The Complete Champions League Final Preview

by @TopolskiMatt

Tottenham and Liverpool face each other at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in an all English Champions League final. In nine previous meetings between Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino, Klopp has four wins and four draws. This record seems to indicate good news for Liverpool supporters but make no mistake – there is far less to separate these two clubs than the 26 point Premier League gap would suggest.

Tactically

Liverpool’s attack is blistering and when firing on all cylinders, its tough to deny there’s a better attacking front three in Europe than Mane, Firmino and Salah. Spurs skipper Mauricio Pochettino may be forced to change formations throughout the match in order to deal with Liverpool’s attack and their pressing.

Liverpool will inevitably line up in a 4-3-3 with the only question surrounding what their midfield will look like for Saturday.

My money is on Henderson, Wijnaldum and Fabinho anchoring the back. Henderson’s effort in the second leg of the semi final against Barcelona was a thing of legend as were Wijnaldum’s two goals off the bench, and Fabinho has been sensational as defensive midfielder in the second half the campaign this season. I would expect a Milner start, only if Klopp plans to deploy Wijnaldum from the bench in a super sub role.

Spurs have had a plague of injuries since the new year, to the point where they went with a back three against Ajax in the semi final. With players coming back into the side, Spurs will not be forced to do this in the final, but it presents an interesting scenario if they choose to.

Going with a back three will expose their defensive cover, but gives Spurs the ability to press high with an extra attacker pinning Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson back, which could affect the Liverpool attack from the wings.

Additionally, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier could run beyond Salah and Mane, creating a problem for the two Liverpool fullbacks, who would have to decide whether to advance to engage them or whether that risked leaving space for Lucas Moura, Son and possibly Harry Kane (if fit) to drive into.

Spurs attack also includes the likes of Dele Alli and Sissoko. Since Kane’s injury Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura have formed a potent attack which by the skin of their teeth have produced two stunning Champions League comebacks.

Other predictions for Tottenham’s tactics include a 4-2-3-1 deploying Kane ahead of Son, Eriksen and Lucas. This again depends on Kane’s fitness for Saturday, but he has returned to regular training.

Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino have arrived at this moment in very different ways in terms of their backgrounds, and yet their squads have both arrived at this moment in very similar fashion by defeating clubs with larger budgets and better odds. Both teams also press high and unify around the spirit of their manager.

Key to Victory for Tottenham

Spurs must limit space on the wing forcing Liverpool to play down the middle. Liverpool have had issues creating goals from midfield this season, with the vast majority of their scorers playing at the 9 or on the wings.

Liverpool’s top goal scorers in PL 18/19. Credit BBC.

Should Tottenham force Liverpool to play down the middle it would favor the CB pairing of Vertonghen and Alderweireld. The two are regarded as one of the top CB pairings in Europe. If Spurs can choke off the wings, absorb pressure centrally and counter at the right moments, they might have a chance to drag out a late winner.

Key to Victory for Liverpool

Liverpool have also had their lion share of late winners this season and if Spurs play tight, expect that to be a possibility once again. With Roberto Firmino still regaining his fitness, expect an appearance from Divock Origi at some point in the second half.

After scoring twice in the amazing comeback victory over Barcelona, Origi racking up a Champions League winner would forever cement his place as an immortal in Liverpool’s history. A secondary script which could be written is a late appearance by James Milner.

No one has been deadlier from the penalty spot than Liverpool’s number 7, and we know Mohamed Salah’s ability to draw contact in the box. Could Milner’s swan song include a European dagger from the spot? Get out the Ribena!

Prediction

Both sides should feel confident going into the final, but the edge must go to the Reds. Liverpool have won both head-to-head meetings between the two sides this year, and despite Spurs dramatic comeback against Ajax, Ajax are not Barcelona. The smart money is on the clock striking midnight on Spurs, who have a Cinderella story, but who lack the Champions League pedigree to finish on the world’s biggest stage.

Liverpool Football Club on the other hand, enter their second straight Champions League Final, they posted a historic 97 points in the Premier League this season, and are from top to bottom the most dangerous team in Europe. The have the best front three in football, the two best fullbacks in England and the best Central Defender on the planet.

Liverpool have taken a longer road to arrive in Madrid, they have earned this moment and they will rise to the occasion. Jurgen Klopp’s reclamation project of one of the game’s most storied clubs will be completed on Saturday. Mohamed Salah will avenge his injury from last year’s Champions League Final and the upgrade in goal will not make the same mistakes as Loris Karius.

Spurs have felt like a team of destiny in the late stages of this tournament, but Liverpool are a team of destiny.

Final Score: Liverpool 2 – Tottenham 1

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.