This article was produced in association with Paddy Power as part of our coverage ahead of the Champions League final
And so to Madrid, and the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium for what looks like being a truly special Champions League final.
You get the feeling that nothing is going to top those two semi-final second legs for sheer excitement and downright craziness, but whatever happens from here, this season’s Champions League is destined to go down as one of the best in living memory.
Tottenham somehow getting out of their group after a horror start. Those Ajax wins on the road against Real Madrid and Juventus. The VAR controversy at the death in the last eight at the Etihad as Spurs somehow survived against Manchester City. And those improbable semi-finals against Barcelona and Ajax respectively, when Liverpool and Tottenham made a mockery of the odds compilers by qualifying from seemingly impossible situations.
We’ve seen 364 goals in the competition so far this term; that’s an average of 2.94 goals per game. And there’s no way in this world Liverpool or Tottenham are going to shut up shop and play for a 0-0. There have been 20 goals scored in the past five finals – and there have been 17 goals in the past five meetings between Liverpool and Tottenham. The Reds beat Spurs 2-1 home and away this season, so we are expecting another open contest despite what is at stake.
It is a first ever Champions League final for Tottenham of course, while Liverpool partake in their ninth European Cup final.
How will the teams shape up tactically? Tottenham started with a 3-5-2 formation at Anfield in March but it was clear early on that Mauricio Pochettino had got it all wrong, with Liverpool’s full backs completely dominating Spurs’ wing backs.
Common sense eventually prevailed when Poch binned the extra central defender in favour of Son Heung-Min, making Spurs much more fluid (they equalised just minutes later before eventually losing 2-1).
There are no secrets tactically where Liverpool are concerned. Jurgen Klopp will start with his standard 4-3-3 and the feared front line of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino.
The midfield battle is likely to be crucial. The only variance from a Reds perspective is the possible inclusion of Georginio Wijnaldum. Firmino seems to have won his fitness battle after sitting out the last three games.
Last season’s finalists will be out to banish the ghosts of 2018 when a darkly comedic display from ‘keeper Loris Karius all but handed Real Madrid the trophy.
For Spurs, Pochettino has a massive selection dilemma on his hands. Harry Kane, who has not kicked a ball in anger since April 9, insists he is fit. So presuming Kane starts one of Son, Dele Alli or Lucas Moura will have to make way.
Son has proved himself as a consistent match-winner this term, weighing in with 20 goals. And Moura is the reason Spurs are in Madrid after his outlandish second half treble against Ajax. It could be then that Alli, who has not scaled the heights this season, makes way. Or it could be that Kane starts on the bench given his lack of match fitness. We are happy to leave that decision to Poch. That’s why he earns the big bucks after all, is it not?
In terms of the betting, Liverpool are 5/6 shots to win in 90 minutes. Tottenham can be backed at 16/5 with the draw a 12/5 chance. It’s been an incredible ride for Spurs, who didn’t look like they would get out of their group at one stage, but this just feels like Liverpool’s time. In recent seasons the Reds have dominated this fixture, with Spurs winning just one of the previous 14 meetings between the clubs. Stats like that cannot be ignored. It’s 11/4 about Liverpool winning and both teams scoring in Madrid and their could be the way to go.
Kane is a 5/1 shout with Paddy Power to score first, with Mo Salah the 7/2 market leader. Sadio Mane, who has weighed in with some priceless goals for the Reds this season (and who scored Liverpool’s equaliser in the 2018 final) is 9/2 to open the scoring in Spain. And Paddy Power are offering customers money back as a free bet if Sadio Mane scores in 90 minutes in Madrid.
However, the 14/1 about Mane being the first player to be carded looks more interesting. The Senegalese hitman has committed more fouls (22) than anyone else in this season’s competition so could be worth a small play to be the first player shown a card.
The Reds have done things the hard way in Europe this season, and you can get odds of better than 8/1 about them coming from behind to win. It should be a pulsating game that hopefully fans dare not take their eyes off for a minute. When the smoke clears though we fancy Liverpool to be the last team standing. However as those unhinged semi-finals from earlier this month showed us, nothing is certain in Madrid.
Betting: Liverpool to win and both teams to score at 11/4 Paddy Power
Betting: Liverpool to come from behind and win at 17/2 Paddy Power
Betting: 1st player to be shown a card – Mane at 14/1 Paddy Power