The battleground in Madrid will unfold this Saturday as two English heavyweights take to the stage in undoubtedly their biggest clash of the season. For Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, this is certainly familiar territory having been here at this stage last season, while the Reds have also lifted this illustrious trophy five times in their existence. Tottenham, on the other hand, will be playing in their first-ever Champions League final, and after repeatedly defying the odds, Mauricio Pochettino will want to end his barren run of not winning a trophy, claiming the biggest prize of them all – Europe’s elite competition, the UEFA Champions League.
To Lift Cup
It’s been a season to remember for Tottenham Hotspur. They’ve had to switch between playing at Wembley and in their new home in London, while Mauricio Pochettino had not been given a penny to spend in two transfer windows. To make matters even more challenging for the Lilywhites, they’ve had to tinker with new formations and work through different systems to produce that winning formula after being dealt with massive injuries in key areas throughout their campaign.
Many would agree that this is Tottenham’s best-ever team, but to write their name in history, Pochettino has a massive task on his hands. It seemed unimaginable from the start of the campaign, having been drawn in the so-called group of death alongside Inter Milan, PSV and Barcelona, earning just one point from their opening three games.
And just like that, Spurs’ magnificent run of overturning the odds began.
They rolled their sleeves back and gave Dortmund a good pummelling, winning 4-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16 with the rest being just a small piece in their history. It seemed like this was the year for Manchester City, but along came Spurs, injury-struck, showing nothing short of a brilliant masterclass over 180 minutes, knocking the ‘demi-gods’ of England, Manchester City, off their quest to conquer Europe.
Tottenham continued to do their business under the radar, and surprisingly, it was until the semi-finals where Spurs were really recognized for their greatness, being three goals down at one stage to reach their first-ever Champions League final, knocking the young and fiery Ajax out of the competition.
Now, against a Liverpool side who have beaten them twice already this season, Spurs will be hoping to overcome the odds for one final time this campaign.
“We’ve really enjoyed the good moments and the not-so-good moments as well, because they put us in a position to improve, show our strength, take a step forward, come out of our comfort zone and try to discover something new,” Pochettino said.
Its been a wonderful adventure for Spurs, and with the news that Harry Kane will be available for selection, the Londoners will feel that they have every bit of a chance, considering the form of Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen.
Its been a near-perfect season for Liverpool, doing everything right so far, apart from lifting a piece of silverware, that is. Luckily, they have one final shot of achieving greatness this term, being overwhelming favourites in the final against Tottenham.
If anything, the Reds should head into this tie with high spirits, beating Spurs twice already this campaign, while they’ve also been here, done it before, and got the European pedigree to show for it, winning this competition five times.
Although, Liverpool cannot afford to be complacent, with Jurgen Klopp losing two Champions League finals before in 2013 with Dortmund and last season with the Reds. There hasn’t been an unluckier coach in world football with a dark cloud hovering over the German tactician, losing in three finals already at the Liverpool helm. One could only imagine that lifting the Champions League trophy will put an end to all doubt.
“The greatest defeats are there so you can come back feeling stronger,” Klopp famously said building up to this final.
Unlike last season, Liverpool have had a much tougher route to the final, qualifying in a group which boasted Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain. The Reds then had to face German champions, Bayern Munich, where they were considered by many as underdogs, cruising to a 3-1 victory over two legs.
By then, Liverpool’s intent to win the Champions League was clear. They were rock-solid, energetic in midfield, and fearless up front. Few could stop Klopp’s team – not even the great Barcelona, who were soon put to the sword, after the Reds played FC Porto, with Liverpool overturning a three-goal deficit to win 4-3 on aggregate to reach their second successive European final.
Klopp’s side have received a massive boost ahead of the final, with Roberto Firmino, who scored in both victories over Spurs this season, fit and raring to go. Either side of the Brazilian will be Golden Boot winners, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who will be up for it as well, especially Salah who was forced off due to injury in the last Champions League final.
Not only for Salah, but this is every Liverpool player’s chance to put their name up in lights and prove that they really are part of the best Reds team in history.
Routes to the final
Tottenham finished second in Group B on eight points – six behind Barcelona.
Liverpool finished second in Group C on nine points – two behind Paris Saint-Germain.
Tottenham 3-0 Dortmund
Liverpool 0-0 Bayern Munich
Dortmund 0-1 Tottenham
Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool
Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City
Liverpool 2-0 Porto
Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham
Porto 1-4 Liverpool
Tottenham 0-1 Ajax
Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool
Ajax 2-3 Tottenham
Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona
Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Sissoko, Winks; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Prediction: Liverpool (9/10)
Everything points in Liverpool’s favour heading into the tie. Despite that, by no means will Pochettino or Spurs be tactically bullied on the pitch, which should make this an interesting humdinger of a final. It’s the perfect opportunity to put an end to all talk of going through a trophy drought for both sides, but if I were to pick a winner here, it would be Liverpool. They’ve done very little wrong all season and should make it three wins over Spurs this term.
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