The 5 key men who could decide the 2018 Champions League Final…

The stage is set in Kiev for record-chasing Real Madrid to do battle with Liverpool, England’s most successful team in European competition.

With the talent within both squads, including the two of the world’s most potent forwards on display, we can hopefully expect one of the most thrilling Champions League finals in recent years, but which men will have the biggest impact in the Ukrainian capital Saturday night?
 

Salah

Mohamed Salah’s debut season at Liverpool following his £38m summer move from Roma has been nothing short of spectacular, impressing both domestically and in European competition.

The Premier League Player of the Year has netted 44 goals in 51 appearances for his club, just three goals shy of Liverpool legend Ian Rush’s record of 47 during the 1983/84 season, so it’s unsurprising the Egyptian has been instated as the 7/4 second favourite for the 2018 Ballon d’Or, behind the unsurprising figure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Liverpool faithful will be hoping he can continue his form for their biggest game of the season and exploit Real Madrid’s defensive weaknesses.
 
 

Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly breaks records by the day, and this season has been no different, with his feats this term having included scoring in 13 consecutive matches (24 goals in total during that run) and becoming the first player to find the net in every group match in a Champions League season.

Saturday’s final could see the Portuguese superstar set new heights yet again. Cristiano has the opportunity to become the first player to win the trophy five times in the Champions League era, as well as become the first player to score in consecutive finals and to score in four separate finals.

Considering the fact he has scored 50% (15) of Real Madrid’s 30 Champions League goals this campaign, it’s hard to back against the five-time Ballon d’Or winner having a huge impact on this weekend’s final.
 
 

Milner

While James Milner at first glance could seem a strange selection, a deeper look into his statistics in the Champions League this season and his inclusion becomes considerably clearer.

He made headlines in the semi-final against Roma when he took his tally of assists in this season’s competition to nine, a tournament history high, a total that is three more than Real Madrid’s entire midfield of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Marco Asensio and Casemiro have mustered combined.
 

StatisticsNo. CompletedRank within LFC Players (UCL)
Assists91st
Tackles20=1st
Touches13361st
Passes4772nd
Crosses401st
Blocks261st

There has been more to Milner’s game than just providing goals however, having ranked highly in key midfield duties against other Liverpool players in the competition this season, including having the most touches and attempting the most crosses of any other player.
 
 

Firmino

One-third of Liverpool’s deadly attacking trio, Roberto Firmino has had his most productive season at the Merseyside club since joining back in June 2015.

The Brazilian, who will be going to his first ever World Cup this summer, has contributed his fair share in Liverpool’s European success this season having been directly involved in exactly 45% (18) of their 40 Champions League goals which is more than any other player in the competition this term, scoring 10 and assisting eight.
 

2017/18UCL GoalsUCL AssistsTotals
R. Firmino10818
C. Ronaldo15217
M. Salah10414
S. Mane9211
E. Dzeko8311

Firmino has netted a goal of his own and/or delivered an assist in nine of his 12 appearances in the Champions League this season and will pose a real threat for the Madrid back line, especially if their attention is potentially preoccupied with Mohamed Salah.
 
 

Zidane

Zinedine Zidane has had somewhat of a topsy-turvy season at Real Madrid, from scooping the UEFA Super Cup in August and the FIFA Club World Cup in December to January’s humiliating 2-1 Copa del Rey defeat against Leganes and finally seeing Barcelona cruise to the La Liga title without a fight.

The Frenchman’s tenure in the Madrid hotseat come under some severe pressure, but his team’s deep run in the competition yet again has all but salvaged his job.

Zidane’s ability to win trophies is undeniable, having won eight honours in the two-and-a-half years in charge at the Bernabeu, including two Champions League titles in the last two years.
 

CompetitionReal Madrid Winners (Under Zidane)
UEFA Champions League2015/16 & 2016/17
La Liga2016/17
UEFA Super Cup2016 & 2017
FIFA Club World Cup2016 & 2017
Spanish Supercopa2017

Were he to lift the trophy in Kiev, the 1998 World Cup winner would become the first manager in history to win Europe’s premier club competition in three consecutive campaigns.

This vital experience and knack for winning on the big stage could prove to be the deciding factor in this year’s final, especially as his counterpart Jurgen Klopp has lost five of the six major finals he has been involved in, including his two previous European finals.


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(Statistics, data and odds correct of date and time published).

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