On June 1, the Champions League season will come to an end with an unlikely final in Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid. Atletico’s recently inaugurated stadium will host the conclusion to an amazing tournament, which featured setbacks for the favorites, magic hat-tricks and comebacks that pleased even neutral soccer fans.
The final decision brought us to an all-English match between Liverpool and newcomers Tottenham Hotspurs. Both teams arrived at this stage after overcoming Barcelona and Ajax in two breathtaking semifinals. On Saturday, the final will be settled between two Premier League teams. So, who will lift the trophy?
It is no surprise that Liverpool goes into this fixture as heavy favorites. The team that “never walks alone” got to this stage after overcoming a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in the first leg and putting four goals past the Blaugrana in Anfield.
They also ended the season with a single loss during the Premier League campaign and 97 points, just one point behind champions Manchester City. Unfortunately, Pep Guardiola’s Blues secured 98, leaving Liverpool short of an English Premier League title once again.
Their only hope for a trophy this season is, ironically, the biggest of them all. Not winning the Champions League would mean that the Reds would end one of their best recent seasons without a trophy.
Firmino and Salah just recovered from injuries and might be fit for the Madrid final on June 1, which is good news for Jurgen Klopp. However, they are likely without midfielder Naby Keita, who suffered an adductor injury in Barcelona.
Liverpool won both games against Tottenham Hotspurs in their Premier League campaign, with the same score line 2-1. They know Spurs’ weaknesses and can capitalize on them. However, even if it is true that Liverpool won the last two games, the last match in Anfield was decided by an own goal in the 90th minute. Luck plays its part; maybe this time luck will smile on the underdog.
After the Anfield miracle, we witnessed the Amsterdam show just one day later. Tottenham came back from 3-0 in the last 45 minutes of the fixture against Ajax, with Brazilian Lucas Moura completing a hat-trick. That booked Spurs’ spot in the Champions League final for the first time ever.
The team who is known for putting on pressure but never winning anything has a point to prove. Spurs has a golden opportunity here, and they know it. After a memorable season with a brand new stadium, which cost $1.33 billion, and their first trip to the Champions League final, Tottenham must take advantage since it is unlikely they will be at this stage again soon.
Why should you believe Tottenham Hotspurs, the well-known chokers, won’t bottle it this time? First, they have defied the odds already this season, and when they could have bottled it in the quarterfinals against City and the semifinals against Ajax, they showed up to surmount expectations. Second, they face an opponent whom they are familiar with.
As long as Tottenham are able to hold Liverpool’s counter-attacking routines and take advantage of the pace of Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura on the wings, they can snatch the trophy from the Reds. Plus, it’s been reported that Harry Kane, who was out since April due to injury, might recover in time to play the final. If this is confirmed, then it is another threat, and Spurs can surprise in Madrid with an attack captained by their star striker.
We know that it is impossible for this game to end in a draw because it will be decided by extra time and penalties, if needed. However, it is possible that the game could end in a tie in 90 minutes, and that could make for an interesting bet. Matches like this are often played in a conservative way, with both sides afraid of committing mistakes.
With all the comebacks we have seen so far, both teams know what is at stake, and they won’t try to give space to each other. Liverpool know how to win a final on penalties. In 2005 against AC Milan, they ended 3-3 at the end of 90 minutes, then took the title 3-2 on penalties. We very well could have a repeat of that final 14 years ago.