Wow. Liverpool are in another Champions League final.
Our ninth European Cup final. A chance to win this trophy for the sixth time. Our third European final under Jurgen Klopp.
Oh, they spoil us don’t they? This really is the best of times. Embrace it. Enjoy it.
Whatever happens at the Estadio Metropolitano on Saturday night, these lads will give it their all. This means as much to them as it does to us.
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The break between the final round of Premier League fixtures and this game will have brought a much-needed relief for Spurs, as they attempt to get their house back in order after losing five of their last eight matches.
However, the three weeks off are unlikely to have dampened the momentum of our own run of 13 wins from 14 matches, which included some tough fixtures as Bayern, Porto (twice) and Barcelona were downed in Europe, while domestically this run also featured victories over both Chelsea and Spurs themselves.
On a more long-term basis, Jurgen Klopp holds the upper hand over his counterpart in the opposite dugout, going W4-D4-L1 in head-to-head meetings since pitching up in England, while he’s W4-D2-L1 over 90 minutes in cup competitions alone versus the ‘Big Six’ overall.
Mauricio Pochettino isn’t wedded to any one system and has adapted depending on form, fitness, as well as his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
However, one thing that remains consistent is the high press and both sides should be aggressive in that regard. We don’t expect him to repeat the same first-half mistake as in our last meeting back in March though, where he went with a back three that essentially morphed into a retreating back five as they lost the battle of the full-backs.
If Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier are expected to cover the flanks on their own, we have the twin threats of Mo Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold down one side, while the other will be patrolled by Mane and Robertson – who have developed an excellent understanding with one another.
Spurs haven’t got quite the same calibre of options in defensive midfield after Moussa Dembele departed, while Victor Wanyama has spent most of the season on the sidelines and hasn’t been at his former best when he has featured.
That leaves an injury-prone Harry Winks and Eric Dier – who is out of his depth at this level – for Pochettino to call upon. As a consequence, and with Heung-min Son emerging as a key player for them, often Christian Eriksen and Dele All, as well as Moussa Sissoko to a certain extent, have found themselves occupying a deeper role to shoehorn their best players into the side.
However, it can mean that their opponents bypass the press, with clever players like our own Roberto Firmino able to exploit the space between defence and midfield and pick up the ball in that vacated hole.
As much as Divock Origi has been a hero this season with some mightily decisive contributions, there’s no questioning who the first-choice striker is and Klopp will be extremely glad that Firmino has made the cut.
Naby Keita is unfortunate to miss out after injury curtailed his burgeoning progress, but there are other similar options in central midfield and overall the team news is positive.
However, that’s also true for Spurs with Harry Kane back in action, though it should be noted that Heung-min Son appeared to excel better in the England captain’s absence as he enjoyed the freedom and responsibility of leading the line.
Pochettino has further good news in his rearguard, with both centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez available to call upon, and so we don’t see any absentees playing a major role here.
An all-English final could well take on the appearance of a domestic encounter and this seasons’ Premier League featured more goals on average per game than any other previous edition, which has been an increasing trend with each of the five highest-scoring campaigns coming since 2010/11.
The Champions League has seen a similar pattern emerge, with six of the seven seasons with the highest goals per game on average coming since 2012/13. The finals haven’t typically been dull affairs either, with 12 of 14 since 2004/05 witnessing both teams register on the board, including all three involving ourselves in that time.
Meanwhile, seven of our last eight encounters with Spurs have seen both teams score, with the four since the start of last season featuring as many as 15 goals in total. Given Pochettino should have both Kane and Son available, we’d expect them to play their part in making this game competitive.
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