After a scintillating week filled with comebacks and heartbreaks for different sets of fans, the two teams that remain in Europe’s most prestigious competition has been confirmed.
It will be an all-English final this year at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool, who are finalists for the second year in a row, will look to avoid a repeat of last year’s demoralising defeat to Real Madrid after a horrendous display by their former keeper, Loris Karius.
They have come back looking much stronger and hungrier for success than before, and considering that they are 24 points ahead of their fellow finalists in their domestic league, are also favourites to bring the trophy back to England, ending the preceding Spanish dominance of the Champion’s League over the last few years.
Albeit, if there is anything that we have learnt from this week’s semi-finals, it is to never write off the underdogs.
Spurs carried out a miracle of their own against Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena as they left it to the last minute of the game to win on away goals.
Some may say that Ajax might have deserved the win more, but it was there for the taking and Spurs pounced on that opportunity to get that ticket to the final.
The question on everyone’s mind right now is who will be the one to taste European glory on 2nd June?
The Reds who yearn for redemption or Spurs, who haven’t won a major trophy since 2008?
To try and find the answer to that, we look at the last time these two teams played, which was no more than two months ago in a dramatic 2-1 win for the Reds.
Toby Alderweireld was the unlucky soul to put the ball into his own net in the 90th minute for Liverpool to go to the top of the table. It was certainly a tight game between the two as possession was almost evenly split and both sides had similar number of shots on target.
However, Spurs were the unfortunate ones to be on the receiving end of a last-minute winner as Liverpool emerged victorious for the second time this season. Their previous meeting also resulted in a 2-1 win for Liverpool but that was a completely different game.
Liverpool had bombarded Hugo Lloris’ goal with 10 shots on target but only two went in. That was enough to separate the two sides and even a late consolation goal from Erik Lamela was mostly consolation.
These two games will set the narrative for the final and it looks like Liverpool have the upper hand when going head-to-head with Spurs.
The last time Tottenham were victorious was in 2017 when they outclassed Jurgen Klopp’s side 4-1 and a repeat of that seems unlikely as the Reds have lost only one game in the Premier League all season. It will take some tactical genius from Mauricio Pochettino to mastermind a win over Liverpool, which is very much a possibility seeing how he did so against Ajax.
The decision to throw on Fernando Llorente for Victor Wanyama ultimately caused problems for the Dutch team’s centre-backs, who had to deal with the towering Spaniard’s physicality, and thus giving Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura acres of space to work their magic.
They will also be helped by the fact the Klopp has a miserable record when it comes to Champion’s League finals, of which he has lost two, last year with Liverpool and six years ago with Borussia Dortmund.
Matter of fact, he has the proclivity for losing finals in general. During his time in charge at Dortmund, he lost the German Cup final twice and with Liverpool, he lost the Europa League final and the English League Cup final, both in 2016.
That may just be a classic case of the jitters for Klopp and his men, but that looks unlikely to happen this year because despite only bringing in one or two new faces into the first team, they are a completely different side from previous seasons and certainly worthy of a title, not least a cup.
Some people will say that Tottenham have been inconsistent throughout the season and have disappointed in the league. But they’ve had to play with a limited squad throughout the year (the only team with no new signings) and the players barely got any rest.
The final will only happen two weeks after Spurs’ last game of the season and they would have ample time to rest up for the big match.
Harry Kane, who was surprisingly seen sprinting onto the pitch to celebrate Spurs’ win over Ajax even though his ankle is injured, may be able to make an appearance with enough time to recuperate, which will certainly boost Tottenham’s chances at winning the Champion’s League.
England’s captain has scored 23 goals in 38 appearances across all competitions for the Spurs, and his absence of the squad did initially hurt the team but Son and Moura’s synergy has been starting to impress even the most cynical critics.
But two weeks of rest for Spurs means two weeks of rest for Liverpool as well, which could come a long way for them because Liverpool are known to play a highly energetic counter-pressing game as demonstrated in their demolition of Barcelona at Anfield this week.
Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino, who were both out of the semi-final second leg due to injury, may return in time for the match and if Sadio Mane is allowed to link up with them again, it could spell disaster for Spurs as the trio have already surpassed a combined tally of 50 goals this season.
Alas. do not forget that this is football and known for the most unpredictable upsets. When it comes to that final, the past is thrown out the window and statistics don’t matter – for now.
On paper, Spurs cannot hold a candle to Liverpool, but let’s not pull on that thread.
All that matters are those 90 minutes or so. What they choose to do with that time will decide who will be crowned as the champions of England, and more importantly, Europe.Leave a comment