Champions League 2019: Liverpool vs Tottenham26 May 2019
Dubbed perennial bottlers by fans and pundits alike, the jovial Jürgen Klopp faces off against the pragmatic Mauricio Pochettino for what will go down as the biggest game of their careers.
Anfield’s favourite German is yet to win a European final, despite featuring in three. Klopp’s misfortunes began in the 2012-13 Champions League final with Dortmund, where Wembley proved itself his bad omen as domestic rivals Bayern Munich clinched a 2-1 victory. Basel oversaw his first European final with Liverpool, where Sevilla dismantled the Reds after finishing third in their Champions League “group of death”, featuring Manchester City, Juventus and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Kyiv was witness to Liverpool’s most recent disappointment, where a Gareth Bale powered Real Madrid were the beneficiary of one of the worst goalkeeping performances in European football history from Loris Karius.
Since his arrival from Southampton in 2014, Pochettino has made a name for himself as one of the best managers in the world on a limited budget, making the best out of what he has, whilst committing to the philosophy of signing players young and nurturing them into the first-team. Mauricio has been to a lonely one final so far, being the Football League (EFL) Cup, where Jose Mourinho led Chelsea to an assured 2-0 victory.
Domestic finals always play out slightly differently than those featuring sides from different parts of the world, as the two sides have plenty of experience against one another, this looks to be no different. Jurgen Klopp tends to get the better of Pochettino, facing the Argentine once and only emerging disappointed once, drawing four and drawing four of the remaining eight games.
Perhaps harsh on Tottenham, these statistics paint a one-sided picture, leaving the other half of the Klopp & Pochettino shaped canvas rather blank, but reality proves to be a whole different work of art. Twice at Anfield and once at Wembley, the last three games between these two have been proof of the gap closing between the sides, despite Liverpool winning two of three, drawing the other.
A superb game of football saw a 2-2 draw played out in February 2018, a Wanyama screamer, Salah brace, two goals in injury time and a penalty, this game had everything. Liverpool proceeded to win the next two, both finishing 2-1 in Jurgen’s favour, not without a hint of luck both times round though. Most notably, the Lloris blunder that was recorded as a Toby Alderwiereld own goal in the 90th minute secured Liverpool three points and assured Lloris a rough few nights worth of sleep after-the-fact.
Qualification for the champions league final is not something money can buy, but these two English sides showed their worth, without spending anywhere near as much as the competition. Barcelona, PSG and Manchester City were all beaten by one of the finalists at one point in the competition.
Liverpool sold their key man last season for around £130m in Philippe Coutinho, replacing him with Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, two key men in their quest to Champions League glory. Tottenham have reached the heights of the final by spending £0 this season, instead revitalising the same squad and getting 110% out of everyone. Investments far more intelligent than the aforementioned three, with Barcelona, as previously mentioned, signing Philippe Coutinho for an incredible fee, far more than his lacklustre performances since the move would suggest he is worth.
Two historic semi-finals were the route to Madrid, starting with Spurs, they faced the media’s darling, Ajax. Narrowly, they came out second best in the first leg as Donny van de Beek scored early on to guide them to a 1-0 win, yet there was still hope around the Tottenham camp. Traveling to the Amsterdam ArenA for leg two, Pochettino and his side went 3-0 down on aggregate, Hakim Ziyech and Matthijs de Ligt seemingly putting the tie out of reach after just half an hour. Lucas Moura, however, disagreed. Five minutes, two goals, it is the 60th minute and Tottenham need just one goal to go through on away goals. Ajax seemed to have weathered the Tottenham-attack shaped storm until far past the added injury time, where Moura secured the spot in the final and capped off his hat-trick with a 96th minute winner.
Coutinho wore the smuggest of grins after the first leg in Spain, as his new side trumped his old one, by a 3-0 margin. The Anfield atmosphere never dies, and the eleven players out there for the home side will never walk alone, no matter how slim the chances of progression are, but miracles, they happen. 90 minutes later, Origi and Wijnaldum had scored two each, Trent Alexander-Arnold had written himself into Liverpool history, and Liverpool fans were scouring Madrid for hotels and flights.
As for the result in Madrid, it is impossible to tell. Destiny seems to align for Tottenham, the VAR incident against Manchester City, the last-gasp comeback against Ajax, the storyline, it would all just make sense. The fairytale ending doesn’t always arrive as described though, and Liverpool go into the final as favourites after losing in Ukraine last season to Real Madrid. Klopp has a positive record against Pochettino, and a lot to prove, whilst Mauricio is yet to win a title in his career.
Fact being fact, one of these managers will come away disappointed, but it sure shapes up to be a fascinating affair, don’t miss out.