Silverware awaits either Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp after rollercoaster Champions League campaigns – who will emerge victorious?
Both Tottenham and Liverpool were on the brink of exiting the Champions League at the group stages and beyond, but a combination of team spirit and clear philosophies imposed by their respective managers sees two English sides set to face off in the Champions League final.
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Neither Jurgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino have won a trophy with an English club, but now have the opportunity to win the greatest prize in European football.
From the brink to Madrid
Having already suffered three losses in Group C, Liverpool went into their final group game against Napoli knowing they had to win with a clean sheet or by two clear goals to make the last-16.
Tottenham failed to win any of their opening three Champions League group stage games this season – they’ve become just the second side to do so and go on to reach the final after Inter Milan in 2010, who went on to win the trophy.
Spurs went into their last game in Group B with their Champions League fate out of their hands. Spurs went to the Nou Camp knowing they had to match or better Inter’s result against PSV to qualify on the final matchday and did so by securing a 1-1 draw.
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Although Liverpool stormed past Bayern at the Allianz Arena and Tottenham played out an epic against Manchester City along the way, both experienced two of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history at the semi-final stages.
On May 8, Liverpool somehow overturned a three-goal first-leg deficit to beat Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield. Just one sleep later and Tottenham came from 3-0 down on aggregate against Ajax in the space of 45 minutes to reach their first ever Champions League final.
Now we are set for what is sure to be another famous night with an all-English final at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Champions League final tactics examined
How should Liverpool and Tottenham set up tactically to win the Champions League?
Liverpool will pore over lessons learned from their meeting with Spurs six months ago, when they outclassed their hosts in a 2-1 win at Wembley to maintain a perfect start to the season.
Having been overrun six months earlier, Pochettino elected to use a five-man defence in a 3-1-4-2 at Anfield, but they still fell to a narrow defeat.
We take a look at their previous league encounters to find out what worked, and what didn’t…
A first piece of silverware for Klopp
This is Klopp’s third major European final with Liverpool – only Bob Paisley (four) has ever reached more with the club. The German’s record in finals is well known and remains the stick with which he is beaten.
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Since winning the 2012 German Cup with Borussia Dortmund, the German has lost the last six finals he has contested, three of which were with Liverpool (Champions League, Europa League and League Cup).
In his previous two Champions League finals, Klopp was on the losing side with the Reds last season and with Dortmund in 2013.
The only manager to lose three successive final appearances in the European Cup/Champions League is Marcello Lippi (1997, 1998 and 2003 with Juventus).
For all the plaudits his side have received for the way they play, and despite Klopp’s insistence to the contrary, they do need to start picking up trophies.
Pochettino’s chance to elevate Spurs
Pochettino is another manager who has been criticised for having no end product. In contrast to Klopp, he has been in only one final, losing the 2015 League Cup final to Chelsea.
- Who should Pochettino pick?
The Argentine is bidding to become only the third Tottenham manager to guide the club to a major European trophy, after Bill Nicholson and Keith Burkinshaw. Silverware would give his methods some validation and provide an answer to his critics.
Pochettino has already dangled the prospect that he could walk away from the club if they were to win in Madrid.
“To win the Champions League with Tottenham in these circumstances this season, maybe I need to think about maybe doing something different in the future,” he said prior to their comeback win against Ajax in Amsterdam.
The Argentine marked his five-year anniversary at the club in the lead up to the final and has previously admitted winning the Champions League would be difficult to repeat.
If Kane starts, who drops out?
Kane is expected to be available for Tottenham after two months on the sidelines with ligament damage, while Winks has also been declared fit for the showdown in Madrid.
Pochettino faces a welcomed selection headache in attack if Kane starts, with quarter-final hero Fernando Llorente and semi-final hat-trick winner Lucas Moura vying for a place – in addition to in-form Son Heung-Min.
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Kane has deemed himself fit to start the final – but Tottenham’s talisman has not played a competitive fixture since facing Man City in the Champions League semi-final first leg on April 9 – and played no part in Spurs’ memorable Champions League semi-final games against Ajax.
Whether he can slot straight back into the lineup for a Champions League final after a lengthy injury is up for debate and also begs the question; who would be on the bench as a result?
Lucas Moura led the line against Ajax and scored a hat-trick as part of an attacking quartet featuring Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen. Should Pochettino elect to start Kane, one of the semi-final heroes will surely be dropped.
Hugo Lloris, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Davinson Sanchez, Heung-Min Son, Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Erik Lamela, Victor Wanyama, Michel Vorm, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker-Peters, Moussa Sissoko, Fernando Llorente, Dele Alli, Juan Foyth, Paulo Gazzaniga, Christian Eriksen, Serge Aurier, Lucas Moura, Ben Davies, Alfie Whiteman, George Marsh, Oliver Skipp.
What about Firmino?
For Liverpool, Naby Keita has been ruled out for the final, while Roberto Firmino should be available for selection after missing three games with a muscle strain.
Who should Klopp pick?
Klopp said this week that the striker “should be fine”, then Liverpool will be able to use their preferred attacking ‘trident’ with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah playing either side of the Brazilian.
That would, however, mean no place in the starting lineup for Belgian forward Divock Origi who scored twice in the 4-0 crushing of Barcelona in the semi-final second leg.
Alisson Becker, Caoimhin Kelleher, Simon Mignolet, Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giorginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Xherdan Shaqiri, Rhian Brewster
- Liverpool are playing in their ninth European Cup/Champions League final – more than any other English side. They’ve won the trophy five times, but have lost their last two finals (2007 and 2018).
- Tottenham are playing in their first ever European Cup/Champions League final, and are the eighth different English side to do so. The last five first-time finalists have ended up on the losing side (Chelsea 2008, Arsenal 2006, Monaco 2004, Bayer Leverkusen 2002 and Valencia 2000).
- This will be the second all-English European Cup/Champions League final, with Manchester United beating Chelsea on penalties in 2008.
- This is the first Champions League final between two sides who both failed to win their respective groups since Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich in 2010.
- Liverpool won both of their league meetings with Spurs this season. In total, they’ve met at least three times in all competitions in 13 previous campaigns – Liverpool have only beaten Spurs three times in a single season in one of those (1985-86 – four times).
- The only previous meeting between Liverpool and Tottenham in a major final was in the 1982 English League Cup final, with the Reds coming from behind to win 3-1 after extra-time.
- Liverpool were the losing finalists in last season’s Champions League final – the last side to lose consecutive finals in the competition were Valencia in 2000 and 2001.
- This will be Tottenham’s first major final in any European competition since the 1984 UEFA Cup.
- They are looking to become just the third English side to win all three of the major UEFA tournaments after Chelsea and Manchester United (European Cup/Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League and Cup Winner’s Cup).
Charlie Nicholas’ prediction
“Both these sides have a ‘never say die’ spirit but Liverpool have more quality and style. Tottenham have had to use the same 16 or 17 players, whereas Liverpool have been fresher. Kane may be on the bench, but this will be a tighter affair than expected.
“Liverpool and Tottenham both like to attack but sometimes nobody can control the ball and it will be more about the energy and drive. It will be a physical British game.
“Of course I could get this wrong and it could be the most dramatic final we could wish for, but I think it will be about defenders doing their job and keeping it tight.
“I see Liverpool winning this and it will go right to the final whistle. I hope it is an over-expansive game of football, but I feel as though the defenders will be dragging everyone in not wanting to make mistakes and that is the tension that comes with these games.
“I do think Liverpool merit a trophy this season. Tottenham have shown a stunning attitude in the Champions League. I think there will be lots of bookings and it will be a hard physical challenge.”
CHARLIE PREDICTS: Tottenham 0-1 Liverpool (13/2 with Sky Bet)
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