Who Has The Edge In The Liverpool-Tottenham Champions League Final?

English Football, please stand up!!!

This Saturday, all of England will be tuning into Liverpool versus Tottenham in the first all-English Champions League final since 2008 when Manchester United led by the all-world attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney defeated Chelsea and leading midfielder Frank Lampard.

Many could reasonably point out, that neither club should be playing for the chance to win the UEFA European Cup this weekend in Madrid. Both clubs pulled off improbable comebacks in the second leg of their semifinals where they each trailed 3-0 against Ajax and Barcelona. This Champions League season has been filled with epic matches, high-stakes drama and comebacks galore, with both English sides surviving the chaos into the final.

All-in-all, we should be having a Barcelona-Ajax final, two clubs who share the same philosophy and mirror each other in style, when at their core best. A matchup between the Dutch and Spanish clubs would have been far more entertaining. This all-English scuffle, at least to me, is an underwhelming and unlikely matchup, given the fact that favorites like Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus, PSG or Atletico Madrid were expected to be in this position. There’s no surprise that Liverpool, one of the four best clubs in Europe this season, is here. Yet seeing an often-injured and up-and-down Tottenham club in this position takes the buzz away from this matchup. As such, the oddsmakers seem “at odds” on how this will play out.

As for me it will be the most unpredictable final. Both teams fought to the last in semifinals and can’t be underestimated. While Liverpool has that bit of deciding match experience from last year, Tottenham has nothing to lose and will do his best. According to the odds, Klopp’s men are huge favourites but it won’t be so easy for them. Artyom Harutyunyan, editor in chief for w2.bet’s match-center and statistic service.

However, there both here and a title is on the line.

Liverpool, last year’s runner-up, are the favorites and rightfully so, but the danger in this match is the familiarity Tottenham have with them by virtue of playing in the Premier League. Last season, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool employed a “heavy metal football” mentality where they ran clubs off the pitch from the attacking side. This season, the Reds are a much more complete club, especially on the defensive side where they conceded the fewest goals (22) in the Premier League and have one of the three best goalkeepers in Europe in Allison Becker.

Tottenham, on the other hand, likes to attack but it’s all dictated by what kind of formation manager Mauricio Pochettino will construct for that particular match. In the first leg vs. Ajax in the Champions League semifinals, the Spurs played a 3-1-4-2. In the second leg, a 4-2-3-1. In the first leg vs. Manchester City in the quarterfinals, they played a 4-2-3-1. In the second leg, an uncommon 4-1-2-1-2.

In both meetings against Liverpool in league play – in which Liverpool won both matches, 2-1 – Tottenham threw out different formations. The Spurs employed a 4-1-2-1-2 setup in the first match at Wembley, then a 3-1-4-2 look in the second match at Anfield. Pochettino is known to move his strikers, wingers and midfielders all over the pitch, depending on the situation.

But, I have no idea what lineup Pochettino will put out for the Champions League final.

Tottenham will most likely use three or four defensive backs. If it’s three, expect there midfielders like Erick Winks and Moussa Sissoko to provide support for the backline. Expect their defense to be cognizant of not only the extreme pace of the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Robert Firmino coming at them, but the two fullbacks – Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right side and Andrew Robertson on the left side – towering down the flanks to give Liverpool more options.

Alexander-Arnold (12 assists in league play) and Robertson (11) might be the most dangerous offensive full-back tandem in all of Europe because of the attacking threat they pose, to go along with their beautiful crossing ability. Tottenham will have to keep a close eye on those two, but with the midfield decimated by injuries late in the season, there’s no telling who’s going to be out there for the Spurs.

If Tottenham plays with four backs, they will be better equipped to stay in front of Liverpool’s attack. However, if the Reds catch an opportunity for an counterattack, they’re putting the Spurs’ slowing defenders at risk to concede goals.

You can expect both clubs to press. While Tottenham’s press is effective, Liverpool’s press and counterpress causes havoc for clubs. Just ask Barcelona. If they have the ball and lose it, they go right back and try to recover it. The controlled aggression and high energy level that Klopp’s men press with will be a handful for Pochettino’s group. Tottenham just might counter with their own vigorous press.

Obviously, Liverpool will pick their spots when to press. To negate the pressure, Tottenham can go over the top of the midfield and hope to win balls in the attacking third. However, I expect centerbacks Virgil Van Dijk and either Joe Gomez or Joel Matip to clear balls and let nothing sneak behind them, as they did versus Barcelona.

Maintaining possession might be the most important factor. In their first meeting, Tottenham controlled 61% of possession to Liverpool’s 39%. In the second meeting, it was much closer with Tottenham winning 52% of the ball to Liverpool’s 48%. Given that Tottenham still lost both matches, dictating the rhythm could decide the winner.

Liverpool’s James Milner and Tottenham’s Harry Kane. Photo Credit- SportsInteraction.com

My X-factor is Harry Kane. He’s been out since April, but he’s fit to play. The world-class striker is going to give the Spurs an option that the Reds’ backline will have to deal with. To go along with his instinctive poaching ability, he does a great job finding tight spaces to convert goals and when outside or at the top of the box, he shows patience and spreads the ball around to his teammates.

The individual matchup between Kane and Van Dijk will be the most consequential of the final, and one that might resolve the outcome.

I see this contest being a tight one. Tottenham has showed a fighting spirit that has carried them through to this point. Their resilience has been their biggest attribute during this run. They have formidable players going forward with pace and skill in Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min and Dele Ali, as well as one of the prominent attacking midfielders in the world in Christian Eriksen to pair with Kane. All five are capable of taking a match by the throat.

Yet, I see Liverpool in their usual 4-3-3 formation having the more dependable defense, the more physical midfield and having high-skill players in Mane, Firmino and Salah that can break through at some point in the match. Also, I think Klopp’s pressing tactics will neutralize Pochettino’s savvy solutions just enough to bring home the club’s sixth European Cup.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-2

Man of the Match: Roberto Firmino

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