UEFA Champions League Final – The All English Road to Madrid
Some 11 years after Manchester United prevailed against Chelsea, Saturday marks the 2nd all English UEFA Champions League Final in history; as Liverpool take on Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Tottenham manager Pochettino had his work cut out for him from the start, facing a challenging group of Barcelona, PSV and Inter Milan. Spurs and Inter tied for second place on points and goal difference, with Spurs only reaching the knockout rounds by tallying more goals in total.
They immediately made an impact in the round of 16, thrashing German giants Borussia Dortmund 3-0 at Wembley; furthermore consolidating their Champions League status by winning the away leg as well.
It appeared that Spurs’ UCL dreams could be quickly over, as they drew Treble winning Manchester City in the quarterfinals. Pochettino managed to lead his side to a 1-0 victory in their first Champions League game in the new stadium, and the away leg in Manchester was one to remember. Spurs scraped their way through to the Semi-Finals, following an enthralling game filled by VAR and controversy. They lost the second leg 4-3 but secured their place through the away goal rule.
The London team further shocked the football world when achieving their place in this years UCL final; a second-half hat trick from Lucas Moura including an injury-time winning goal was what it took to overcome Ajax. This will be The Lilywhites first European final since 1984, where they beat Anderlecht to raise the UEFA Cup.
Few teams in this year’s competition had a harder run than Liverpool. Following the backlash that Klopp’s men received in the 2017/18 UCL for their somewhat easy run of fixtures, the Reds’ have certainly earned their place this year in Madrid. Having survived arguably the toughest group stage in this years competition – consisting of Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli – Liverpool then surged on to defeat domestic-double winning Bayern-Munich and Porto.
The Reds semi-final victory is bound to go down in the history books after an astonishing night at Anfield. Facing Barcelona, Klopp had his work cut out for him; even more so after losing the first leg 3-0 in Spain, and star attackers Salah and Firmino injured.
Nearly everybody would have thought Barcelona were through to another UCL Final, their first since they last won the trophy in 2015. At Anfield, Origi opened the scoring early, following a rapid brace from newly substituted Wijnaldum. In the 79th minute, the stadium filled with ecstasy. Origi managed to get his second, and Liverpool had triumphed. The game was one that flooded fans with the nostalgia of that night in Istanbul in 2005.
Alongside the UCL, Liverpool’s fantastic run in the Premier League spurred themselves and Manchester City to the highest two team point total in Premier League history, being narrowly beaten by The Blues by a single point. Having not lost a game since 3rd of March, along with a series of injuries to the XI including Mohammed Sarah, Roberto Firmino and Joe Gomez as well as long term injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.
Tottenham performed well in this year’s Premier League season, finishing 4th and securing their place for next years European competition. Very few people would have expected them to reach this stage, so will they go on to cause an upset? England’s star striker Harry Kane left the field injured during their victory over Manchester City in the UCL and has yet to make a return to action. There is a slight doubt of his fitness, but facing Liverpool, Pochettino needs all the firepower he can get. Sanchez, Winks and Vertonghen are also doubted for the clash against Liverpool.
Liverpool may have the psychological difference going into the game, following their success in the Premier League this season. The Reds’ beat Spurs both home and away 2-1 on each occasion. They are certainly favourites to win this years competition and will be seeking revenge following last years disastrous loss to Real Madrid. We predict Liverpool will prevail, and win the game 3-1.