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Posted at: May 26, 2018, 2:02 AM; last updated: May 26, 2018, 2:02 AM (IST)

OVER TO KIEV

Mo Salah’s Liverpool look to stop Real Madrid’s bid for third consecutive Champions League title

Kiev, May 25

A thrilling run inspired by Mohamed Salah has taken Liverpool to tomorrow’s Champions League final in Kiev against Real Madrid, where now Jurgen Klopp’s side must stop the Spanish giants from winning the trophy for the third year running.

Real have seen this as their competition ever since winning the first five European Cups in a row, and this is another golden era for them, in which they are dreaming of making it a fourth Champions League in five years.

Neither Atletico Madrid (twice) nor Juventus have been able to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from inflicting pain on them in recent finals.

But Liverpool’s own attacking quality gives them reason to believe and suggests the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital could be the scene of an unforgettable encounter.

In terms of history alone, this is a dream final. Real’s 12 European Cup wins puts them way ahead of the rest, but Liverpool have lifted the famous trophy five times themselves, most recently in 2005, defying all the odds against AC Milan in Istanbul. This time, under Klopp, their adventure started against Hoffenheim in the playoffs last August, on through stunning wins over Manchester City and Roma via a 3-3 draw in Seville when they had been three goals up.

Goals galore

They have scored a record 46 goals in all in this season’s Champions League, with Salah netting 10 of those — the Egyptian has 44 in all competitions since joining from Roma last year. Klopp has lost his last five major finals as a coach, including the 2013 Champions League with Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich, and the 2016 Europa League with Liverpool against Sevilla.

Experience means his team have to be the outsiders in Kiev — none of the squad have ever played in a Champions League final before — but Klopp knows Zinedine Zidane’s side cannot dismiss them.

Mohamed Salah will of course be so important, especially if Marcelo is unable to resist the temptation to abandon his left-back position and join the Real attack. While Gareth Bale is unlikely to make Zidane’s line-up, how will the Liverpool midfield cope against Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, their central defence against Ronaldo?

Five for CR7?

Ronaldo could win his fifth Champions League. That would equal the individual record, and leave him in sight of yet another Ballon d’Or. Zinedine Zidane is on the brink of a third straight CL win as a coach.  — AFP

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