LIVERPOOL X TOTTENHAM: AN UNLIKELY FINAL AT THE BIGGEST STAGE
In a little over two weeks’ time, two English sides will take to the field inside the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, which is where Atletico Madrid play their home games, to decide who takes home the ultimate prize of club football – the Champions League.
Liverpool have been here before, having lifted the trophy on five occasions – most recently in 2005 thanks to their sensational comeback victory over AC Milan in Istanbul. However, recent memories are not so sweet as last year they fell at the final hurdle against another Madrid, Real.
Last time out Jurgen Klopp and his men were the underdogs against a giant gunning for their third consecutive title. This time around they’ll have to handle the pressure of being favourites against a Tottenham side who has never reached the final of the tournament – although they too have tasted success in Europe of a different kind, having lifted two UEFA Cups and one Cup Winners Cup.
The matchup is a mouth-watering prospect for fans in England and around the world.Yet just a short while ago it seemed another showpiece was set to be on our screens. Rewind to the CampNouin the semi-final first leg and Liverpool were not a boxer on the ropes, but one floored with the refs count at nine thanks to a Lionel Messi masterclass. 3-0. The result didn’t tell the whole story as the Reds had performed admirably and the second leg was no different, except with a scoreline that shocked everyone.
No soccer bet would predict what was coming in that following week, as the Reds stunned everyone getting a 4-0 result at Anfield to turn the tables. How anyone could watch Liverpool take Barcelona apart and think they stood a chance in the final? It is a question worth pondering, but Mauricio Pochettino found a way to channel Liverpool’s display into positivity for his team, as they emerged victorious from their showdown with this year’s favourite underdog, Ajax.
The Dutch side, who knocked out holders Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, already held a 1-0 advantage heading into the second leg and two first-half goals made it look a certainty that Liverpool and Ajax would play one another. Lucas Moura had other ideas, though, and a second-half hat-trick, including a last-minute strike, saw Spurs go through on away goals. Not even the last season of Game of Thrones had such thrilling battles, as this year’s Champions League semi-finals.
Liverpool head into the game with it all to lose – they’ve already seen their league title aspirations pass them by albeit with a record number of points for a runner up – and for them to end the campaign ‘trophyless’ would be an astronomical blow. The one safety net Liverpool have is that they have a settled squad that looks likely to stay together regardless of the outcome, which means they will likely challenge again next year.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Tottenham. Spurs boss Pochettino has thrown his future into doubt with comments he made about ‘going home’ if his side wins. Win or lose, the established big boys of European soccer will come asking questions with regards to key players such as Christian Eriksen, who has been linked with Real Madrid. Also, Daniel Levy will need to decide whether to back Pochettino financially or risk letting their squad and, potentially, the spirit slowly drift away.
The match itself is a difficult one to call, both sides will back themselves to get the desired result playing ‘their way’ and it could come down to a bit of individual brilliance or a cruel mishap – something Liverpool is all too aware, following Loris Karius’ mistake last year. The two guarantees are that you won’t want to take your eyes off it. Whatever you do don’t think it’s over when a team falls behind, because recent evidence in this season’s tournament suggests they’ll probably come back to win the thing.