European giants collide in final
Leinster v Saracens
Live on BT Sport 2 and Channel 4
This year's Champions Cup final should be a truly gladiatorial showdown as two teams with no obvious weaknesses clash in Newcastle this weekend. Leinster have a flawless final record, with victories in all four appearances, while Saracens are the only remaining unbeaten side in the competition this season. Something has got to give at St James' Park in one of the most finely balanced finals for years.
Leinster primed for title defence
Leinster conquered all before them last season after dominating in the Champions Cup. Leo Cullen's side were in a class of their own throughout the tournament, although they were pushed all the way in a tight final. Leinster won all nine matches on their way to lifting the trophy but Racing 92 gave them a big scare before Isa Nacewa's late penalty edged them to a tense 15-12 victory in Bilbao.
This season's run to the final has not been flawless but Leinster still remain a huge force which will require an exceptional team to stop them. A 52-3 thrashing of Wasps in their pool opener set the tone and was a statement of intent from the Pro14 giants. In the second round of games, Leinster suffered their first European defeat since April 2017 after being beaten 28-27 in Toulouse.
Leinster reversed this loss in the return fixture as they topped their pool. The side were well below their best in the quarter-finals as 16 points from Ross Byrne steered them to a 21-18 home win over Ulster. But Leinster stepped up a gear in the last-four as they renewed their rivalry with Toulouse clinching a dominant 30-12 win, with 12 points from Johnny Sexton, at the Aviva Stadium.
Unbeaten Saracens target third European crown
Saracens have been relentless this season and have a realistic chance of completing a European and Premiership double. Mark McCall's side have shown no weaknesses in the Champions Cup winning all eight matches. The English champions breezed through their pool with home and away victories over Glasgow, Cardiff and Lyon.
Their attacking strength was on display in the 56-27 win over Glasgow in their quarter-final at Allianz Park. Liam Williams and David Strettle, in his last season before retirement, both scored twice in the victory. Saracens overpowered Munster in their 32-16 win at the Ricoh Arena in last month's semi-final. Tries from Michael Rhodes and Billy Vunipola, along with 22 points from Owen Farrell, sent them into their third final in the last four years.
This match has all the makings of a potential European classic with the teams so evenly matched. The betting indicates as much with the sides hardly separated in the match markets. Saracens are shading favouritism at [1.9] and this looks just about right. Leinster are obviously respected for their status as champions and their flawless final record but Saracens have the players to hold their own against them.
Leinster defeated Saracens 30-19 in last season's quarter-final but they had home advantage and Saracens were missing influential number eight Billy Vunipola. It could be a different story this year and the form of Saracens could give them the edge in a tight contest. With victories in their last two European finals, Saracens have the confidence and ability to wrestle the trophy from Leinster's grasp.
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