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.


Iranian fans attempt to disrupt Portugal’s sleep at hotel

Updated 15 min 11 sec ago
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Iranian fans attempt to disrupt Portugal’s sleep at hotel

  • Hundreds of Iranian fans spent several overnight hours surrounding the hotel where Portugal’s national team is based
  • Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was filmed by Portuguese TV RTP late at night by the window using gestures to ask the Iranian fans to be silent

SARANSK: Hundreds of Iranian fans spent several overnight hours surrounding the hotel where Portugal’s national team is based, making loud noises in an attempt to disrupt their opponents’ sleep before a decisive World Cup match later Monday.
Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was filmed by Portuguese TV RTP late at night by the window using gestures to ask the Iranian fans to be silent, but Monday morning there were still a few dozen of them playing loud music near the hotel in the Saransk city center.
Iran can only advance to the next stage of the World Cup if it beats the European champions. Portugal only needs a draw, but also aims to take the top position in Group B ahead of Spain.
Saransk police said they received their first calls about the noise about 11 p.m. Sunday, when a first wave of Iran fans arrived and started singing outside the hotel. That forced Ronaldo to show up, which convinced supporters to leave.
Then a second wave came and did not stop making noise for several hours. Police then blocked roads nearby, but the main avenue across the hotel was still open, which allowed Iran fans to keep their effort in smaller numbers.
Iran fan and IT consultant Mehdi Fayez arrived Monday morning after reading messages from supporters saying they needed to trouble Portugal to stand a better chance of winning the match.
“I love Ronaldo, I love Portugal, but this is a big game. We have to do all it takes,” a still joyful Fayez said, as he held an Iranian flag on the back of his head.
Montreh Fayoud, one of the several Iranian women that are attending their first World Cup, disagreed.
“We were coming back from dinner and saw all these Iranians here. When I found the reason, I decided to leave,” she said.
At about noon on Monday Portugal players had a quick walk around the hotel, but it is uncertain whether they will walk around the city as they did before other matches in Russia.