THE Champions League final pits back-to-back champions Real Madrid together with five-time winners Liverpool in Kiev. The excellent Dan McCulloch (@danmcc84) shares his thoughts on the best bets.
Real Madrid v Liverpool | Saturday 26th May 2018, 19:45 | BT Sport
In contrast to the FA Cup final, which was expected to be dreary (and lived down to it), the Champions League decider is expected to be an entertaining affair. This is seen in the goal expectancy numbers, with Over 2.5 Goals a best price of 1/2.
Given that Real Madrid’s league games have averaged 3.63 goals per-game and Liverpool’s 3.21 goals per-game, it is easy to see why, especially as both sides matches in Europe have been similarly high-scoring. Factoring in the group and knockout stages, Real Madrid’s matches have averaged 3.75 goals per-game and Liverpool’s an even higher 4.42 figure.
A goals-based bet may therefore seem the way to go but unfortunately, I rarely take anything lower than 5/6 on a goals line and don’t really fancy backing four goals or more when 13/10 isn’t available.
My attention therefore turns to the outright market. While it is hard to make a case for the prices being wrong, given the teams competing have been known about for three weeks and much money has changed hands, I do still believe that Liverpool to win in 90 minutes is slightly too big at 54/25 with Marathon.
In Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, the Reds clearly have the firepower to harm a Real Madrid backline that was cut open again and again in their semi-final against Bayern Munich. Across that tie, Real lost the Expected Goals tally in both legs, the shot count 39-16 and shots on-target count 15-7.
There is no doubt they have had a tougher set of fixtures en-route to Kiev, with a group featuring Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund and knockout matches against PSG, Juventus and Bayern. However, I believe it was luck rather than nous that saw them past their German opponents and feel that Liverpool have the firepower to make 54/25 look a very attractive price.
Clearly Jurgen Klopp’s men have their shortcomings. The sight of Danny Ings or Dominic Solanke coming off the bench is hardly likely to strike fear in their opponents in the same way that Gareth Bale or Isco would, and I am also concerned at how they managed to concede four against an insipid Roma side.
Their lack of depth throughout the squad is the reason that I would rather back the Merseysiders in 90 minutes, rather than to win the trophy, and when a high-scoring affair is likely, I would always rather back one side to emerge victorious, rather than keep the draw onside and take an inferior price.
Mane can make his mark
A further bet I like here is Sadio Mane anytime at 5/2 with Paddy Power. Against Bayern, midfielder Lucas Vasquez was forced to play right-back in the absence of Dani Carvajal and he had a bit of a shocker, although he was not helped by the lack of protection from Luka Modric in front of him.
Carvajal is back for the final and clearly a better defender than Vasquez. He is very quick, too, but few players in world football can keep up with Mane and I don’t see him getting much protection in this encounter.
The Senegalese has scored nine times in 12 games in Europe this season and has scored in four of his sides’ six knockout matches. In what is likely to be a high-scoring affair, I feel that 5/2 is too big for him to find the net here.
Real Madrid v Liverpool – Liverpool to win (54/25 Marathon)
Real Madrid v Liverpool – Sadio Mane to score at anytime (5/2 Paddy Power)