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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL: The tactics Liverpool need to abolish Real Madrid's dominance

In a Champions League campaign that has seen 44 goals scored in the 12 quarter-final and semi-final fixtures alone, 2017/18 is clearly the year Europe's finest clubs forgot how to defend.

Nobody is complaining, particularly not Liverpool fans, who have watched their team benefit enormously this season from disorganised defences. Their counter-pressing tactics have terrorised everyone, with the front three scoring 29 Champions League goals between them so far.

Real Madrid could be about to experience the full force of Jurgen Klopp's explosive gegenpressing football. Zinedine Zidane's side have displayed plenty of chaotic defending themselves this season and, relying on individual quality over tactical organisation, their attack-minded system makes them particularly vulnerable. Liverpool might just relish this one.

Here are three tactical reasons why Liverpool should beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday:

1) An early blitz could expose Real's open midfield and awkward formation lines

Real have been strangely tactic-less under Zidane despite the Frenchman regularly switching between a 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2, and 4-3-3; in all of these formations they are open in midfield and generally sloppy in their shape. Bayern Munich should have beaten them comfortably in both legs of a semi-final that exposed just how easy it is to pass the ball through Real.

The Spaniard's don't press well collectively, and consequently they often stand off their markers altogether, sitting in three distinct lines with far too much space in between each one; their formation should be more compressed and their pressing more unified.

Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum should be able to pass the ball straight through the midfield into the feet of Roberto Firmino, who has a key role dropping off the front line. The Brazilian's movement into the space between defence and a zig-zag midfield should cause mayhem, particularly since he will be afforded space to turn in possession:

Assuming Liverpool get off to a typically quick start, characterised by a high press and rapid vertical balls through the centre, Real's chaotic tactics could lead to an early goal or two for the English side.

2) Real's marauding full-backs give impetus to Liverpool's front three

Another big feature of the semi-finals was Bayern consistently feeding the ball into the channels, exposing Real's use of attacking full-backs again and again. It was quite remarkable to see both Marcelo and Dani Carvajal (or Lucas Vazquez) charge forward at every opportunity, leaving huge gaps behind for slide passes into the wingers; Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane might just run riot.

Klopp's front three tend to stay narrow in order to link easily with one another and overwhelm the centre-backs, creating a three-on-two. Salah and Mane will look to operate in the channels between the centre-back and full-back – which should be pretty easy given how often Marcelo and Carvajal will be MIA:

3) Liverpool's full-backs can find space either side of a narrow midfield

Crossing has become an important tactic at Liverpool since Philippe Coutinho's departure. The Brazilian used to help work the ball into the box when the opposition sat deep, but now it is the superb whipped crosses of Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold that do the damage.

Zidane is likely to play a winger-less 4-3-1-2 formation, primarily to add an extra body in central midfield (as he often does away from the Bernabeu) but also to accommodate starting Isco, just back from injury, in his preferred number ten role. The result should be an overly-narrow Real midfield that leaves space in wide positions for Liverpool's full-backs to receive possession and find time to cross the ball.

This is frequently an issue for Real. Bayern attempted a quite remarkable 66 crosses over the two legs of the semi-finals, taking advantage of Real's inability to cover the wide areas or get across quickly enough to support the full-backs.

It is a situation made considerably worse when one of the opponent's centre-backs dribbles the ball out of defence. Mats Hummels drew the Real midfield towards him on numerous occasions, creating even more space out wide. If Virgil van Dijk does something similar then Robertson and Alexander-Arnold can win the final for Liverpool:

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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