Preview: Champions League Final
The 64th edition of Europe’s premier club football competition, the UEFA Champions League Final will be played in Madrid, Spain on 1st June 2019. This year the Champion’s League final is an all English affair as Liverpool FC lock horns with Tottenham Hotspur in front of a capacity sellout crowd of close to 68,000 vociferous football fans. All eyes will be at the Estadio Metropolitano stadium, the home turf for Atlético de Madrid. But tonight the final title clash for the crown of Europe, for the first time since 2013, will not feature at least one Spanish team, with Barcelona and Real Madrid having shared the previous five titles between them.
Tottenham Hotspur – the Mavericks
Tottenham Hotspur make their debut in their first Champions League Cup final tonight. Not to take anything away from the Lilywhites, the Spurs have won two league titles, eight FA Cups, four League Cups, seven FA Community Shields, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and two UEFA Cups.
Liverpool – Road back to grandeur
Liverpool are no strangers to this big game atmosphere as this is their ninth overall Champions League Final and their second in a row, having been beaten 1-3 by Real Madrid in 2018. The Reds as they are popularly known, have won 5 European Champions League Titles in 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984 and 2005, more than any other English club. With 3 UEFA Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, a record 8 League Cups, 15 FA Community Shields and 1 Football League Super Cup, the and an amazing 2nd place finish this season in the Premier League, Liverpool are touted as favourites to emerge Champions.
Head to Head:
The two English sides have faced each other in a total of 172 times where history favours Liverpool as they emerged victorious on 82 occasions.48 times has Tottenham registered victory against Liverpool while 42 times the two sides have had to settle for a draw. The last two meetings were won by the Reds with identical 2-1 scorelines, both in the Premier League. But the best thing about sporting history is that it always offers the opportunity to write a new script and set the records straight. Will tonight be such an opportunity or not,will be seen when the dust settles in Madrid.
Liverpool FC Road to Final
The club’s history is legendary. Under 51 year old, German Coach Jurgen Klopp, the team has found a resurgence and claims to claim their rightful place among the elite of Europe. Liverpool eliminated Bayern Munich, Porto and Barcelona to get to the final. The fact that they were in the finals last year and lost to Real Madrid leaves a feeling that tonight could be their chance to win their Sixth Champions League title.
Pre Quarterfinal (Round of 16) Liverpool Vs Bayern Munich
The Fist leg of the Round of 16 was played at Anfield on 19th February. Liverpool, fresh from a warm-weather training camp in Spain, had the prowess to go on a goalscoring spree thans to their fearsome attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. However, the German side was solid in defense stubborn and organized Bayern defense. Virgil Van Dijk’s absence through suspension had resulted in a center-back pairing of Fabinho and Joel Matip. For the visitors even without Jerome Boateng in defence, they made life difficult for Liverpool.
While chances came to the hosts it was the German defense that salvaged the day. Both teams were unable to break the deadlock and Liverpool was forced to settle for a goalless stalemate.
Bayern seemed on the wane, epitomised by the deterioration in the once-formidable Franck Ribéry, and Roben that the 28-times Bundesliga champions might have gone stale. The sting in their attack was clearly missing.
On his 100th Champions League appearance it was a blunder by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer that helped Mané’s score in the 26th minute. An advanced Neuer was stranded as Mane twisted and turned and chipped the ball into an empty net. Bayern did manage to put the ball in the opposite goal, via an own goal from Joël Matip. Van Dijk’s goal came after 69 minutes and when Mané scored his second of the night their game clearly reflected that put Liverpool was back on the landscape of elite European football.
Quarter Final: Liverpool Vs Porto
Porto had planned revenge after being shown the exit doors out by Jurgen Klopp’s side in the last 16 of last year’s competition. But the home team had other plans as Liverpool playing at Anfield registered a comfortable 2-0 win against the Portuguese champions.
Guuinean Central Midfielder, Naby Keita’s low effort from 15 yards was heavily deflected past Iker Casillas by the flailing Oliver Torres to give Jurgen Klopps men the lead in the 5th Minute.
Brazilian attack star Roberto Firmino tapped into an empty net from five yards after he had been picked out by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross. Moussa Marega should have pulled Porto back into it shortly after the half-hour mark but his low effort was kept out by the left foot of Alisson.
Liverpool set up a semi-final showdown with Barcelona as a they breezed to a 4-1 victory at Porto and secured a 6-1 win on aggregate in the Champions League quarterfinal.
At the Estádio do Dragão, in Portugal, Klopp’s brigade went ahead when Salah picked out Mane at the back post, the Senegalese forward made no mistake to make it 1-0 in the 26th minute. A well-measured through ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 65th minute put Salah through on goal, and the Egyptian made was clinical when guiding the ball past Iker Casillas.
The home team scored a consolation goal in the 69th minute when Gabriel Militao met Alex Telles’ cross. Liverpool’s third came as captain 28 year old Jordan Henderson found Roberto Firmino, with Van Dijk then rounding it off with a header after Mane flicked on James Milner’s cross in the 77th and 84th minutes respectively.
Liverpool won the tie 6-1 on aggregate setting up a showdown with the giants FC Barcelona in the Semi Finals.
Semifinal Liverpool Vs Barcelona
Liverpool travelled to Camp Nou, Barcelona for their first leg Semifinal against the mighty FC Barcelona on 1st May.
Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez flicked past Alisson in the 26th minute, after latching onto a Jordi Alba to give Barcelona the early lead. The 32 year old Suarez could have doubled the lead for the home team but his shot ricocheted of the Liverpool bar only to find Linonel Messi in the right place at the right time as he slotted the second for Barca. The world got another magic moment seven minutes later as Messi swept a sensational free-kick around the Liverpool wall and into the top corner, scoring his 600th goal for the club and putting Barcelona in pole position to reach their first Champions League final since 2015. Lionel Messi has a personal tally of scoring 26 Champions League goals against English clubs – 14 more than any other player.
FC Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool FC
Liverpool rewrote one of the most memorable comeback scripts in football history, beating Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield and 4-3 winning the tie on aggregate to reach the Champions League final.
Early in the first half, in a counter-offensive, Sadio Mane fed Captain Jorden Henderson, who drove forced a low stop from Ter Stegen. Liverpool attacker Belgian Divock Origi followed up and tapped in from close range in 7th minute to give the home side a reason to hope.
Wijnaldum doubled Liverpool’s lead with a low drive from 12 yards from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross in the 54th minute. Minutes after his first goal, Wijnaldum struck again, meeting a Shaqiri cross from the left with a fine header to give Jurgen Klopp’s side a 3-0 scoreline.
While defensively after conceding a corner, Barcelona were re-organized their defense, Alexander-Arnold drilled a quick corner into Origi’s path, eight yards out, and the Belgian made no mistake, glancing into the top left corner with his right foot. The incredible comeback story had been written again by Liverpool who have proved that they could repeat the feat they achieved back in 2005 in Istanbul against Milan in the Final.
Liverpool became only the third team in the competition’s history to come back from three goals down after the first leg of a semi-final.
Tottenham Hotspur Road to the Final:
Looking at Tottenham, the English side qualified for this year’s Champion’s League as the 3rd best team in the English Premier League last year. Under 47 year old Coach Mauricio Pochettino the tem has seen an upsurge. Tottenham beat Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax.
Pre Quarter Final: Tottenham Hotspur Vs Dortmund
After emerging Group B runners-up, the Spurs recorded a convincing 4-0 aggregate win over the German side Dortmund in the Round of 16.
Quarter Final: Tottenham Hotspur Vs Manchester City
In the Quarter-finals, the Tottenham managed a 4-4 aggregatewin against Manchester City riding high on the away goals rule and upset the fancied Champions of England.
In the first leg, on 9th April, playing at home the Spurs shocked the visiting City.
Tottenham opened their European adventures in their new stadium in epic style. Hugo Lloris with a brilliant save denied Aguiero’s penalty opportunity, that could put the English Champions in the driver’s seat. With this save, Lloris saved all three of the penalties that he has faced with Spurs in all competitions in 2019, stopping efforts against Leicester City, Arsenal and Manchester City. On the other end, City dominated and controlled the game and a Second half ankle-twisting injury to their talismanic strikerHarry Kane set shivers down the spine of the Spurs fans. Tottenham’s resilience was rewarded as they took the lead through Son Heung-min. Eriksen found the South Korean captain with a piercing pass to the right-hand side of the penalty area. The ball appeared to have rolled out of play, but a persistent Son kept it alive with the outside of his foot, cut back, deceivedDelph and beat Ederson with a powerful low drive into the far corner of the net. Spurs were 1-0 up in the first leg.
Quarter Final Second Leg:
In the Return Leg City playing at home knew they had to score at least two and keep a clean sheet to advance to the Semis.
In an astonishing encounter at the Etihad Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur reached the semi-finals of the Champions League on away goals following a 4-3 defeat to Manchester City. The match kicked off on a blistering pace and it was raining goals in the opening 11 minutes of the game. The contest erupted to life in the 4th minute when Raheem Sterling put City in front, receiving a ball from the Belgian midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne, on the left flank and then cutting inside onto his right foot before beating Hugo Lloris with a beautiful, curling shot into the far corner. In the absence of the injured Harry Kane, Son Heung-min the Tottenham hero fired in two goals in a span of minutes. The equalizer in the 7th minute and beating City keeper Ederson once again in the 10th minute.
Portuguese midfielder Bernado Silva Goal equalized for City in the 11th minute with a left-foot shot that was deflected off Danny Rose and beat the wrong-footed Lloris. Sterling fired in his second in the 21st minute, shadowing the blindside run at the far post to convert a low cross from De Bruyne that had zipped across the face of the goal.
De Bruyne’s perfectly timed and pinpoint pass saw Argentine forward Sergio Agüero fire in at Lloris’s near post. The English Champions were leading 3-1 in the 59th minute. Destiny had a different script as Tottenham substitute, Fernando Llorentescrambled in a Kieran Trippier corner to give the Spurs a valuable Goal 73rd minute.
It was a dramatic finale when City had a stoppage-time goal from Raheem Sterling, which would have sent them through, ruled out for offside after a VAR review. City fans had celebrated what looked like the goal that sent them into the last four before the VAR confirmed that Sergio Aguero was offside during the build-up play.
Semi Final First Leg: Tottenham Hotspur Vs Ajax
The Semi-finals saw the Spurs shine through against the Dutch ChampionsAjax as they came back on their home leg to salvage a 3-3 aggregate scoreline and win once again on away goals rule.
In the First leg played on 30th April at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, the Dutch Champions Ajax, which looked more like a young brigade that was playing beyond their age with tactically and technically efficiency and beating their hosts with fleeter feet and quicker thought.
Tottenham, playing in their first European Cup semi-final for 57 years, had multiple lapses in their defense and the tactically quality of the Dutch, combined with sublime creativity seemed to make matters worse for the home side. A 15th minute clever pass from Ziyech gave Donny van de Beekample time to disguise his shot before placing the ball into the corner of the Spurs net. Spurs, on the other hand, spurned a couple of their chances the match ended with Ajax winning the opening leg with a valuable away goal.
Semi Final Second Leg:
The return game at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam was a fairytale run for the English side as they came back after trailing 0-2 to register 3-2 win and progress to the Semifinal on aggregate 3-3 and the away goal rule.
Tottenham were certainly the underdogs in Amsterdam, and the role their manager Pochettino had to play was to inspire his players to play to a tactical plan. Low on confidence and without the injured Harry Kane, Spurs tried to find holes in the defiant Dutch defense. Ajax on the other hand, seemed happy to wait until a loose touch or pass offered the ball and work from the back relying on their pace and counter-attack. Ajax skipper Matthijs de Ligt’s found the mark in the 5th minute with a well-placed header which was followed up by a superb 35th-minute effort by Hakim Ziyech that put Ajax 2-0 ahead and in complete command.
Tottenham grabbed a lifeline ten minutes into the second half when a rapid counter-attack ended with Brazilian winger Lucas Moura converting elegantly after dashing through to meet Alli’s pass in the 55th minute. Four minutes later mission impossible began to look possible as Ajax failed to clear Llorente effort and the ball found Moura who fired through a crowd and into the Ajax goal.
In a gripping finale, there was one final twist. Tottenham suddenly saw a lease of life and the Spurs hung onto a high ball cleared forward. Six minutes into stoppage time, Deli Alli flicked the ball to the right winger Lucas Moura and the Brazilian’s first-time shot found the corner of the Ajax goal.
Tottenham beat Ajax on the away goals rule (3-2) after the teams finished 3-3 on aggregate to set up an all-English Champions League final with Liverpool.
The Battle for the Coaches
Spurs manager Pochettino could become the third Argentinian coach to lift this trophy after Luis Carniglia (twice with Real Madrid) and Helenio Herrera (twice with Inter Milan).
Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp has reached the Final Thrice with Liverpool: Finalist in League Cup 2016, Finalist in Europa League 2016, Finalist in Champions League 20118 to his credit.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Salah, Firmino
Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Alli, Eriksen, Son, Kane
Referees for the Finals:
This year the UEFA Referees Committee announced that 42 year old Slovenian, DamirSkomina will be the referee for the Finals. Damir, an international referee since 2002, and brings a lot of experience of officiating at the elite level. He will have the opportunity to complete a prestigious European club competition “treble”, as he officiated at the UEFA Europa League final between Ajax and Manchester United in 2017, as well as the UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Atlético in 2012. He also acted as the fourth official at the 2013 UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München. At the final in Madrid, Skomina will be assisted by his countrymen Jure Praprotnik and Robert Vukan. The fourth official will be Antonio MateuLahoz from Spain. This year, the video assistant referee will also make its debut in the Champions League and the role has been assigned to Danny Makkelie from the Netherlands, who will be supported by Pol van Boekel, Felix Zwayer, and Mark Borsch.
New Developments in the Rules
Three new rules will feature in the Champions League for the first time in Football history:
- Teams will be able to use a fourth substitute in extra time in next season’s Champions League and Europa League, Uefa has announced.
- Clubs can also list 12 substitutes on teamsheets, rather than the current seven, in the finals.
- Other rule amendments from European football’s governing body include allowing coaching and medical staff to use hand-held electronic devices. They can use equipment including mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
Last All England Final – Man United Vs Chelsea
The last time a Champions League featured an all English final was back on 21 May 2008, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia when Chelsea and Manchester United vied for the title. Alex Ferguson’s famous Red Devils won 6–5 on penalties, after the two sides were locked at 1–1 following extra time. Cristiano Ronaldo’s header opened the scoring for Manchester United in the 26th minute, but Frank Lampard equalized moments before half-time. In the penalty shoot-out, Ronaldo missed Manchester United’s third kick, giving John Terry the chance to win the game for Chelsea, only for him to slip and hit the post. Edwin van der Sar went on to save Nicolas Anelka’s effort from Chelsea’s seventh kick to give Manchester United their third European Cup title.