How can Liverpool beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev on Saturday? We’ve checked the stats…

Tottenham and Juventus both beat Real Madrid 3-1 in Europe’s elite competition this season – but how did they overcome the reigning champions?


In November last year, Spurs looked to pack the midfield at Wembley and set up in an unfamiliar 3-5-1-1 formation, with Harry Winks partnering Eric Dier, initially, and Christian Eriksen in central midfield.

Zinedine Zidane elected to use his favoured 4-3-1-2 system, with Isco playing behind Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Centre-back Toby Alderweireld was forced off through injury on 24 minutes and was replaced with Moussa Sissoko – with Dier dropping into the defence.

As the graphic below shows, Tottenham played centrally and deep – with a hotspot of activity in their own penalty box.

Only Harry Kane, Eriksen and Dele Alli averaged in Madrid’s half – while Real had twice as many players averaging in Spurs’ territory.

Despite losing the game, Real outnumbered Tottenham across a raft of key stats; winning more duels, creating more chances, taking more shots, passes and crosses and having 63 per cent possession.

Spurs only came out on top for aerials won, of which Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez topped the team with three each – primarily from dealing with Madrid’s 33 crosses.

However, while Real were forced wide in a packed midfield, Spurs countered through the middle and two of their three goals were created through the centre of the pitch.

In April this year, Juventus brushed the reigning champions aside at the Bernabeu with a similar defensive approach, but, in a slight contrast to Spurs, concentrated in countering Real down the flanks.

Real set up as they did against Tottenham five months earlier, while Juve started in Liverpool’s default 4-3-3 formation.

The graphic below shows how Madrid, again, looked to attack down the flanks, particularly via Marcelo down the left – with the Brazilian being one of eight players’ average position being in the opposition’s half.

As a result, Juve achieved success by exploiting space vacated by the full-backs, but, like Spurs, had considerable activity in their own penalty box, dealing with Real’s attacks.

The Old Lady managed only one per cent more possession than Spurs had five months earlier, having 38 per cent of the ball, and recorded similar disparities statistically – with Madrid also outnumbering Juve in seven out of the eight stats.

To summarise, Tottenham were resolute, restrained the wing-backs – although Kieran Trippier assisted Alli’s opener – and sought to exploit Madrid centrally – epitomised by Tottenham’s third goal, shown in the graphic below.

In contrast, Juve sought to exploit Real’s rampaging full-backs to find space and carve openings – as was the case in their third goal, also shown below.


The signs are positive for Liverpool. The Reds are top scorers in the competition by some way with 40 goals, ahead of Real in second with 30.

Liverpool & Real top scorers in CL, 2017/18

Ronaldo 15
Firmino 10
Salah 10
Mane 9
Coutinho 5
Benzema 4
Marcelo 3
Oxlade-Chamberlain 2

The graphic below shows how Jurgen Klopp’s side are also more lethal from range, hitting six goals from outside the box compared to Real’s four.

In addition, Liverpool have been more dangerous from set pieces, scored more big chances, had more shots on target and more touches in the opposition’s box.

In term of general play, both sides are evenly matched, with Liverpool edging dribbles and aerials and Real taking more touches, crosses, passes and possession.

Liverpool & Real dribbles attempted, CL, 2017/18

Mane 60
Salah 39
Firmino 32
Ronaldo 30
Coutinho 24
Isco 22

Like Juve, Liverpool could look to exploit Real’s full-backs through Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah – with both players also able to cut in on fast breaks from wide.

While Liverpool and Real have potent attacks, both have questionable defences – but the Reds have conceded fewer with 13 compared to Real’s 15 shipped.

With the exception of Bayern Munich, Real have been the most prolific side for firing crosses this season – so Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren will be required to keep the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos at bay.

Liverpool have been prone to making mistakes that lead to shots – culpable on six occasions compared with Real’s three – with Lovren making two that led to goals, although Madrid stopper Keylor Navas has also made two costly errors.

However, Real have been far worse at missing big chances, with Ronaldo being the main culprit by some way – miscuing 11 gaping chances.

The graphic below shows both sides’ activity and average positions in the competition so far and reveals a stark similarity.

Like Pochettino, Klopp might look to restrain his full-backs, to prevent their counterparts from firing crosses into the box.

But the German will also be aware of how Spurs scored from a fast break at Wembley and how Juve exploited Marcelo and Dani Carvajal so effectively last month – with Salah and Mane perfect candidates to fulfil those tasks.

Whatever the approach, the game will almost certainly produce goals – with Europe’s free-scoring leaders going head to head for the ultimate prize.

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