the game,” Murphy said. “I think if Liverpool could have chosen Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, they’d have chosen Madrid.”
Kickoff on May 26 is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. Eastern European Summer Time in Kiev, which is 8:45 p.m. in Spain, 7:45 p.m. in the U.K., and 2:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the United States, 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time.
Fans who plan to make the trip to Ukraine to take in the UEFA Champions League Final in person will need some luck and good timing to obtain tickets to the game. Despite the final being the biggest single game for Liverpool in 11 years, the Reds have been allocated only 16,626 tickets for the 70,050-seat stadium. Prices range from a high of £394, or about $550, down to £61, or roughly $85.
Fans who want to take a stab at buying those Liverpool-allocated tickets can click on this link, and to get more information. Real Madrid were allocated the same number of tickets, and the stadium’s capacity will be reduced to 63,000 for the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final.