Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Venue: Estadio Wanda Metropolitano
Kick off: 8PM
English football will descend on Madrid tonight as Tottenham Hotspur face domestic rivals Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.
Both sides enjoyed unforgettable comeback victories in the semi-finals and will now go head to head for the biggest prize in European club football – a trophy Liverpool have lifted five times before whereas Spurs have never won it.
Eleven months after having more players in the semi-finals of the World Cup than any other club, Tottenham Hotspur find themselves gearing up for the biggest match in their history.
To have even made it to this stage is a feat which deserves huge credit; the Londoners did not sign a single player either last summer or in January, have had to contend with delays to their new stadium throughout the campaign and also had that hangover from the progress of their players at the Russia World Cup.
Even the most ardent of Tottenham fans would not have expected their dream run to the final of this competition, and there would be a certain degree of irony if Spurs ended their 11-year trophy drought with the biggest one of all.
Spurs are looking to become the 23rd different side to lift the most coveted piece of silverware, and the first new name on the trophy since Chelsea in 2012, having previously only made it to the semi-finals of this competition on one occasion – way back in 1961-62.
Liverpool certainly have the edge in terms of experience at this stage, then, but it is not entirely uncharted territory for Spurs, who have made four previous European finals including one against another English team, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers on aggregate in the inaugural UEFA Cup final of 1971-72.
The Champions League final is an entirely different level, of course, and Spurs will arrive in Madrid as underdogs, but they have already made a mockery of the odds on a number of occasions during their rollercoaster ride to the final.
Meanwhile, if Liverpool’s run to the 2017-18 Champions League final was unexpected, their progress to this season’s showpiece confirms their place firmly back at the top table of European football.
The Reds have now reached successive European Cup finals for the third time in their history, and only Juventus and Valencia have ever lost back-to-back finals in this competition – a club Liverpool will be desperate to avoid joining.
Having fallen to defeat in devastating fashion at the hands of Madrid in last year’s final, Jurgen Klopp’s side will now hope to put that right in the Spanish capital – and this time will be going into the game as favourites.
Whereas in 2018 it was their front three who fired them to the brink of glory, this time around Liverpool look like a much more complete team.
It is almost impossible to envision Alisson Becker making the same mistakes as Loris Karius did in Kiev, while in Virgil van Dijk the Reds have a player voted by his peers as the best in the Premier League this season.
The defensive improvement is perhaps the biggest reason why Liverpool were able to sustain such an impressive title challenge on the domestic front, incredibly only finishing as runners-up despite amassing a club-record 97 points.
It would be difficult to begrudge the Reds silverware at the end of such an impressive campaign, then, and they should arrive in Madrid full of confidence having finished 26 points above Spurs in the final Premier League table, in addition to beating them twice already this term.
Klopp’s side also eliminated tournament favourites Barcelona in the semi-finals, producing one of the most famous nights in Anfield’s illustrious history with a 4-0 victory to overturn their 3-0 first-leg defeat at the Camp Nou.
Liverpool will hope that such a comeback is not necessary tonight, although they are no stranger to European Cup final drama having pulled off the “Miracle of Istanbul” in 2005, when they last got their hands on this trophy.
Success today would give them a sixth European crown – twice as many as any other English club – and this will be their 21st European final overall too, including three in the last three years.
Klopp has a woeful record of his own in finals to overcome, though, having lost each of his last six, including two in the Champions League – although Saturday’s match will be the first of those he has gone into as favourite.
Liverpool’s path to such occasions may be more well-trodden than Tottenham’s, but that is not to say that it has been straightforward and they too almost suffered a group-stage exit, with only a last-gasp Alisson save against Napoli keeping them in the competition after losing three of their first five games.
The Reds then saw off Bayern Munich and Porto before that night against Barcelona, and it is those knockout performances which may give them the most confidence heading into the Madrid showpiece.
Liverpool also ended the domestic campaign in fine form, winning their last nine Premier League games, and it is worth remembering that the only defeat they suffered in the top flight all season came away from home against eventual champions Man City.
Ultimately, though, they know that defeat on Saturday would see a historic campaign end without silverware, and losing to a domestic rival would be a hugely underwhelming way to finish off such an impressive season.
Tottenham possible XI: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Son, Alli, Eriksen, Kane.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.