Liverpool and Real Madrid are set for their Champions League final showdown. What will decide the star-studded title bout?
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid is an iconic Champions League final. Between them, the two clubs have been crowned champions of Europe on 17 occasions, notching up a combined 22 final appearances in total, accounting for more than a third of those ever played in 60 previous years of competition.
Going into the game, despite their free scoring journey to the final, Liverpool are the underdogs. Real have lifted the trophy in three of the last four years, and last season they became the first club to successfully defend their title in the Champions League era.
But the final is still tremendously difficult to call and Liverpool have strengths that their lofty opponents do not. So, where might the game be won and lost?
Research provided by LeoVegas Sport can reveal that Liverpool have been more clinical and more efficient in front of goal than Real in Europe this season.
Liverpool have outscored Saturday's opponents by 10 goals, yet have had fewer attempts on goal. Real's 30 goals have come from 208 efforts, a success rate of 14.4%, while the Reds have scored 40 times from just 189 shots on goal, at a 21.2% success rate.
Liverpool (603) have also had fewer attacks compared to Los Blancos (678). Similarly, Liverpool have made less runs into the attacking third (173 vs 226) and runs into key areas (134 vs 170).
Both teams have a superstar goalscorer, and as far as the individuals are concerned these trends are reflected in their numbers as well. Cristiano Ronaldo has taken as many as 79 shots to score his 15 Champions League goals this season, finding the net 19% of the time. Mohamed Salah, on the other hand, has scored with 24% of his 41 shots, netting 10 goals.
The key could well be timing - when the goals are scored.
Liverpool typically start fast and have scored a disproportionate amount (16) of their 40 goals in the opening third of Champions League games this season. In the final half hour, that number is 11. And the closing stages of games is when Liverpool have shown to be their most vulnerable, leaking five of the 13 goals they have conceded in the competition during the final 15 minutes.
Liverpool have only conceded four goals in the first half of games, compared to nine in the second. That plays to Real's strengths, as the reigning champions have scored six times in the last 15 minutes of games alone, and 14 times in the second half as a whole.
What's more, Real have not conceded a single goal in the final 15 minutes. They also keep things relatively tight in the opening stages and have conceded only five times in the first half hour when Liverpool are at their most potent.
Real's most vulnerable period is the 30 minute spell immediately after halftime when they have leaked seven goals, particularly between the 61st and 75th minutes. The bad news for Liverpool is that this is when they have scored fewest.
Real are likely to dominate the game, so the key for Liverpool will be to start fast, take their chances as they come, and pray that they can hold it together when the inevitable charge comes later on.