After Chelsea dominated Arsenal in the Europa League Final on Thursday, the second leg of an all-English European cup final and the glory of England’s premier will finally be answered.
Will it be the Merseyside club who last won the competition back in 2005 or the London side who have overcome great odds and made an improbable comeback to advance to the final?
Spurs finished 26 points below the Premier League runners-up, Liverpool. On the other hand, the Londoners have incurred the most losses (13) of any of the top six clubs.
However, a victory in the final for them is not an exaggerated possibility, considering the tough process that they had undergone to reach this final stage. What matters now is the very 90 minutes on June 2nd, and every second matters.
Liverpool’s penchant to play a high intensity game with the aim to dictate the game in the opposition’s half makes it a tough match up for any opponent, evident with the Barcelona return leg at Anfield.
Any other side that has tried to beat them at their own game have been severely punished as Liverpool’s triumvirate of forwards can easily break on the counter-attack after effectively utilising the gegenpressing Jurgen Klopp is known for.
They take their chances extremely well and that helps them to kill games early on and preserve the lead.
This is reflected in their results this season as only one team managed to come from behind and win against Liverpool (when they played Chelsea in the League Cup in 2018). It also helps that they have the Premier League’s best player and defender, Virgil Van Djik – orchestrating the back line.
His individual brilliance and ability to organise the defense is what makes Liverpool a fortress in recent times, and with their Brazilian custodian, Alisson, receiving the Golden Glove, it backs up their statement of possessing the best defense in the league.
However, every team suffer from an Achilles heel, and in Liverpool’s case, it is, surprisingly, their offense. The two fullbacks consistently attack high up the pitch in support of their attack.
As brilliant as Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are, their marauding runs forward leave acres of space behind them on the wings making them exposed to opposition attacks.
Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld often play quick long balls to their attackers, namely Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura in the absense of Harry Kane – who are both significantly faster on the pitch than the England captain.
Of course, you could argue that Van Djik will be there to circumvent any long balls that come in from Spurs. But if Spurs overwhelm them by throwing players forward and playing rapid long balls directly to them to put them through on goal, Liverpool would end up with just two players at the back to defend against an attacking overload of players.
All they need is a half-chance and they have a repeat of what they did against Ajax in the semi-finals.
Should Tottenham play to their strengths, they could very well outsmart Liverpool and beat them in the final that they worked so hard to reach.
In this Champion’s League campaign, they’ve managed to beat Barcelona, Manchester City, and Ajax, all of whom were champions of their respective leagues. If they could do it against them, I don’t see why they can’t do it one last time.
Most of the key battles of the game will occur in midfield with Fabinho looking the most likely of being tasked with containing Christian Eriksen and preventing him from orchestrating the Spurs attacks.
The Brazilian will need to use his physicality and stamina to shield Liverpool’s defence from the threat of the great Dane. This is probably the most important battle of the game because if either one falters, the other could make the best of that opportunity and win their team the trophy.
Eriksen has two goals and four assists in Europe this season and averages 2.5 key passes per game. Fabinho on the other hand, averages 2.5 tackles and 1.2 interceptions. Fabinho’s high work rate and closing down ability is a key to contain Eriksen’s killer balls; expect a dogfest in the centre of the pitch.
Lethal forward Harry Kane could cause a hurricane for Liverpool if he returns in time for the final. The England striker is the focal point of Spurs’ attack and responsible for holding up the ball while Son and Moura make the supporting runs.
This is where Van Djik comes in. If he isn’t already quelling the other attackers, he’ll be the one focusing the majority of his time on the 22-goal forward.
The Dutch defender has made a name for himself as a one-man-wall for Liverpool, although his statistics is not fully representative of his ability. There is certainly more to a man voted “Player of the Year”, and Kane may be rusty due to injury, which has laid him off for the past two months.
On the other end of the pitch, the nimble and skilful Sadio Mane will go up against the stoic and dependable Toby Alderweireld.
The Senegalese will be sure to give his opposite number a torrid time. Throughout the season, he’s been finding space in the box to finish off crosses from his fullbacks.
If Tottenham want to help Hugo Lloris keep the ball out of his net, Alderweireld will need to be wary of Mane and track his movement in the box to keep him quiet.
The outcome of this historic all-English final hinges on the tactical and individual battles that will ensue at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium this Saturday.
Albeit, if either side lack the confidence and resilience to win the ultimate game of this Champion’s League campaign, all their hard work would have been for nothing and they would be left kicking themselves as they watch the other team lift the prestigious trophy.Leave a comment