Champions League Preview, Tottenham v Liverpool: Why it really is all or nothing for nearly-man Klopp
On Saturday, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool play their second Champions League final in as many seasons – against opposition that are probably a little staggered even to have made it this far. Find all the latest Champions League odds here.
Tottenham have lagged behind Liverpool all season – and as the season ended, the North London side looked pretty knackered. Yet if Spurs are being viewed as underdogs this weekend, Mauricio Pochettino’s side may just be capable of a plot twist that’ll bring Liverpool fans low.
On the face of it, Liverpool seem by far the likelier side to triumph at Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium. Besides a memorable Champions League run that saw them overturn a 3-0 first leg defeat to Barcelona, the Merseyside team have been magnificent all season, losing just one league game throughout the entire campaign.
Liverpool pushed the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City all the way for the league title, ultimately losing out by just a single point – even if critics will point out that Klopp’s side did let a 10-point lead in December get away from them.
Still, City are an inexorable, unyielding footballing force, a gargantuan juggernaut of ability that, under Pep Guardiola, possesses a seemingly unquenchable thirst for glory. They’re the Thanos of football teams – and it’ll take more than a few cosmic stones to invalidate their inevitability. That Liverpool’s gallant heroism ran City so close is impressive in its own right; perhaps next season, they’ll go for the head. Okay, enough with the Avengers references now.
In contrast to Liverpool, Tottenham have simply had a good season. They finished fourth in the league table, though some 26 points behind Liverpool; they produced memorable Champions League performances to edge past Man City and Ajax. They are in their first European cup final since 1984, when they won the UEFA Cup over Anderlecht on penalties.
They are also very possibly running on empty. Pochettino’s side won just one of their last five league games, losing to both Bournemouth and West Ham and finishing the season with injuries to Harry Kane – though the England striker is fit for Saturday’s game. How sharp he will be is up for question, of course.
Consider Poch and Klopp’s head-to-head record, and again Liverpool are clear favourites. In nine meetings with Pochettino, Klopp has won four and lost just once. Liverpool beat Spurs 2-1 in both this season’s previous meetings.
In other words, both form book and conventional wisdom point towards victory for five-time Champions League / European Cup winners Liverpool. Still, those expectations come with their own problems.
For Spurs, this final is almost an unexpected bonus. The fans will be gutted if they lose, of course – but no-one really expected them to be in this position in the first place, did they? A defeat for the North London side would hardly be a stunning twist.
Which suggests that whatever the expectations, the pressure is on Liverpool. And the possibility that the Merseyside team finish this unbelievable season, which promised so much, with nothing – well, that would truly be agonising for followers of this side.
As outstanding a manager as Klopp clearly this, he’s in real danger of becoming the ultimate nearly man. With Liverpool and former club Borussia Dortmund, Klopp has lost two previous Champions League finals; despite his obvious beloved status at Liverpool, the manager hasn’t actually won anything with the club yet.
So which side will be riding high on Saturday night? The odds seem to lean heavily in Liverpool’s favour. One year on from their near miss against Real Madrid, the Reds are poised to make up for that disappointment in style – by salvaging something special from a season that promised to be spectacular, but could yet end in a spiral of gloom.
For Tottenham, this is a shot at glory that the side have waited a long, long time for; but for Liverpool, it feels like an all-or-nothing moment. And it’s often the case in sport, as in life, that the most compelling story is the one that doesn’t pan out the way you expect it to…
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