Will the Champions League trophy be heading to London or Liverpool?
It’s been one hell of a European journey for Spurs and Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side emerged from the Group of Death by the skin of their teeth—edging past Napoli in the final game courtesy of a huge late save from Alisson—before returning from the dead in that spectacular victory against Barcelona in the semis.
If ever there was a footballing equivalent of Tyson Fury’s miraculous recovery against Deontay Wilder in the 12th round, this was it.
Well, it was until 24 hours later.
As if Liverpool beating Barcelona wasn’t dramatic enough, Spurs’ recovery against Ajax was perhaps more dramatic. Lucas Moura dragged his side off the canvas and into the final – after Spurs somehow qualified from their own devilishly tough group, despite earning just one point from their first three matches.
However, as Real Madrid showed last season, you can’t win the Champions League without riding your luck a little along the way.
So, looking at the betting, my first pick is one I’m very confident about: both teams to score. Both sides have found the net in seven of Spurs and Liverpool’s last eight meetings, and it’s clear they know an awful lot about each other; I can’t imagine either manager will adopt an overly-cautious, feel-each-other-out approach once on Saturday.
While the contests are always hotly-contested, Liverpool do have the edge over Spurs in recent years. The Londoners have only beaten Liverpool once in their last 14 matches against them, although with four of the last nine ending in draws, you’d be a fool to write this one off as a foregone conclusion.
Jurgen Klopp’s bizarrely terrible record in finals is also an interesting curveball; the German has lost his last six major finals, and while it shouldn’t affect proceedings, it’s something which might start eating away at him should things turn pear-shaped.
Liverpool’s clean bill of health—with the likely exception of Naby Kieta—is a nice boost for Klopp, although Harry Kane’s imminent return to action (and yes, one way or another, Kane will feature on Saturday) will be music to Spurs fans’ ears.
This could well be a classic European final. Despite Liverpool’s recent history against Spurs, and their clear superiority in the Premier league this season, the gulf between the two sides isn’t considerable. It’s the most exciting Champions League final in many years.
Whatever happens, I expect both teams to score, and I’m putting 2pts into this pick at -137.
We can debate all we like about who will be the hero on Saturday: will Kane inspire Spurs to glory? Can Mo Salah end Klopp’s trophy drought? Is Hugh Lloris going to be a hero or villain?
The one thing I can see having a huge impact on the game is VAR. The dreaded VAR. The three worst letters in football.
VAR’s contribution to this season’s Champions League has, shall we say, been controversial – and that’s an understatement.
Video technology continues to dig its talons into the game we love (can you tell what side of the VAR debate I’m on?), and it seems written in the stars it’ll play a part in Saturday’s final. There was VAR-assorted ridiculousness in the World Cup Final, and I can’t shirk this nagging feeling that technology will leave a bitter taste in everybody’s mouth.
For this technological skulduggery to result in Damir Skomina pointing to the penalty spot, you’ll get odds of +275. I hope this season’s Champions League isn’t settled by a super-slo-mo replay of the ball brushing Jan Vertonghen’s index finger after it was blasted at him from a yard away – but unfortunately, it might.
For my value pick, I’ve backed Liverpool to win 2-1 after 90 minutes, priced at +800.
A draw is certainly on the table, as is a Spurs win, but Liverpool are just so strong, and a closely-fought Reds victory is my most likely outcome – particularly with BTTS a strong prospect.
Liverpool’s last two meetings with Spurs have ended in 2-1 victories, and side as good as this simply can’t go trophyless…can they?
This is where all the botched finals are remedied by Klopp. Spurs are worthy finalists, and I’m not ruling them out totally, but for me, Liverpool’s name is on this year’s Champions League trophy.