Three key duels in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool

The contributions of Ronaldo and Salah could shape the final. (AFP/Getty Images)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Three key duels in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool

  • Marcelo will have to find a way to stop Salah
  • Ronaldo will come up against the mountainous van Dijk

The two highest scoring sides in this season's Champions League face off for the title when defending champions Real Madrid and Liverpool go head-to-head in Kiev on Saturday. With goals seemingly guaranteed in the Ukrainian capital, we look at the key matchups where the game could be won and lost.

Virgil van Dijk vs. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is looking to join an esteemed group of 10 players to win five European Cups by scoring in his fourth separate final.
After a slow start to the season, the World Player of the Year has been in stunning form since the turn of the year, scoring 30 goals in 23 appearances for club and country in 2018.
Ronaldo leads the Champions League goalscorers charts for the sixth consecutive season with 15, but will come up against the world's most expensive defender in £75 million ($100 million) Dutchman Virgil van Dijk in Kiev.
Van Dijk already looks worth the massive price Liverpool paid Southampton for his services in January, as much for the improvement he has inspired in those around him as his own performances.
"I feel also personally much more confident when you know you have a really good partner next to you," said Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren.
"He's a leader, he takes control," added right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. "He's really got authority."

Mohamed Salah vs. Marcelo

Salah has been the star turn of Liverpool's season, scoring 44 goals in his debut season at Anfield to plunder a series of individual Player of the Year awards.
The Egyptian should get plenty of space to showcase his blistering pace and new-found calm in front of goal in the space normally left unoccupied by Madrid's cavalier left-back Marcelo.
Salah exploited the gaps left by the Brazilian on numerous occasions when Roma were eliminated by Madrid from the Champions League two seasons ago, when Salah lacked the killer finishing touch he has demonstrated this season to take his chances.
Bayern Munich right-back Joshua Kimmich scored in both legs of this season's semi-final against Real with Marcelo caught out of position.
However, the Madrid vice-captain, now in his 11th year at the Bernabeu, makes up for his defensive liabilities by bombing forward at every opportunity to wreak havoc at the other end.
"I know exactly how I have to play," insisted Marcelo on Friday.
The flying full-back has scored against Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern on route to the final, and also has plenty of positive experience in Champions League finals having netted in 2014 and 2016, in a penalty shootout, against Atletico Madrid.

Roberto Firmino vs. Sergio Ramos

Overshadowed by Salah's sensational season, Firmino also has 10 Champions League goals to his name this season and is the key starting point for Jurgen Klopp's pressing game.
"He's not bothered about hard work, which is another important thing," said Klopp when Firmino recently extended his contract to 2023. "For an offensive player that is pretty rare in world football."
Described as a cross between a goalscoring number nine and creative number 10 by Brazil coach Tite, Liverpool will hope Firmino's movement can drag another Madrid Champions League specialist in Ramos out of position.
Madrid captain Ramos embodies this Real side as he tends to save his best for the big occasion.
The Spaniard started Real's recent run of European dominance with a stoppage time equaliser against Atletico in the 2014 final and also scored against Real's local rivals two years later in another all-Madrid showpiece.


‘Media coverage fuels racism’: Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling

Updated 16 min 27 sec ago
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‘Media coverage fuels racism’: Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling

  • Two screenshots were posted on Sterling’s Instagram account highlighting contrasting coverage of young City teammates buying properties
  • On Instagram, Sterling only briefly touched on Saturday’s incident at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium when a man appeared to aggressively hurl abuse at him

MANCHESTER: British newspapers are helping to “fuel racism” with their portrayal of black footballers, Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling said on Sunday as police investigate whether he was racially abused during a Premier League match at Chelsea.
Two screenshots were posted on Sterling’s Instagram account highlighting contrasting coverage of young City teammates buying properties.
When Tosin Adarabioyo bought a house the headline in January called it a “mansion” and highlighted that the purchase was made despite the player “having never started a Premier League match.” There was more positive coverage of Phil Foden, who is white, buying a house for his mother also for around £2 million ($2.5 million).
“This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an(d) aggressive behavior,” Sterling wrote on Instagram. “So for all the newspapers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity and give all players an equal chance.”
Sterling called the coverage “unacceptable.”
“You have two young players starting out their careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing,” Sterling wrote, “which is buy a new house for their mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look at how the newspapers get their message across for the young black player and then for the young white player.”
The 24-year-old Sterling has had an uneasy relationship with the media, with critical coverage before the World Cup in Russia of his decision to get a tattoo of an assault rifle on his right leg. He said it was a tribute to his late father, who was shot dead when Sterling was 2.
On Instagram, Sterling only briefly touched on Saturday’s incident at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium when a man appeared to aggressively hurl abuse at him as the ball was being retrieved on the byline. Police are reviewing footage that circulated widely online during City’s 2-0 loss.
“I just want to say, I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point heard I will speak up,” Sterling wrote. “Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game, as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better.”
The previous weekend in the Premier League, a banana skin was thrown at Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he celebrated scoring against Tottenham in the Premier League’s north London derby.
English soccer’s anti-racism organization, Kick It Out, complained Sunday that the chairmen of the Premier League, Football Association and Chelsea had not spoken out about the alleged abuse faced by Sterling.
“It has to be dealt with at the top,” Kick It Out chairman Herman Ouseley said. “We do not have any leadership at the top of the game to speak out, they rely on Kick It Out.”
A Chelsea spokesman said: “We’re aware of reports and video footage. We will investigate the matter and take the strongest possible action where necessary.”
The Metropolitan Police said no arrests had been made but they were also looking at the incident.
“We are aware of a video circulating online in which it is claimed racial abuse was allegedly directed at a player at a Chelsea v Manchester City game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, December 8,” the police said in a statement.
“We will review the footage to determine whether any offenses have been committed.”