Uefa Champions League Final 2018-19
Venue: Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid
Date: Saturday, June 1, 2019
Kick-off time: 8:00pm BST
Few can argue that this year the UEFA Champions League has been one with a theme of stunning comebacks. Liverpool staring at elimination in the face and despite playing well were hurt by the magic of Lionel Messi and faced the daunting task of trying to overturn a 3 – 0 deficit. Jurgen Klopp and his man convincingly came away with a historic 4-0 victory that stunned their opponents and many critics and pundits alike. All the trending news and headlines praised the comeback as it was quite a spectacle of a comeback, surely we would never see such a come back anytime soon right? Tottenham also staring down the harsh reality of elimination from an Ajax team that everyone fell in love with, the first leg result gave little to be happy about for Pochettino and his men. At half time Tottenham trailed the tie 3-0 and Ajax looked to be playing with such confidence and swagger that tweets and posts were already talking about Ajax being in the final. However in an astonishing turn around of events that even if scripted could not have turned out the way it did, a second-half hat-trick from Lucas Moura, with the third being a 96th-minute winner broke the hearts of the Ajax fans in Amerstadam and sent Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs through on away goals.
So where is the UEFA Champions League trophy going to end up? Let’s see.
The journey for both teams
Spurs were put in a very tough group B with Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV. The initial predictions where that Barcelona and Tottenham were the favourites, however, this could not be further from the truth. 3 games in Spurs were on the verge of elimination, conceding 8 goals and having only 1 point to show. The turn around took place when Spurs got a last-minute comeback against PSV and defeated Inter Milan to all of a sudden completely change the dynamic of the group. At one point it seemed Barcelona and Inter Milan were highly likely to progress but that definitely changed. Inter Milan needing three points to assure progression into the next round they could only muster a draw. Perhaps a foreshadowing of what was coming, Lucus Moura got a last-ditch equalizer against Barcelona putting them level on points with Inter Milan but thanks to the away goal they scored in their 2-1 defeat at the San Siro and Inter Milan’s 1-0 loss at Tottenham last time out meant Spurs went through in second place with a superior head-to-head record.
Spurs defensive form improved and as a result, eliminated Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City respectively to face off with the exciting Ajax team that already slaughtered a Juventus team that had its eyes on the final with the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Manchester City game was thought to be the end of the road for Pochettino and his men and without Harry Kane, many predicted that the squad depth of Pep Guardiola and his men would simply be too much for Spurs. This would not be the case as players such as Heung-Min Son, Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen really stepped up on the offensive side of things to send the pre-tournament favourites crashing out once again with a late goal from Fernando Llorente which turned Pep Guardiola’s joy to despair. Pochettino and his men were making a habit of scoring late goals, a large percentage of goals at that point was in the last 15 minutes of games.
Up next was Ajax, the pleasant surprise of the tournament and the first leg did not end well in the new Tottenham stadium, the Dutch team came away with an admirable 1-0 away victory with some positive football and spurning some chances that they should have taken, something that would eventually come back to haunt them. Things were not looking great in the second leg and at half time Ajax was 3-0 up in the overall tie and looked to be cruising. They passed and controlled the game with admirable confidence but once again Tottenham turned adversity to glory. The insertion of Fernando Llorente once again proved to be a masterstroke, the Spaniard was placed upfield to win headers and give knockdowns to incoming teammates and he did so majestically. Spurs switch to a more direct style which completely unsettled the men from Amsterdam who despite conceding 2 goals from Lucas Moura thought they had done enough. In what was the epitome of determination Lucus Moura rounded off his night with a third goal that capped off a wonderful all-around performance from the former PSG man. Tottenham stared elimination multiple times on this journey and are no doubt deserved finalists.
Liverpool was drawn in Group C, with the likes of Napoli, PSG and Crvena Zvezda. Klopp and his men definitely had to work hard to come out this group, With Tuchel’s PSG and Ancelotti’s Napoli looking to make an impression it seemed very tough. Liverpool got a hard-fought win against PSG in the first game but their away form left much to be desired losing to Napoli, Crvena Zvezda and PSG definitely complicated things for Liverpool. However, despite losing all three of their away games in Group C, three home wins at Anfield were enough to see Liverpool through to the knockout stage on goals scored over the Italians in second place behind Paris Saint-Germain. The crucial game coming from Salah.
Klopp then had to face a former foe in the form of Bayern Munich and based on their erratic form in the group stage this definitely looked like a tough task for Liverpool. Liverpool had to settle for a 0-0 scoreline at home but away from home, they came away with a 3-0 victory which definitely was a statement made by the club securing the place in the next stage.
Depending on who you ask Liverpool was given the kind end of the draw against Porto. Porto despite having some great individual players, really didn’t seem to have much of a chance up against Klopp and his “Heavy Metal Football” Liverpool won both legs with relative ease 2-0 and 4-1 respectively and set up a mouth-watering tie against a very hungry Barcelona team. This Barcelona team despite being not as spectacular as previous teams were still a force to be reckoned with. With Leo Messi in inspired form, only the most naive of people would say this would be easy for Liverpool and it wasn’t!
Despite creating several clear cut chances in the 1st leg at Camp Nou, Liverpool got a taste of the merciless nature of the UEFA Champions League. Barcelona came away with a 3-0 victory that should have been 5-0 if they were not wasteful. With the third goal being a masterfully struck free-kick by Messi. Many people wrote off Liverpool and it seemed unthinkable that Barcelona would not score in the second leg at Anfield. Liverpool would then go on to put on a performance that many argue rivals the comeback against AC Milan in the Champions League final back in 2005. (A discussion for another time!) Barcelona simply had no answer for Liverpool and looked shell shocked. The 4th goal is a moment of absolute brilliance Trent Alexander-Arnold who cleverly caught the entire Barcelona team asleep from a corner whipping in a very precise ball to Origi to put the nail in the coffin in dramatic style to send Barcelona crashing out of the tournament for the 2nd year in a row.
Tottenham vs Liverpool team news and predicted line-ups
Reports have indicated that Harry Kane is fit but his match fitness would definitely be a concern. Kane has not played since April 9th after he suffered an injury against Manchester City in the first leg earlier in the competition. Unfortunately, it would be very difficult for him to get match fitness for the final and he will more than likely be on the bench for this matchup, coming on at some point in the game. Other players that seemed to have shaken off injuries are Jan Vertonghen (ankle), Davinson Sanchez and Danny Rose (both thigh)
Pochettino is not afraid to change up formations with the 4-4-2 and has also played 3 at the back with the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2. This tactical flexibility has been throughout the season due to injuries and absentees epitomized Pochettino’s ability to adapt. It looks highly likely Lucas Moura who has been magnificent will start up top. When faced with problems the Argentinien had no problems switching to a more direct approach in games and did away with build-up play. This was seen clearly against Ajax in the second leg. So it remains to be seen which approach Pochettino is going to start with but based on the players at his disposal it is definitely down to the 4-4-2 with Son and Moura up top or with three at the back with one striker being flanked by 2 wide players.
Tottenham XI: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Wanyama, Alli, Eriksen, Son, Moura
Liverpool has confirmed that Roberto Firmino has been declared fit however Nabby Keita is definitely ruled out due to an abductor injury he picked up against Barcelona. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana reportedly are injury-free but match fitness may be a concern.
Unlike his Argentinian counterpart who uses a variety of solutions, you pretty much know what you are going to get. The German is known for his 4-3-3 formation with the famous “Heavy Metal Football” Jurgen Klopp will most likely add Firmino back into the starting line up joined by Salara and Mane, the midfield trio will most likely be Milner, Fabiano and Henderson, however, Wijnaldum definitely starting is also a possibility. The back 4 will likely be Alexander-Arnal, Matip, Van Dirk and Robertson.
As stated before the only possible changes will most likely be in the midfield three but Klopp has his very specific style of play and the line up essentially picks itself.
Liverpool XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Milner, Mane, Fimino, Salah
Liverpool goes into this game being slight favourites but their away form in this seasons Champions League has not been great, with the exception of Bayern Munich and Porto. The team seems to be in good shape and with essentially a full squad it is very difficult to doubt Klopp and his men. Klopp does not have a good record in finals and will be looking to go one better this time around and secure Liverpool’s 6th title. Tottenham head into this game looking to making their own history and based on their form throughout the campaign it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to underestimate not just the tactical flexibility of Pocchettino but this team’s completely admirable sense of determination. So far determination and clever tactical moves by Pocchettino have pulled them out of dire situations. Both teams are very familiar with each other and even though in head to head fixtures Liverpool come out on top the fact that both teams have so much familiarity makes this a difficult tie to predict. The matches between both teams have mostly been very tight and most recently only a blunder from Hugo Lloris separated the two.
Liverpool should be slight favourites given their superb Premier League campaign, but it would be foolish to hedge your bets either way at this stage after watching those semi-final comebacks from both sides. This Champions League has seen the form and traditional ways of thinking thrown out the window with improbably comebacks which have challenged many pundits and analysts alike. Penalties are highly likely, but the game will be a very tight affair with Liverpool most winning their 6th title and Jurgen Klopp breaking the final curse that seems to haunt him.
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