In a turn of events that few would have thought possible when they picked up a single point from their first three Champions League group games, Tottenham tonight contest the final of Europe’s premier club competition. All that stands between Mauricio Pochettino’s men and their first-ever taste of the top title is Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side. Still stinging a little from racking up a total of 97 points and it not being enough to deliver them the Premier League, the Merseysiders will be hoping that they can at least right the wrong of last season’s continental showpiece, when they lost 3-1 in the final to Real Madrid.
The three-week hiatus between the last round of domestic games is something of a wild card in this situation. Spurs ended the season in mediocre form, failing to win any of their last three games and only scraping into the Premier League’s top four, while Liverpool didn’t drop a single point after the 3rd of March. Three weeks on, will that form count for much? For the London side, the break has been beneficial in one very demonstrable way. Harry Kane, whose season was thought to be over after an ankle injury was aggravated during his side’s quarter-final win over Manchester City, is fit and may start the match.
The Mané of the moment?
Much of the pre-match attention has fallen on the presence of perhaps the two deadliest strikers in English football – Kane for Tottenham, and Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mo Salah. So it makes nothing but sense that the player who is best positioned to break this game wide open would be neither of those. Instead, it’s worth keeping an eye on Sadio Mané, who has developed a habit of consistently scoring when it matters. He scored in last season’s final after the departure through injury of Salah, but it’s worth noting how often the Senegalese international gets the crucial goals. Salah may score more in bursts, but his teammate is maybe a better bet to open the scoring here.
Mané is 9/4 with Betway to open the scoring here, and it seems like a bet worth making. The bookmaker has a range of pun-driven specials: “Air Jordan” for Jordan Henderson to score a header is available at 25/1, while the unlikely eventuality of Serge Aurier scoring from outside the box is 33/1. This latter bet has been christened – wait for it – “Power Serge”. By all means, a modest punt on these markets may be worth a go, but we’d certainly advise an informed bet on Mané scoring a crucial goal tonight.
Third time lucky for Spurs?
To win this competition, Tottenham will have to overturn the recent form between these sides – they’ve played twice previously this season and both matches have ended 2-1 in Liverpool’s favour. These were two very different matches – early in the season, the Reds travelled to Wembley and comfortably led 2-0 until a late, and irrelevant consolation from Erik Lamela. In April, with Klopp’s men at home and chasing the title, a jittery Liverpool relied on a last-minute own goal, as Hugo Lloris flubbed a simple save and the ball rebounded in off Toby Alderweireld. Nonetheless, a win is a win – and Spurs have some ghosts to lay to rest in Madrid.
In the Con column for Spurs is that their final couple of months of the season showed little sign that they are a side equipped to beat Bournemouth or West Ham, less still overcome a side whose 97 points would have won the title most seasons. They fired for a total of 45 minutes in May. The Pro column is, in its entirety, those 45 minutes in the semi-final second leg – trailing Ajax by a 3-0 aggregate margin, Spurs turned the tie around through a Lucas Moura hat-trick, the winner coming in the sixth minute of time added on. So can they deliver again in a tournament which has seen them perform miracles time and again?
We’re saying no. At 888, you can get 7/1 on Liverpool winning a third consecutive 2-1 victory over Tottenham, and that feels like a likely result.
Liverpool to end the season on a high
Though these are clearly two of the best sides in England and, obviously, in Europe, neither Klopp nor Pochettino has ever won a trophy with their current sides. That will end tonight, and with the biggest title either can win. Both sides overcame seemingly insurmountable deficits in their semi-finals to get here, and this came after Spurs’ incredible away-goals triumph against Manchester City in the quarter finals. Whichever side lifts the cup will have done it in a truly remarkable manner. So would anyone bet against another last-gasp climax to the competition?
When it comes down to it, we’re predicting that this match will be decided inside 90 minutes; the sides know each other well enough by now and there’s a fair chance this will be a cautious contest. Hopefully for the viewer, that won’t materialise and we’ll all end up talking about a Champions League final for the ages – but when it comes to what we would bet on, we’ll take Liverpool to win in regulation time. They’re ⅚ to do so at Paddy Power – and given that they are a touch stronger all over the park, we’d take that bet.
Bets of the Day
Liverpool to win in 90 mins (Paddy Power, ⅚); Liverpool win 2-1 (888, 7/1); Mané to score first (Betway, 9/4)