Before we transition into full off-season mode there is one more big match to deal with.
Champions League Final Preview
It is nice to have a little bad blood and a team looking for revenge in a big match.
The teams have changed a bit from 2018, especially Madrid which has a brand new backline compared to that team and has replaced Ronaldo with Vinícius Júnior. Liverpool hasn't changed quite as much but in the areas they have changed it has been an upgrade, and that will make them favorites to avenge the 2018 loss.
For long stretches this season, Liverpool have looked like they were the best team in the world. That makes it no surprise that they are here with the chance to play for a pretty unique treble.
They will come into the match a bit beat up, and that is understandable after having played every single possible match they could this season and 63 total matches.
The biggest question for Liverpool is around the midfield and if Fabinho and Thiago will be able to start. Both have been key players for Liverpool, Fabinho is among the best defensive midfielders and does an amazing job of making the system with the full-backs pushing high work.
Thiago is still simply one of the best all-around midfielders in the world:
The thing with Thiago is that you get about 2,000 minutes from him and you really hope they is there for some of the most important ones. I hope for the spectacle of this match he is able to play.
Madrid are a good team but they are off their previous highs from a few years ago. They also don't really fit with the normal pattern of what we think a good team is. They buck the trend of a "good team is one that presses the opponent."
The following from Ryan O'Hanlon is a great illustration of this, typically teams that accumulate the most points also have some the highest pressing numbers.
Madrid as a team only have 31.8 attacking third pressures per 90, which ranks 68th among the 98 teams in the top five European leagues.
At first this could be confusing but then you remember that this is a team that plays with a 29 year-old defensive midfielder, a 31 year-old midfielder, and a 35year-old midfielder. If those were my options I think I would make a similar choice that Carlo Ancelotti is making here. This team is one of the easiest to pass against but is still able to limit access to key areas. For opponents touches in the penalty area Madrid allows the 27th fewest among the 98 teams in the top five European leagues. The 20.5 they allow is only 3.5 more per match than the 16.0 that Liverpool allow.
It would be hard to go too much longer without giving mention to Madrid's key players.
If Madrid does win this match it is hard to imagine too many non-fluke situations where one or both of these players are pivotal for the performance.
Vinicius has exploded this season as one of the best wide players full stop, no need to add a for his age qualifier. It helps to play with the ageless wonder Benzema but I think that this also a result of a well-built team that puts these players in good situations and lets them be the focal points.
The Vinicius vs Trent Alexander-Arnold matchup will be a key one to watch and will be interesting to see which player ends up pushed back in this matchup.
Prediction and Odds
I don't have my normal simulation model for this match so I will have to look at what others have for this match.
FiveThirtyEight has this match 65% in favor of Liverpool and 35% for Real Madrid. The betting markets are roughly in line but with a bit less certainty in favor of Liverpool. The betting markets as I am writing this have Liverpool favored 60% to 40%.
My Prediction: 3 to 1 Liverpool.
Madrid's magic just comes up short, I can't get past some of the chances that they have conceded and how they have been able to avoid getting punished to the true extent of what they have given up. I see Liverpool coming out fast looking to keep Madrid pinned in, they are able to cut them open early to get a goal with their pressure. As the match progresses, Liverpool drop back a bit but are able add on as Madrid opens up in the second half.
Or Benzema does Benzema shit.
I think this will be a fun one.
It was a busy week with a bunch of content with the transition to end-of-season reviews.
A good place to start is the end-of-season key performance indicators for Arsenal. The team showed improvement and met or exceeded my goals for the season, even if they ultimately fell short of getting back into the Champions League.
I also started looking at my position by position reviews starting with the strikers
For premium subscribers I had a couple of articles, first was making the case for selling Kieran Tierney.
Then I did some analysis of the new deals for Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah.
Thanks for reading and Yee Haw 🤠