Two familiar foes. Two different approaches. But a similar desperation and desire, with sights on that one prize.
The stage is set as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur seek to write their name into the history books in the Champions League final to be held in Madrid on Sunday – the first all-English final since that night in Moscow more than a decade ago, where Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties.
Champions League 2018-'19 statistics
|Top scorer||Mohamed Salah (4 goals)||Harry Kane, Lucas Moura (5 goals)|
|Highest assists||Christian Eriksen (4)||Trent Alexander-Arnold (3)|
|Highest saves||Alisson (38)||Hugo Lloris (29)|
|Highest passes||Virgil Van Dijk (622)||Toby Alderweireld (585)|
These are two sides that have undergone a remarkable transition in the last few years. And despite no trophies to evaluate their progress for a combined total of 18 years – seven for Liverpool, eleven for Spurs – it’s a final that is high on emotions.
Liverpool will see this as opportunity to exorcise the demons of that night in Kiev one year ago where they were handed a 1-4 drubbing by Real Madrid and at all costs will be looking to avoid becoming the third side behind Juventus (1997, 1998) and Valencia (2000, 2001) to suffer two consecutive final defeats.
Written off at the start, no one tipped Spurs to make it here. Now under Mauricio Pochettino, they are living a dream and well within touching distance of winning their first European Cup since 1984.
Road to finals
|Group stage||Beat PSG 3-2||Lost to Inter 1-2|
|Group stage||Lost to Napoli 0-1||Lost to Barcelona 2-4|
|Group stage||Beat Crvena zvezda 4-0||Drew with PSV Eindhoven 2-2|
|Group stage||Lost to Crvena zvezda 0-2||Beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1|
|Group stage||Lost to PSG 2-1||Beat Inter 1-0|
|Group stage||Beat Napoli 1-0||Drew with Barcelona 1-1|
|Round of 16 (first leg)||Drew with Bayern Munich 0-0||Beat Dortmund 3-0|
|Round of 16 (second leg)||Beat Bayern Munich 3-1||Beat Dortmund 1-0|
|Quarterfinals (first leg)||Beat Porto 2-0||Beat Manchester City 1-0|
|Quarterfinals (second leg)||Beat Porto 4-1||Lost to Manchester City 3-4|
|Semifinals (first leg)||Lost to Barcelona 0-1||Lost to Ajax 1-0|
|Semifinals (second leg)||Beat Barcelona 4-0||Beat Ajax 3-2|
None of them were assured of a place in the knockout stages early December before their respective final group matches.
Liverpool edged Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli to grab the second place in group C behind Paris Saint-Germain after securing a nail-biting 1-0 victory against the Italians at home.
Spurs, on the other hand, finished second behind Barcelona in group B and were on the verge of being knocked out before Inter Milan failed to beat PSV, thus advancing due to a better head-to-head record against the Serie A side.
The Reds knocked out Bayern Munich and Porto on their way to their semis while Spurs got the better of Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City respectively.
But they blew the whole world away with comebacks for the ages. Liverpool registered a scintillating comeback to knock out Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate managing to achieve the monumental feat despite the absence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Inspired by their counterparts, Tottenham stunned a brave Ajax side that had put Real Madrid and Juventus to the sword after Lucas Moura pulled off a heist with a sensational hat-trick that saw his side through 4-3 on aggregate.
High stakes for both managers
|Jurgen Klopp||Mauricio Pochettino|
|Points per match||1.96||1.89|
While Klopp’s heavy metal and free-flowing football has made the Reds one of the most fearsome sides in world football, Pochettino’s pragmatic and systematic approach has seen the Argentine soar new heights since he joined the club in 2014.
Although the two might have not won any silverware with their respective clubs; more than their reputation, Sunday’s final could transform their individual careers.
The German has lost six finals in a row and a victory in Madrid would spur Liverpool to achieve accolades on the domestic front as well next year.
Meanwhile, Pochettino is yet to break his 10-year trophy drought as manager and has already hinted at leaving the club should they emerge victors against the mighty Reds.
Both managers have faced each other a total of nine times in the Premier League although Klopp holds the advantage as they embrace the biggest test of their careers.
In nine meetings so far, the former Dortmund manager has lost only once – winning and drawing four each.
Come Sunday, Liverpool will certainly start as favourites and the massive 26-point gap in the Premier League between the two sides highlights why Pochettino has nothing to lose after defying the odds this season.