Tottenham and Liverpool (2019 Champions League Final)

“English Affair” Part two: The Champions League Final 2019

2019 Champions League Final

The Champions League Final is the second part of the record-setting English haul in the UEFA Continental Tournaments (ah — sweep sweep), with the other being the Europa League Championship game. The 2019 UEFA Champions League Final features the match up of Tottenham and Liverpool. Although “technically” one team is going to be “at home” neither team really will be as the 2019 Champions League Final takes place at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on the first of June. This game also involves the Premier League Golden Boot winners from 2015 to current (except Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who shared the award this season with Mané and Salah). Although these sides (especially Tottenham) were not among the favorites to win the Champions League, here we are, at the Champions League Final.

The 2019 Champions League Final is set to be officiated by Damir Skomina of Slovenia who was selected to officiate three games in the 2018 Olympics in Russia. Skomina has pretty much officiated at every level of the game including the Euros, Euro Cup, Champions League, World Cup, Europa League, and the Olympics in his sixteen years as a FIFA Match Official.

Champions League Finalist #1: Tottenham

A quick recap of how they got here: Tottenham beat Manchester City, Inter, Barcelona, and a two-legged semifinal win over Ajax en route to this Champions League Final.

In away matches during this season’s Champions League, Tottenham has racked up a record of 2-2-2 (at home they are 4-2-0). During this time frame, they are averaging just over 1.8 goals scored per game (compared to 1.8 at home) and are conceding the same number (although at home it’s one concession allowed per game). However, Tottenham is coming off of a 3-2 victory over Ajax that put them through to the Champion’s League Finals on away goals.

Players to Watch in the Champions League Final:

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  • Harry Kane: Despite initial projections of being out for the season — Kane was seen sprinting across the pitch to celebrate their advance, setting the path for a possible return against Liverpool. Kane is among the players tied for 7th in goals scored with 5(despite on playing in only eight games for 688′) in the Champions League with five and is averaging a goal every 137.6 minutes. In the four away games that Kane has played in, he’s scored two goals as well as added an assist (the remaining goals were scored at home). Kane has struggled mightily for maintaining fitness this Champions League season, and he’ll really want to cap it off with a big game in the Champions League Final.Kane is so much a part of this team that (as I commented on in my write up for the last round) Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, called it the “Harry Kane” team. It was particularly ironic that the Tottenham side that knocked City of the tournament was missing Kane. In Champions League away games, Kane is averaging 3.5 shots per game, a nearly 84% pass success rate, and a key pass per game.
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  • Kieran Trippier: In all fairness to Trippier, I (along with many others) probably haven’t given him enough credit for his contributions to this side’s Champions League success to date. So I’m going to take this opportunity to do that, while Trippier doesn’t score a lot of goals, he is an instrumental part in creating them. This has been particularly apparent on the road where he’s added two assists (in three games) as opposed to the one assist he’s added at home (in four games).However, the most significant part of Trippier’s contributions may be kept off of the scoresheet. In UCL away matches, he’s averaging two successful tackles, 1.7 interceptions, 1.3 times fouled, and nearly 1.5 clearances per game. However, he also contributes on the attacking side of things with five key passes played per game as well as 2.9 successful long balls per game — all of this done while maintaining at 76% pass completion rate on nearly 47 passes per game. I have a hard time envisioning how he’s not a part of this Champions League final in a big, big way.
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  • Son Heung-Min: Son has filled in for Kane’s role and done an excellent job of it across both the Premier League and the Champions League. Son has been a great fill in while Kane has battled injuries, but I think that assuming Kane does start he will become even more valuable. Generally, teams will man-mark Harry Kane, which should open up some breathing room for a very dangerous Son.Son is likely to start either on the left wing or paired up alongside Harry Kane. His positioning will be very much determined the approach that Pochettino decides to take. Honestly, it’s a bit of a gamble, either way, trying to outscore Liverpool is a high-risk, high-reward strategy, but so is trying to play a defensive game. My guess is that Pochettino will go towards an attacking approach (it is the finals after all) because they need not win a two-legged race. If I’m right that far, I think that Son will make the scoresheet in the final, hands down.
  • Runners Up:
    • Christian Eriksen: Eriksen got a mention from the Champions League semifinal write up, and there’s nothing that’s moved me off of him, as he’s still providing great assist value for the side. Probably the best part of Eriksen’s contributions this campaign is that he’s managed to maintain consistency regardless of location, something which few players have been able to accomplish.
    • Lucas Moura: Moura absolutely destroyed the Champions League Semifinal with three goals of his very own. (Read as follows: Moura got Tottenham to this Champions League Finals with his hat-trick performance and the only scorer for Tottenham.) I wanted to give him one of those top spots; I’m just not sure that he’s going to displace a returning Kane or a blistering Son for the starting spot in this Champions League final. He will likely feature off of the bench for the Spurs, but he can be my “super sub” pick.
    • Hugo Lloris: Lloris got a mention in the Champions League semifinals (last round) because of his shot stopping abilities and continued Man Of the Match awards. Nothing’s changed here; I don’t think the keepers decide this game but instead by the quality of attack going forward.

 

Champions League Finalist #2: Liverpool

 

A quick recap of how they got here: Liverpool beat Bayern Munich, Porto, sneaking out of the group stage with PSG and SC Napoli. Their semifinal matchup was a brilliant recovery after going down by three goals in the first leg, they charged back and put four goals in the net to progress to the Champions League Final.

Liverpool is coming off of a stunning second-place finish in the Premier League. They set a new (undesirable) record for having the most points without winning the league. With that in mind, I think Jurgen Klopp goes all out to bring a trophy home to Liverpool. As a result of that, and the completion of the Premier League season, I think he’ll bring out a team that’s chomping at the bit to score goals.

Players to Watch in the Champions League Final:

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    • Sadio Mané: Mané is one of two players that have remained in fine form for the Reds on the road. Mane is the leading scorer for the Reds on the road (and he’s tied with our next player to watch for the overall lead). He’s scored three goals in 6 appearances away from Anfield, trailed by our third player to watch. All in all, he’s provided just under 50% of the goals scored by Liverpool away from home. (note: Mané is one of the Premier League Golden Boot winners this year.)Mané has provided useful auxiliary contributions for this team. He is averaging 1.7 shots, 1.2 key passes, 2.5 (successful) dribbles, 0.9 successful long balls, and has drawn 2.3 fouls per game. I think that Mané will be a massive part of this match against Tottenham as both teams have been able to score in bunches. He has acted as a great target man for Salah’s who despite scoring less has still been providing, and I expect Mané to be the recipient.
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  • Mohamed Salah: Salah is the other player who has been a stabilizing force for Liverpool; however, his goalscoring record holds far fewer away from home. Salah is entering this game after getting awarded one of the Premier League Golden Boots this year. However, despite the impressive feat of going back-to-back for the Golden Boot, it was a severe drop from his 32 goals from his 2017-2018 season.Salah has provided four goals to the Champions League cause for Liverpool, but only one them has come away from Anfield. This Champions League final is Salah’s last chance to represent Liverpool this season, and I expect him to give it his all. Look to see him on the scoresheet whether as a scorer or adding to his two away assists tally as he provides excellent service for Mané.
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  • Virgil van Dijk: van Dijk has been one of the surprise points for the Champion’s League version of Liverpool. Not only has van Dijk made himself the second-leading scorer away from Anfield but he’s also gotten on the score sheet in other ways. So far, he’s amassed two goals and an assist on the road (compared to the sole assist provided at home).van Dijk has not only been a stout defender for the Reds. He’s contributed mightily to the offensive cause. He’s averaging 0.7 shot, 62.7 passes per game and five successful long balls per game. Despite his high number of passes, he’s still managed to keep his pass success rate above 87.4%. Perhaps the biggest irony of all is that Liverpool set a record for spending on a defender; one who has provided substantial offensive assets.
  • Runners Up:
    • Trent Alexander-Arnold: Alexander-Arnold has been mentioned before in this series and with good reason. I have no real reason to share as to why I think he’s going to take a back seat in this game, except perhaps the vast differential in form at home versus away.
    • Roberto Firmino: Much like Alexander-Arnold, Firmino has had a good season. So much so that’s, he started drawing serious interest from other clubs which seek to make him their focal point.
    • James Milner: Milner has contributed regardless of venue, but he’s played more of a supporting role. I think he’ll still be an asset for the team, but I think the others are more likely to decide the game’s outcome.

What to expect:

June 1st brings about the 2019 Champions League Final, and it will be the final match of the soccer season (at least those on FIFA’s traditional schedule), and I do not doubt that it’ll be one to hold us over until the transfer window gets crazy. Neither manager is going to sit back and play defensively– both want to win — and they’ll wish to it see it done correctly. This is the 2019 Champions League Final we’re talking about, not only are there bragging rights — but there’s also massive prize money!

Liverpool is the favorite of the bookies to start, though it’s expected to be an absolute goal-fest. I, for one, am excited and, at least at the moment of writing, I am leaning towards a Liverpool victory led by two of the three golden boot winners on the season. However, I think the game is going to be high scoring and will likely be separated by only a single goal. What do you think the Champions League Final will bring?

Enjoy the offseason!

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Last Updated: May 22, 2019

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