Liverpool Star Sadio Mane Declares ‘We Can Beat Real Madrid’ in Champions League Final

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane ‘honestly believes’ that the Reds have it in them to beat back-to-back defending champions Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kyiv later this month, in what promises to be an action-packed game.

Liverpool booked their place in the showpiece event with a 7-6 aggregate semi final win over Roma, while Real relied on grit and experience to see off the challenge of Bayern Munich.

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The Reds are seen as the underdogs, but Mane and his teammates do not fear Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and the rest of Los Blancos.

“We honestly believe we can beat them,” the speedy Senegalese international is quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“I can say at this moment we do have a lot of respect for Madrid, they are one of the best teams in the world, but we are Liverpool – we are strong and we can beat any team in the world. We believe that,” he added.

“We believe we can go there and beat them. We are going to go there and fight for the fans, for the club, fight without fear and win the final. We have the players. We can score goals, we have shown that and there is nothing to be afraid of for us.”

Only Paris Saint-Germain (25) scored more than Liverpool’s 23 goals during the group stage, while the Reds have scored 17 further goals in six knockout legs since. It puts their European tally for the season (excluding qualifiers) at 40, compared to Real’s 30 – ​a new Champions League record.

Between them, Liverpool’s front three of Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah have scored 89 times this season in all competitions.

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The trio alone have contributed 29 of Liverpool’s 40 Champions League goals (again excluding qualifiers) and it will almost certainly be down to them if Jurgen Klopp’s side are going to emerge victorious.

The final will take place on Saturday May 26.

Before then, Liverpool will face Chelsea back in domestic action in the Premier League, as they seek to confirm their final position in the Premier League’s top four.


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FanView: Why Neither of This Year’s UCL Finalists Deserves to Be There & Why They Shouldn’t Care

It would be either brave or foolish to try to predict the outcome of this year’s UEFA Champions League final, after what has been a wonderfully unpredictable tournament. However, we can reasonably expect that the clash between Liverpool and Real Madrid – which will take place in Kiev on 26th May – is unlikely to be a dull affair.

Both sides have played some scintillating football and scored phenomenal goals – none more so than Cristiano Ronaldo’s masterful overhead kick away to Juventus in the quarter-final. And yet – in this writer’s view – neither side entirely deserves to be in this year’s final.

No, you didn’t misread that. Both Liverpool and Real Madrid can consider themselves extremely fortunate to have reached this year’s Champions League final.

Admittedly, this is a controversial position. Real Madrid have hardly had a kind draw this year – they had to knock out ​Paris Saint-Germain, ​Juventus and ​Bayern Munich to earn their right to play in Kiev.

Reds fans have a right to feel aggrieved, too. After all, Liverpool ​crushed FC Porto away from home, ​thrashed Manchester City at home and ​neutralised them at the Etihad, and put a staggering ​seven goals past AS Roma – the same side which had eliminated the mighty Barcelona.

So yes, there will be howls of protest from Madrid and Liverpool. However, I daresay there won’t be many in Manchester, Rome, Turin or Munich.

Of course, every team that wins anything needs a little bit of good fortune along the way. Yet there’s still a colossal difference between a little bit of good fortune and outrageously good luck – which is what both the Reds and Los Blancos have enjoyed this year.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a closer look at their matches, starting with the Reds.

Yes, Liverpool were magnificent in the first leg of the quarter-final, but Raheem Sterling can still count himself desperately unlucky that none of the officials noticed Andy Robertson clearly appearing to foul him in the penalty area.

Then, of course, there was the perfectly legitimate Leroy Sané goal that wasn’t given in the second leg, which would have left City just 3-2 down on aggregate.

As for the Roma tie, the Serie A side were admittedly fortunate only to ​lose 5-2 at Anfield, as their performance was little short of comical. The Italians were also awarded a highly debatable penalty towards the end.

Yet, if we’re talking debatable penalty decisions, the Reds twice escaped punishment in the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico. Loris Karius appeared to trip Edin Džeko, who was wrongly adjudged to be offside, and Trent Alexander-Arnold appeared to block a goalbound shot with his arm.

Both offences would potentially have earned the Liverpool players red cards.

Yes, Liverpool could have had a penalty of their own in the early stages of the match, and the one which wasgiven against the Reds looked harsh. Yet the first decision came shortly before the Reds opened the scoring, while the second was in the dying moments of injury time – so neither of them could be considered pivotal in the tie.

As for Madrid, they also benefited from one hotly debated penalty decision.

Juventus’ Medhi Benatia was controversially adjudged to have committed a foul in injury time at the Bernabéu, after Madrid had somehow contrived to throw away the commanding three-goal lead they’d established in Turin.

Referee Michael Oliver’s decision so enraged Juve keeper Gianluigi Buffon that the veteran was given his marching orders for protesting too vociferously – before later colourfully claiming that Oliver had a ‘​bag of rubbish for a heart’.

Yet Madrid’s good luck isn’t really about refereeing decisions that went their way. Put simply, they just haven’t been very good in their last three matches. In their home leg against Juve, the final score of 3-1 to the visitors actually flattered the home side.

And as for their semi-final against Bayern, the Bavarians must be kicking themselves, as they had enough chances to hammer a thoroughly uninspired Madrid. Even after gifting the Spanish side two goals over the two legs – including one of the most farcical pieces of goalkeeping you’ll ever see from Sven Ulreich – the Germans still presented a serious threat to Madrid until the very end of the tie.

When you look at it from that point of view, it seems bold to claim that either the Reds or Los Blancos are thoroughly deserving finalists.

Yet this all begs one important question: so what? The question of who does or doesn’t deserve to win is of far greater importance to losers than winners.

Can you imagine Sir Alex Ferguson losing any sleep over the outrageous ‘smash and grab’ his side pulled off against Bayern Munich in 1999? Or José Mourinho fretting about his side’s suspiciously offside goal against Barcelona at the San Siro in the 2010 semi-final, or how lucky his side were in the return leg at the Nou Camp?

Neither can I. The records don’t say, “United won the 1999 Champions League but were flukey so-and-sos.” Or: “Inter won the 2010 Champions League but boy, did they ride their luck.” They just say who won. Deserving to win is merely the icing on the cake.

I’ll leave you with a slightly paraphrased Nick Hancock joke, which was originally about Brazil being knocked out of the 1978 World Cup:

‘Manchester City, Juventus, Roma and Bayern Munich all claimed the moral victory. Then they paraded their moral victory trophies through the streets, in their moral victory buses.’

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PHOTOS: Real Madrid Legend Raul Trains With Spurs As He Begins Coaching Qualifications

​The former Real Madrid, Schalke 04 and Spain legend Raul Gonzalez trained with Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday afternoon, as he continues to work toward gaining his professional coaching qualifications.  

Raul trained alongside the likes of Kane, Dele Ali and Christian Eriksen at Tottenham’s training ground in Enfield. The ex-Real Madrid superstar is aiming to complete his UEFA B and A Licenses with the Spanish FA, as reported by the Daily Mail.

In a glittering career, which spanned over three decades Raul, won La Liga on six occasions and the Champions League on three, scoring 383 goals along the way. 

Spurs and their players, alike, were quick to make the most of being in the presence of a true legend of European football, taking to twitter to post comments and pictures with the great man.

Raul is taking part in a special six-week coaching course, which aims to fast track ex-professional players into coaching positions within academies. The course curriculum incorporates topics such as: club management, nutrition and psychology. As well as field-trips to see how top clubs and coaches operate – like the one at Spurs’ training session on Thursday.

Raul is among 16 other ex-pros who are on the course, including former Spanish international stars Xavi, Victor Valdez, Xabi Alonso and Marco Senna, to name a few. Once completed, the candidates will be able to take charge of youth teams and after a probation period of a year, obtain a Pro License which will grant them the opportunity to work at first-team level. 

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‘We Will Be Ready’: Liverpool Boss Klopp Backs Reds to Deliver Ahead of Champions League Final

​Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp has backed his side to put in a top performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League final at the end of the month, but has admitted that Los Blancos will prove tricky opposition.

Speaking after his side’s 7-6 aggregate win over Roma in the semi-final, via the Liverpool Echo,  Klopp claimed that he’s had enough of being runners-up with the Reds.

​He said: “We were in the Europa League final, nobody tells me that. I see no trophies after these games. They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood. That’s a pity, that’s the game.

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“There’s still a job to do but that’s how it is. Going to a final is really nice but winning is even nicer. We will be ready, but it is Real Madrid. You cannot be more experienced in this competition.

​”I think 80% of the team of Real Madrid played all these finals. 
They win four times in the last five years. They are experienced, we are not, but we will be really on fire.”

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Liverpool last won the Champions League final in 2005, when the Reds famously came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 with AC Milan and then win the cup on penalties. Reds fans will be desperate to see their side lift the iconic trophy again, and will be eager to see how their side’s potent attacking lineup fares against Real Madrid’s back line.

Meanwhile, ​the Reds are believed to be chasing Chelsea wing back Kenedy, who could be available for around £20m. 

The Brazilian youngster has impressed on loan for Newcastle United this season, but Chelsea’s asking price could prove too steep for the Magpies given owner Mike Ashley’s notoriously stringent approach to allocating transfer funds.


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Spanish Football Expert Guillem Balague Comes to ‘Underdog’ Real Madrid’s Defence Ahead of UCL Final

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague has issued a warning to those that doubt Real Madrid’s capabilities of winning the Champions League for a third successive year in a row. The Spanish side booked their place in the final on Tuesday night against Bayern Munich, but many are seeing them as the underdogs to win the trophy.

BT Spors’ expert panel consisting of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have all ​spoken of the luck that has taken Los Blancos to Kiev this season, and all seemed to agree that should Liverpool make it to the final, they’ll be too much for Zinedine Zidane’s side.

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But now, Balague has responded – and he has a point. Madrid have been formidable over the last few years, and their track record proves it. Though the club haven’t been as convincing this season as they have in previous years, they’re in the final for a reason.

“I see. The team that has got to 4 champions league finals in 5 years are seen the underdogs Vs Liverpool/Roma. A reminder. They got to those finals (winning three titles in the process) with the same weaknesses that everyone seem to have identified. I wouldn’t be so confident.”

No matter who comes out on top between Liverpool and Roma on Wednesday night, an incredible final is in store this year. All three teams remaining in the competition each hold world class talent within them, and all have their own claim to rightfully lifting the trophy on May 26.

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Real Betis President Speaks on Barcelona Interest in Star Man & Possible Return for Real Madrid Flop

​Real Betis have insisted that Barcelona have not made contact with them over star man Fabian Ruiz, according to reports in Spain.

President Angel Haro was quoted in ​Mundo Deportivo as he opened up about the possibility of selling the central midfielder to their La Liga rivals, and revealed that there were no plans in place to let Ruiz leave for Camp Nou.

Ruiz has bagged three goals and six assists from 32 appearances in all competitions for Betis this term, with the 22-year-old enjoying a breakthrough campaign for Balompie during the current campaign.

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That form is believed to have alerted the newly crowned Spanish top flight champions to his potential availability, but Haro claimed that their best player would be going nowhere.

He said: “There has been nothing from Barcelona with regards to Fabian recently, no. We want the player to be focused and we want him to continue in Betis because he is growing with Betis.”

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde requires a replacement for the legendary Andres Iniesta, ​who is set to leave Catalonia after two decades of first-team service for the only club he has played for.

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La Blaugrana would certainly have the funds to land Ruiz if they wished, but it is unclear if they think he can make the step up as of yet.

Meanwhile, Haro has also commented on reports linking Betis with a sensational swoop for Real Madrid misfit Dani Ceballos.

The midfielder joined Los Blancos over Barca last summer in a £16.5m deal but has only featured 21 times – scoring twice – for Zinedine Zidane’s team in his first season at Santiago Bernabeu.

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(You may also be interested in: ​Real Madrid Congratulate Fierce Rivals Barcelona on Domestic Double Despite Guard of Honour Stance)

Only eight of those have come from the start and rumours have suggested he could just depart Real after 12 months. Haro, however, revealed that it wasn’t in Betis’ monetary interests to bring Ceballos back to Estadio Benito Villamarin in the close season.

He said: “We haven’t spoken recently. In December there was a theme but first you have to finish the season. Today is not an option. 

“I would not like to bring in pure and hard players. We have to go for players who want to stay at the club and see if they wish to remain here and not join other teams.”


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PHOTO: Real Madrid 2018/19 Home Kit Leaks Online Ahead of Official Unveiling

​Real Madrid’s home kit for the upcoming 2018/19 campaign appears to have been leaked online ahead of its official release.

The famous all-white ensemble has been given a little facelift ahead of next term, according to the images leaked on social media via new kit guru’s Footy Headlines, with black trim lines set to make a first appearance on Real’s home kit for the first time in three seasons.

The lines around the shirt and shorts had been blue and grey in tone since the 2014/15 campaign, but a return of a more traditional jet black hue will replace them this time around.

Three black hoops are expected to encircle the diameter of the socks, while the initials of Los Blancos will adorn the front of the footwear in something of a departure for the club.

Kit manufacturer adidas has chosen to go back to basics with the design for next year’s edition, but the club’s traditional crest and shirt sponsor of late – Fly Emirates – will take pride of place on the jersey as expected.

(You may also be interested in ​VIDEO: Karim Benzema Celebrates Bayern Brace & UCL Win With Humorous Instagram Livestream)

A tonal overlap collar and black stripes help to give the shirt a distinctive and updated look, with the jersey itself making up of adidas’ patented Climachill technology that is set to be debuted at this summer’s World Cup in Russia by a host of international teams.

The new strip is set to be unveiled sometime later in May. It is also thought that both the away strip and third kit choice will be officially revealed sometime later in the summer ahead of the new campaign getting underway too.

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Real Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich: Madrid Hold on to Win 4-3 on Aggregate After Weathering Bayern Storm

Real Madrid welcomed Bayern Munich to the Bernabeu with a 2-1 aggregate lead from the first leg. The visitors were quick off the mark with Joshua Kimmich scoring inside the first three minutes, but Madrid responded soon after when Karim Benzema headed home in the 11th minute. 

Real were first out the blocks in the second half, as Benzema capitalised on a terrible mistake from Sven Ulreich to bag his second of the night and put Madrid back in control. 

James Rodriguez gave the visitors a lifeline on 63 minutes, and constant pressure from Bayern followed. But despite their efforts the Bundesliga side could not find a way past Keylor Navas, and it was Madrid that booked a place in the Champions League final.

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Bayern had the perfect start as they got themselves back in the tie with a goal just three minutes into the game. Thomas Muller put a ball into the box, Sergio Ramos got in a muddle and failed to clear, and it fell kindly to Kimmich who made no mistake in finding the back of the net, finishing from close range.

Madrid responded, taking control of possession. Cristiano Ronaldo shot wide before Benzema put Madrid back in the driving seat, as he headed home from Marcelo’s cross.

The game became very open and end to end. Bayern looked like they were to retake the lead at the Bernabeu when Tolisso slotted a ball through to Robert Lewandowski, but the Polish forward failed to control the ball and went down under the challenge of Ramos.

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There was a real ebb and flow to the game with both sides having chances, but Bayern continued to look the most dangerous on the attack, and again looked sure to score just after the half hour mark when Muller headed the ball into the path of James after Lewandowski’s shot was parried away by Navas. But James subsequently ballooned the ball over the crossbar.

It was roles reversed as the second half kicked off, this time Madrid got the early goal. A soft back pass from Tolisso was inexcusably fumbled by Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich, allowing Benzema to race in an fire the ball into an empty net to put his side 4-2 up on aggregate.

Bayern looked to respond within minutes when David Alaba’s long range shot deflected on it’s way to goal, but Navas did well to save.

Luka Modric and Marcelo both put balls across the face of goal down the other end, before Ronaldo missed a sitter, and with it the chance put the game out of sight.

Bayern then found their second wind, with Alaba and Franck Ribery causing constant problems for Modric and Lucas Vasquez.

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The visitors pressure paid off in the 63rd minute when James’ shot rebounded back to the midfielder and he slotted home from what looked like an impossibly tight angle against his parent club, to give Bayern a lifeline.

Madrid responded with a double change as Gareth Bale and Casemiro entered the fray. But with 15 minutes remaining Bayern kept the pressure on and continued to search for a deserved goal.

Navas made a great save from Tolisso and James almost bagged himself a second.

Nicklas Sule cleared a rare chance for Madrid as he beat Ronaldo to the ball, summing up the central defenders impressive display in the absence of the injured Jerome Boateng.

The last ten minutes saw a barrage of chances from the German side, who were trying everything. Ball after ball came into the Madrid box as Bayern gave it all they had to get the goal to take them to the final, but Navas denied them time and time again. Muller had a chance with the last kick off the game, but just couldn’t get on the end of the cross.

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‘How Is This Possible?’: Twitter Reacts as Real Madrid Scrape Past Bayern Munich to Reach UCL Final

Champions League holders Real Madrid are off to yet another final after drawing 2-2 at home with Bayern Munich on Tuesday night, winning 4-3 on aggregate.

​Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring just two minutes from kick-off, but Karim Benzema brought Los Blancos back level in the 10th minute. 

The Frenchman would capitalise on a crucial error from the Bayern keeper to give his side the lead as soon as the second half started.

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But pressure from Bayern paid off in the 62nd when Madrid loanee James Rodriguez brought his side to within one on aggregate with a shot from a tight angle.

Despite a remarkable attacking performance from Die Roten, Madrid were able to hold on, thanks to several key saves from Keylor Navas. 

Below are some of the best reactions from Twitter:

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​​(You may also be interested in: ​Frank Lampard Makes Bold Claim Regarding Philippe Coutinho Sale & Backs Reds to Make the UCL Final)


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Ronaldo Backs Real Madrid Namesake to Down Bayern But Pours Cold Water on Neymar Rumours

​Cristiano Ronaldo has been backed to down Bayern Munich with his big game personality by one of his namesakes.

Legendary Brazil striker Ronaldo told ​AS that the Portugal megastar was a man for the big occasion ahead of Real Madrid’s return fixture against the Bundesliga champions, who they lead 2-1 on aggregate in their Champions League semi final tie.

Bayern are the only team in this season’s competition that Ronaldo hasn’t scored against, but the now retired Ronaldo revealed why the forward – who scored a magnificent overhead kick against Juventus in the last eight – would prove to be the difference maker at Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

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He said: “It’s amazing what he’s doing. He’s playing less balls but he decides the same or better than before. He has a lot of resources and when the game gets ugly he turns up. His bicycle goal was something incredible – I have not tried it myself!”

The former marksman also offered his opinion on whether Real could sign ex-Barcelona superstar Neymar this summer – the Paris Saint-Germain talisman reportedly being unhappy in the French capital.

He continued: “I’ve heard a lot about Neymar and Real Madrid but I really think it’s very difficult to sign him. PSG paid a lot of money for him, I think it’s a very complicated deal for Real Madrid to one day sign Neymar. Right now I think it’s impossible.

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“Maybe in a few years, he will still be young but now I think it is impossible. I think he is doing well and he likes Paris, he wanted a change and he knew everything that was going to happen.”

Ronaldo, who also stated that he was ‘delighted’ to be associated with Los Blancos across the world in his ambassadorial role for the club, admitted that he was a huge fan of Zinedine Zidane and always had the belief that the Frenchman would make a great coach one day.

Zidane’s future in the Spanish capital is up in the air after Real failed to defend their league crown, and has stated that his time at the club doesn’t rest on whether Los Merengues retain the Champions League trophy this season.

(You may also be interested in ​’He Will Stay With Us’: Bayern Munich CEO Adamant That Robert Lewandowski Will Remain in Bavaria)

Ronaldo, though, thinks Zidane has all the hallmarks of a good manager and wants to see him remain in charge.

He said: “Zidane looked like a good coach – he loves football, like me, but for example I can not see more than one game a day while coaches see many more. 

“I saw him as a special player. He had no idea that he was going to be a coach but he knew that whatever it was would be very good. He has great respect and a great command of the dressing room.”

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