The Champions League’s second all-England final Saturday should be a dandy, set up by two of the most jaw-slackening semifinals Europe has seen.
After falling behind Barcelona, 3-0, in the first leg of its semifinal, Liverpool stormed back to a 4-0 win at Anfield that left Barca bewildered and Reds fans weeping in stands. It put Liverpool in the Champions League final for a second year in a row, following last year’s 3-1 loss to Real Madrid.
A day after Liverpool’s epic comeback came another. Tottenham, which trailed Dutch side Ajax, 1-0, after the first semifinal leg, conceded two goals in the first half. Lucas Moura’s second-half hat trick pulled Tottenham back from the brink and had them advancing on an away-goal advantage.
Both matches produced improbable results that continued storybook runs for the surviving sides. Liverpool came a point short of winning the Premier League title, losing a single match in 38 fixtures to eventual champion Manchester City. A win against Tottenham would award Liverpool a larger prize than they could have bargained for: champions of the continent
Tottenham finished fourth in the Premier League, but pushed past German side Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax to reach the final for the first time. The match gives Spurs a chance to shed their “flaky” reputation and capture their first Champions League crown.
The game will be played in Madrid, but it’s the first Champions League final not involving a Spanish club since 2013.
Enjoy all our #UCL goals on the road to Madrid! 🔥#UCLfinal
Defeated Barcelona, 4-3, in aggregate to advance to the final.
Second place in Premier League.
Last Champions League title: 2005, over Milan. Liverpool lost the final in 2007 and 2018.
Defeated Ajax, 3-3 with an advantage in away goals, to advance to the final.
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah was forced out of last year’s Champions League final in the early going after a dirty tackle from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. Salah’s resulting shoulder injury was so severe, it kept him out of Egypt’s World Cup opener. Now he’s healthy and Salah seeking redemption in Champions League final — 22 goals in 38 Premier League appearances this season — and could give Liverpool one too many offensive weapons for Tottenham to defend.
Midfielder Moussa Sissoko will be key for Spurs to control the game’s pace and take the legs out of Liverpool. The Reds and manager Jurgen Klopp have one style: whack the ball down the pitch as fast as possible. Tottenham could win the upper hand with a possession-oriented game, in which case Sissoko will need to post up in the middle of the field and control the ball. The more possession Spurs can hold, the better off they’ll be.
Liverpool: The Reds have Firmino back healthy for this one but it remains to be seen if he starts, according to Jurgen Klopp on Friday. As for Naby Keita, he’s out, as expected. Liverpool is near full strength and has a ton of momentum after that comeback against Barcelona. After losing the final last year against Real Madrid, the Reds can redeem themselves here in the biggest of ways. The Reds have beaten Tottenham twice this season by the same 2-1 score line. This Reds team looked set to win the Premier League and fall out of the Champions League, but now it’s quite the opposite. Finishing second in the league to Manchester City puts the pressure on the Reds even more so here. It’s Year 4 of the Klopp experience, and after a handful of final losses, this could be the moment that changes his career and that of his players.
Tottenham: All eyes are on Harry Kane. Will he start, will he play? Spurs made it through the quarterfinals and semifinals without him, and now it’s all about Mauricio Pochettino deciding if he should reinsert him into the lineup and perhaps impact the team dynamic.There’s also the chance to bring him off the bench if things aren’t working early on. It’s a tricky situation, but it’s better to have him than to not. Tottenham knows how valuable he is to this team, but is the recent form good enough to justify keeping him on the bench? He has been training, he appears fit to play. Only time will tell.