The debutant curse and why Liverpool will win Uefa Champions League
Despite losing only a game during the Premier League season, Liverpool watched in agony as Manchester City claimed a second successive Premier League title and put paid to their dream of ending their league drought.
It is why a win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Uefa Champions League final represents a means to salvage their season.
Real Madrid dented Liverpool’s hopes of lifting a seventh Champions League trophy last season with a 3-1 defeat in the final, but the Reds are poised to reclaim the treasure at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Saturday night.
Unlike the experienced Spanish giants, Liverpool face first time finalists in Tottenham Hotspur.
Doubtless, Tottenham have shown they deserve to be in this stage of the competition after the display of a dramatic comebacks over Ajax away from home. Nevertheless, Spurs are aliens in the terrain they find themselves, playing against familiar opponents in an unusual environment – the Champions League final.
While their efforts have been applauded, Liverpool will be too much for Tottenham to handle and here are a few reasons why Liverpool will win.
The debutant curse
This year’s final will be the most talked about match in the Champions League if Tottenham go on to win because history has never favoured first-timers in the competition.
Every team that has won the Europe elite football competition have lifted the trophy in their second or third attempt in the final. Chelsea lost their first Champions League final against Manchester United in 2008 and later won it in 2012. Most recently, Real Madrid shrugged off Athletico Madrid in their first and second attempt- 2016 and 2018 Champions League final.
To win the most decorated club football trophy in the world, Tottenham need to make another attempt and not hope for a another night of Champions League miracles.
Mangers of both teams- Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Tottenham’s Pochettino have shown they have the tactical ability to cancel each other out in the final. But the Liverpool manger edges Pochettino in this regard.
While midfield will be a key battleground, the full-back areas could prove just as pivotal. If Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson rampage forward as they did at Anfield recently, Liverpool will be well set win the match.
Pochettino’s Tottenham are no pushovers for Liverpool after the manner at which they adapted to tactical changes to dump Manchester City and Ajax out of the competition.
But Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier might not be able to replicate the attacking technicality of both wing backs for Liverpool while they also have the duties of ensuring Mohammed Salah and Saido Mane do not have their best games.
While Liverpool’s lineup has been relatively settled for much of the season, Tottenham have been hammered by injuries at various stages. As a result, Pochettino has played a variety of lineups and schemes, and going into this game, it’s hard to predict how Tottenham will take the field.
Unfamiliar terrain for players and manager
This season’s Champions League final makes it the third European cup final for Jurgen Klopp after loosing to Bayern Munich in 2014 and to Real Madrid in 2018. While Pochettino’s best run as a manager was qualifying Tottenham to the Champions League semi-final stage in 2017.
Asides Liverpool’s goalie- Allison Becker, Nabir Keita, Fabino and defender Virgil Van Dijj, Jurgen Klopp still has the core of the players that played in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine. These players have tasted defeat at the highest level and know what victory demands.
Tottenham, however, are first timers and could arguably be described as ‘accidental finalists’ after odds-on favourites- Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich all crashed out in an unforeseen manner.
Tottenham might have the will to go on and win, but players and manger could be lost in the match when energy and tactics fizzle out and mental and psychological strength is all required to edge your opponents. Liverpool have demonstrated mental and psychological strength to win games in the Premier League, but Tottenham have often and often let off their guards when it mattered most.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah took Europe by storm last season, when he scored 44 goals after joining from Roma, and many expected him to regress to the mean this season. But while his numbers are down to 26 goals this campaign, he’s still a constant scoring threat.
His pace, holdup and team play and craftiness behind the ball is one of many reasons Liverpool could lift the trophy.
Saido Mane, who was joint Premier League top scorer with Salah and Arsenal’s Aubameyang, is a constant threat to any defense, not even Tottenham’s back two of Ventoghen and Toby Alderweireld is exempted.
Brazilian Roberto Firmino although battled with injuries during the season, but had not dwindled in dictating play for the team up front especially when they hit teams on a counter. All together these trio have netted 53 of Liverpool’s goals in the season.
In defense, Liverpool have enjoyed solidity since the inclusion of Van Dijk to the team. Although he had a performance below par against Barcelona in the semifinal first leg, but he returned to his usual base of stopping everything that has the round shape of the ball from going past him.
In a sudden resurgence, Joel Matip has been solid beside Van Dijk and formed a formidable partnership which Liverpool lacked over the years.
For Tottenham Hotspur, Christian Eriksen is the sort of player who is neither quick nor athletic, but highly clever in finding space and unlocking opposition defenses.
Son has scored more key goals for Tottenham this season. His combination of strength, tactical nous and energy makes him a threat to run behind when opponents lose possession.
Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are longtime, multiclub and national teammates and are two of the most skilled defenders in the world, both in defense and going forward.
Kane’s return also poses a dilemma for Pochettino, who might not want to leave out either Son Heung-Min or Moura for their heroics in getting Spurs this far.
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