Soccer

UEFA Champions League Final Preview

Dale Money | June 1st, 2019

Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday will be an all-England matchup for the Champions League final. The second all-English Champions League final in history. This matchup is a miracle of sorts. As both Liverpool and Tottenham had very similar roads they needed to go down in order to get themselves to this stage of the tournament.

Liverpool has been to the final on eight occasions, winning the title five times. This is new territory for Tottenham having never qualified for a Champions League final in the past. It all kicks off at 3 p.m. ET

How They Got Here

Having just fallen short in the Champions League final just one year ago, the Reds will be looking to get over the hump, winning a major cup that arch-rivals Manchester City was denied. I imagine after just losing out to City by a whisker for that Premier League title, this would feel like a bit of satisfaction.

For Liverpool, they have needed to fight tooth and nail to get here at different stages of the tournament. Just getting through their group stages was indeed the closest of calls. They would need to scrape by Napoli in their final group-stage game in December, winning on goal differential. However, once they got through the groups the two knockout rounds against both Porto and Bayern Munich were indeed much more manageable. They won by a combined goal differential of 9-2.  But after that was the truly epic encounter with Barcelona for a trip to the final.

Losing 3-0 to Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-final, they would need to stage one of the more epic comebacks at Anfield. And top it all off they would need to do it without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in their starting 11. This was indeed a monumental ask you could argue. And that is actually what they were able to accomplish to a lot of peoples chagrin no doubt.

Divock Origi would open the scoring seven minutes into the game tucking it behind the keeper. Liverpool had leveled the match 3-3 on aggregate by the 56th minute, both goals coming from Georginio Wijnaldum in rapid succession. At the 79th minute tied three goals apiece, Origi would connect on a corner shot from Trent Alexander-Arnold. Origi was waiting on the doorstep to blast it by the outstretched hands of Marc-Andre ter Stegen into the top corner, putting them ahead 4-0. Their defense did a splendid job holding down the fort, against Lionel Messi and company. Had they managed to give up even one goal it would have probably been over for Liverpool.

Tottenham’s turnaround in the Champions League has been a real sight to be held. Just getting through the groups was by the skin of their teeth. Spurs approached the final group stage match knowing they just needed to equal Inter’s result. Down 1-0 to Barcelona, Moura would come up huge late in the 85th minute which would end up being enough. Inter would come away with a 1-1 tie against PSV, putting Tottenham through.

They would need to bump off Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, and Ajax in the knockout stages. In the round of 16 against Dortmund, the Spurs didn’t have any problems, seeing them off 4-0 on aggregate. Their quarterfinal against Manchester City was a much different story.  Son Heung was crucial in the two games, which included the game-winner in leg one.

It was in the 78th minute after a pass from Eriksen, Heung was able to keep in bounds. Getting a step on Delph he was able to creep in close enough to bury it by Ederson. That goal would prove to be very valuable going into the second leg, as they would lose that next game 4-3, but would win 4-3 on aggregate.

Onto the semi-final against Ajax, they lost 1-0 at home in the first leg. In the first half of the second leg, Tottenham looked down and out at halftime after skipper Matthijs de Ligt‘s fifth-minute header, Hakim Ziyech increased Ajax’s goal lead to three in the 35th minute. On the road, down three nil and only one half left in which to save themselves from getting knocked out of contention.

Lucas Moura would decide to take the bull by the horns, scoring all three of the Spurs goals. Putting the Spurs through on aggregate thanks to the away goals rule. Delivering the second stunning result in the Champions League semifinal round in two days.

Predicted Starting Lineups

The injury dilemma surrounding Spurs superstar Harry Kane health, and whether or not he’ll be able to suit up for this ever important match? Kane hasn’t played since an ankle ligament injury suffered against Manchester City on April 9. On Monday, it appeared as though Kane would be fit to play.

However, we should expect if he does go, for Mauricio Pochettino to take the cautious approach and bring him in as a substitute. Moura and Heung should start up front. Christian Eriksen, Dele Ali, Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko will cover the midfield. Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier and Jan Vertonghen should start on the backend and Hugo Lloris is expected to start in net.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed in his press conference on Friday, that Firmino is expected to start for Liverpool. It will remain to be seen whether or not he gets inserted into the starting lineup. The fact that he hasn’t played much football in recent weeks will surely be a big consideration as he won’t be as sharp as he normally is.

If Firmino goes look for him to be joined by Salah and Sadio Mane at the forward position. Mane has been vital for Klopp’s side this season and, arguably, you could say at times more important than Mo Salah. In midfield Jordan Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Fabinho will get the start. Arnold, Andrew Robertson, Joel Matip, and Virgil van Dijk will start on defense. Allison Becker is expected to get the nod in goal.

 

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