|Liverpool to win and both teams to score||14/5||William Hill|
Were it not for a spectacular last-ditch tackle on Inter striker Mauro Icardi by PSV’s Nick Viergever late on in the two teams’ group stage clash in December, Tottenham Hotspur would almost certainly have been sent crashing out of the Champions League after six matches.
That intervention by the Dutchman denied Inter the victory they needed to progress to the knockout phase, meaning that Spurs’ 1-1 draw with Barcelona was sufficient for them to advance alongside the Catalans. Fast forward six months and Mauricio Pochettino’s men are now just a win away from being crowned champions of Europe.
Given the topsy-turvy nature of their continental campaign, many Tottenham fans – and perhaps even some of the players – will believe fate is on their side ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Madrid. A place in the Europa League looked like the best they could hope for after collecting one point from the first nine available in Group B, and an unconvincing 2-1 defeat of PSV in matchday four did little to assuage the doubts that Spurs were ready to compete in the knockout rounds of Europe’s principal competition.
A Champions League Run for the Ages
A 1-0 win against Inter and that draw at the Camp Nou saw them through on head-to-head away goals, however, and they looked like seasoned Champions League winners when they dispatched of Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate in the round of 16.
The two ties that followed will live long in the memories of Tottenham supporters, regardless of the outcome on Saturday. Edging out Manchester City on away goals was no mean feat given the domestic dominance of Pep Guardiola’s charges, while the stunning second-half comeback against Ajax in the last four was a truly astonishing display of character and quality. Their Premier League season may have fizzled out, but Tottenham will believe momentum is on their side in Europe.
Previous Champions League Winners
|Real Madrid||1-1*||Atletico Madrid||2016|
|Real Madrid||4-1||Atletico Madrid||2014|
|Bayern Munich||2-1||Borussia Dortmund||2013|
The problem, however, is that the same sense of fate seemed to surround Liverpool’s Premier League title bid – which, despite their magnificent consistency, ended in respectable failure. And while their run to the semi-finals of the Champions League was relatively run-of-the-mill, their last-four encounter against Barcelona was anything but.
Even the relentlessly positive Jurgen Klopp cannot truly have believed that his team could overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit back at Anfield, yet that is exactly what they did with a tremendous 4-0 triumph. Missing out to City by a point in the league will no doubt have stung, but securing a sixth European Cup this weekend would not be too bad a consolation.
Klopp vs Pochettino
Pochettino and Klopp have both done marvelous jobs at their respective clubs, proving that training-ground coaching still has a major role to play in the modern game. Liverpool, of course, has not exactly assembled their squad on a shoestring, but it is impossible to deny that they – like Spurs – are a team which amounts to more than the sum of its parts.
Both managers are big on pressing, possession, dynamism and energy – albeit to different degrees and in different forms – which has tended to produce entertaining games between the two. Liverpool’s 2-1 triumph in an engaging contest in March was a case in point, while it is notable that there have been at least three goals in five of the last six meetings between the pair – and only one clean sheet in that time.
The Reds will probably look to take the initiative and force Tottenham back in the opening stages, and the outcome could be determined by the extent to which Pochettino’s side are able to weather the early storm. Harry Kane is likely to start on the bench, leaving Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura as the most likely options in attack, although Fernando Llorente’s hold-up play was instrumental against Ajax and offers Spurs a different option – albeit one which is likely to fit under plan B rather than A.
2019 Champions League Final Recommended Bet
The biggest difference between the two sides is in midfield; the fact that Tottenham have reached this showpiece with their engine-room options is further evidence of Pochettino’s managerial nous. The much-improved Moussa Sissoko has many virtues but he has a tendency to look flustered when closed down, which is exactly what Liverpool’s trio will be doing all evening. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen will be required to get their foot on the ball and work the ball through the press, but it is easy to envisage Tottenham become overwhelmed in the middle of the park.
That is the primary reason Liverpool deserve to be considered favourites among the best bookies here, but a second-half rally from Spurs is a distinct possibility – that, after all, is what happened once the game had settled down in Liverpool’s aforementioned 2-1 victory two months ago. Ultimately, though, go with Klopp’s men to triumph.