After securing two of the most remarkable European comebacks of all time, Tottenham and Liverpool will meet in an all-English Champions League Final showdown in Madrid. In our consistent tradition of appraising big soccer contests, BRANDPOWER interrogates the likely possibilities, tactics and records that will determine which of the two English teams will return home in glorious fashion.
After bagging two of the most mind-blowing European comebacks in the history of the UEFA Champions League, Tottenham and Liverpool will battle for the UCL crown in Madrid. The two Premier League sides were both dismantled by their much-favoured opponents during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final. But they came back stronger, sending relics of agonising defeats to the Barca and Ajax camps with incredible victories that smashed world records of European football and shocked the global football enthusiasts. During the group stages of this year’s Champions League, many had tipped the ‘Messiful’ Barcelona and very promising Ajax team for the UCL final clash but the unpredictable ‘god of soccer’ sprang up its usual surprises and went in favour of the English teams who were apparently unlucky with severe injuries to their talisman during the Semi-Final stages of the competition. Liverpool lost Mohammed Salah to an ill-fated injury while Tottenham were also without their ace goalscorer, Harry Kane. But the absence of the two stars had no effect on the overall performances of the two English sides as they battered the ‘Messiful’ Barca and smashed the age-long Ajax Champions League dream with two of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.
Having lost the first leg of their semi-final 3-0 at Camp Nou, Jurgen Klopp’s soldiers ran out 4-0 winners at Anfield to knock Lionel Messi-led Barcelona out of the competition. With five European trophies under their belt, Liverpool will be hoping to clinch the sixth one come June 1st at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium of Atletico Madrid which boasts a 63,500 sitting capacity. What happened to Liverpool during the first leg of this year’s Champions league Semi-Final, when they trailed Barcelona by 3-0, was similar to what happened to them the last time they won the UEFA Champions league in 2005.
Being under the leadership of Rafael Benitez then, Liverpool had conceded three goals during the first half of their UCL final with AC Milan. But the Reds Army did not surrender after going into the interval 3-0 down. Instead, they came out transformed like the Klopp’s men against Barcelona. Steven Gerrard nodded their first and it was ‘game on’ after Vladimír Šmicer pulled a second one back from distance. Xabi Alonso then levelled the scoreline, tidying up after his penalty was saved. Once it went to spot kicks, Milan buckled; they missed their first two and Jerzy Dudek’s save from Andriy Shevchenko completed the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’. Will the same scenario play out in Madrid this time, come Saturday, we shall know.
A win for Liverpool in Madrid will certainly be ‘Victory At last’ for their coach, Jurgen Klopp whose respective teams had variously tasted painful defeats twice during the Champions League Final. The first time, he took Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich in 2013 and he lost out. The second time is with Liverpool last season against Real Madrid, he suffered a similar defeat. This is the third time and the German should be expectant of one golden thing: luck. Will his team be lucky against Pocchetino’s men who will be playing the final for the very first time? By Saturday, we shall know. If Liverpool wins, they will be only the third side after Real Madrid and Milan to win more than five European Cups which will take them ahead of fellow five-time champions Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, for Tottenham, victory over Liverpool would give them their first ever Champions League triumph, and the first set of silverware for manager Mauricio Pochettino in over four years at the club.
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Irrespective of whatever happens at the end of the Madrid showdown. Both teams will take home over £90million. As reported by the Daily Mail, the Reds will receive an English-record £98.1m if they win the Champions League while Spurs will earn a massive £93m if they are successful. The runners-up spot will lead to the clubs earning £94.6m and £89.5m respectively, still a colossal figure even in an era where Premier League money makes the European cash pale into almost insignificance. The sums are made up from a variety of avenues which is why the figures differ between the two sides. Funds are calculated based on participation, group stage performance, market pool, coefficient pool, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final, final and winning the tournament. As Liverpool had a better group stage record and a higher coefficient ranking than Tottenham, they earned more money in those two areas leading to the £5.1m gap in earnings. Neither sets of staff, players or fans will be thinking about the finances when they face off at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium however, with both aiming to create history for their respective clubs.
In terms of injury, Spurs have been handed a double boost with the news that Harry Kane and Harry Winks are confident of being fit. Harry Kane is currently recovering from ankle ligament damage he sustained in the Champions League quarter-final clash against Manchester City but is desperate to play in the final on June 1. The 25-year-old is hoping to recover from his injury in time for the competition’s final in Madrid and he is set to travel out to Spain on the same flight as the team on Wednesday, reports the Daily Mail. Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino understands the player’s desire to take part after having to watch on from the stands as they beat Ajax in the semi-finals.
However, it remains to be seen whether Pochettino will start Kane – given that the match could well go to extra time and penalties, it may be wiser to use his star man as a second-half substitute. As for Winks, he is confident after returning to training with the first team. Jan Vertonghen (ankle), Davinson Sanchez and Danny Rose (both thigh) missed the final day of the league season but should all shake off niggling injuries. Dele Alli (knock) was withdrawn at half-time against Everton as “a precaution” and is also not considered a doubt for the final.
In the other camp, Liverpool have confirmed that Roberto Firmino is closing in on a return to full team training. The Reds’ No9 has missed their last three outings – a famous comeback win over Barca and league victories against Newcastle United and Wolves – with a groin injury, but is on the road to recovery.Liverpool’s only long-term absentee is Naby Keita (groin), who suffered a serious muscle tear and will now hope to be back for pre-season.Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana are understood to be fine but lacking match sharpness.
On head to head history, Liverpool and Tottenham have never met in an official UEFA competition before. Of the domestic meetings between the sides, Liverpool dominates with 82 wins to Tottenham’s 48, with the teams sharing 42 draws. Liverpool won both League games against Spurs this season – both 2-1 victories. The ultimate kings of European football will surely emerge on Saturday to a thunderous ovation and celebration of English football as ultimately, England is King, at least in 2019.