31 May 2019
There’s no way on God’s green earth that Tottenham should be in this final. There, I said it.
And I’m not just talking about the logic-defying 3-3 away goals victory over those poor Ajax kids in the semi-final. Although, seeing as we’re talking about it – Lucas Moura’s match-winning hat-trick was only slightly less ridiculous than Moussa Sissoko being Spurs’ best player.
Nor am I talking about the madness of their quarter-final versus Manchester City. Another away goals win (this time 4-4), with an ending even more far-fetched than the semi-final.
I’m talking about how they managed to get out of the group. With 8pts. Having conceded more goals than they scored. Name on the trophy? It might have to be, because their form is shocking. And has been since mid-February.
They have won just three of their last 12 matches (D2, L7). Form that would’ve put them in the Bottom Five. Add to that a record of 7pts from a possible 30pts against the Top Six in the Premier League and that name had better be diamond-etched.
In the red corner, Liverpool have won 13 of their last 14 in all competitions. And you know exactly how they’re going to line up too.
Plus, they will feel they deserve to go a step further than last year. That night it was Real Madrid’s name that was on the trophy. Again. Nothing went for Liverpool. From the Sergio Ramos folding press on Mo Salah to comedy Karius throwing one in his own net.
But there are no such Spaniards to get in the works this time. They disappeared when Barca made another fine Messi of their semi-final first leg lead. It was undoubtedly the greatest comeback all time. For 24 hours.
Tottenham have stolen Liverpool’s thunder once this season. But surely, they can’t again.
Mauricio Pochettino should have a full complement of players to choose from in Madrid. Jan Vertonghen (ankle), Danny Rose (hamstring), Davinson Sanchez (thigh), Dele Alli (muscular) and Harry Winks (hernia) have all trained as normal ahead of the European showpiece. Harry Kane has also declared himself fit, but after damaging ankle ligaments at the beginning of April, the Tottenham boss has a tough decision to make. “I’ve been full training, doing everything. I’m at a place now where I’m ready to go for any game but, again, it’s down to the manager,” Kane said earlier this week. “There have been no problems so far. The manager will assess it and decide whether I’m ready to go or not, but so far, I feel good and ready.” Ben Davies has delayed surgery on his groin until after the final and the Welshman is expected to make the 18-man squad while Kieran Tripper, omitted from the latest England get together due a dip in form, admitted he has been hampered by his own groin issue although it won’t stop him from playing here.
Predicted XI: Lloris; Rose, Tripper, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Sissoko, Dier; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane.
Jürgen Klopp is confident Roberto Firmino will be available for Saturday’s final after stepping up his recovery from an adductor injury which ruled him out of the last three games. The Brazilian re-joined the group on the clubs’ warm-weather training camp in Marbella and has been ramping up his work since. “Bobby trained, and looked really good, everything was fine. Then we took him out again. He will be in training from tomorrow on again,” the manager explained at a media day on Tuesday. “All that we saw so far looked really good and he will be fine, I’m pretty sure.” However, Naby Keita will not be ready despite being ahead of schedule. “[There is] no chance for Naby,” added Klopp. “He is really progressing well; we will see how it will work out for him for the Africa Cup of Nations. We don’t know that yet.”
Predicted XI: Alisson; Matip, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho; Mane, Firmino, Salah.