At the end of one of the greatest Champions Leagues in recent years, there are 2 English teams still standing – Spurs and Liverpool. In the semis, both came back to triumph from a seemingly hopeless position. Here, we’ll look at some of the biggest matchups which will decide who gets to walk out with the Champions League Trophy in Madrid.
1. Harry Kane vs Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip:
Kane has declared himself fit for the Final, and if he truly is fit, he will most likely start at the Wanda Metropolitano. Kane has scored 5 goals in 8 starts in the Champions League this season, and the England talisman will want to lead his boyhood club to the greatest victory in the club’s history. He will come up against the formidable Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip. Van Dijk deservedly won the PFA Player of the Year award this season for a magnificent performance, and Matip is a very capable partner at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. Liverpool have the best league defensive record in all of Europe’s top 5 leagues this season, having conceded only 22 goals in the EPL. Furthermore, they concede the 3rd lowest shots per game in Europe, behind only Bayern and Manchester City. Kane and his teammates will go a long way towards lifting the cup if they can find a way to go past Liverpool’s miserly defense.
2. Heung Min Son and Lucas Moura vs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson:
This might be the battle that decides the game on both sides of the field. Robertson and Arnold are the most potent attacking full-back partnership in Europe, with Arnold and Robertson contributing 12 and 11 assists each, only behind Joshua Kimmich’s 13 in all of Europe for fullbacks. Stopping them will be key as the marauding fullbacks are Liverpool’s biggest weapons to help break down a dogged defense. Spurs will need to be mindful to try and keep a lid on their offensive forays into the Spurs half – Son and Moura will have to put in a lot of defensive work to help their defense. Moura and Son will also need to be the creative force for their team, especially as Kane has only just returned from a serious injury. Moura has scored 5 goals in the UCL this season in 11 games, including the memorable hat-trick to come from behind against Ajax. Son has also been tremendous in the Champions League this season, with the highlight being a wonderful performance at the Etihad Stadium. Thus, these battles will pit quite possibly the most in-form players for each side against one another. The winner might just decide the Final itself.
3. Sadio Mane vs Serge Aurier or Kieran Trippier:
This is where I feel Liverpool have their greatest edge. We all know about Liverpool’s much vaunted front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but Mane is the main man here considering Tottenham’s defensive deficiencies on the right side. Both Trippier and Aurier are defensively suspect and prone to lapses, and Mane has the capability to make this a Final to forget for both of them. Mane has had a breakout season and scored 26 goals in 48 appearances this season, including a brace at the Allianz Arena to take down Bayern. If Mane fires similarly at the Wanda, Liverpool might win their first UCL in more than a decade.
Although it is said that most big games are won and lost in the midfield, I do not feel that would be the case here. Both teams, in particular Liverpool, are more reliant on their wings. Liverpool’s super combination of fullbacks as well as wingers make them the clear favourite for me. Liverpool’s superb combination of fullbacks as well as wingers make them the favourites for me. So, I predict a 3-1 win for Liverpool with goals from Salah and Mane and a consolation for the returning Kane
Post by Prithvi Pahwa, Analyst + Contributor