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Who will conquer in the Madrid Champions League Final?

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It's hard to recall a set of Champions League finalists who have had such a dramatic route to the grand stage. Both Liverpool and Tottenhams' semi-finals were filled with twists, comebacks and pure bombast. They were two-legged sagas that shot adrenaline into the bodies of those watching. 

They were startling feats to watch, ones which required an unbelievable amount of will power. Perhaps the sheer determination shown by the two sides in their respective semi-finals came from the agonising close calls they both endured in the group stage.

Liverpool started their Champions League campaign with a bang, fighting off a second half come back from Paris Saint Germain to snatch a late, but deserved, win against the French club. Away ties, however, proved to be problematic for the Reds as they fell to defeats in all their matches away from Anfield, including a 2-0 loss against Red Star Belgrade.

 

Eventually, it came down to their final group stage game against Napoli. A 1-0 victory saw the Reds go through in miraculous fashion, courtesy of a superb late save from Alisson. Level with the Italian side on points, goal difference and head to head record, Liverpool ended up going through on goals scored. 

Tottenham had an equally dramatic group stage battle. After gaining just a single point from their first three matches, Spurs needed to match the result of Inter Milan in their final group game in order to go through. 

That final group game, though, saw Spurs go up against Barcelona. An early Ousmane Dembele goal saw Tottenham on the brink of elimination before Lucas Moura popped up late on - as he would do months later in the semi-final - to rescue the North London side. 

It’s possible that the belief both sides gained from these precarious scenarios contributed to their dramatic victories later in the competition. 

The round of 16 and quarter finals came and went in relatively simple fashion for Liverpool. They disposed of weary giants Bayern Munich with a 3-1 victory in Germany, before sweeping Porto aside with a 6-1 aggregate win to reach the semi-finals. 

Tottenham also made light work of the last 16, pushing past Borussia Dortmund after an inspired Jan Vertonghen performance at left wing back gave them a 3-0 victory at Wembley. A Harry Kane goal in Germany saw them win tie 4-0 on aggregate. 

Then came the quarter finals and Manchester City. A tangle with Fabian Delph left Tottenham Kane-less, but Son Heung Min gave Spurs a 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane 2.0. 

A week later in Manchester, and it looked like Spurs' Champions League hopes had been shattered. The BT Sport score display flashed 5-3 to City, while Pep Guardiola leapt and jumped around like a man walking on strewn pieces of lego. Had Sergio Aguero been just a boot size or two smaller, perhaps it would be City in the final rather than Tottenham. 

VAR ruled in Spurs’s favour, and out went City at their expense. It is a curious unspoken paradox that now lies between the Premier League champions and Liverpool. The Citizens are desperate to get their first Champions League, while five-time winners Liverpool are desperate for their first Premier League. While no club would turn down the silverware, there may be a tinge of want for the other’s trophy. 

Image Credit: Bluejam via Wikimedia Commons

First, though, Liverpool need to overcome Spurs in the final. This Spurs side that, ultimately, makes very little sense. Kane has been injured for large swathes of the season, while their midfield has been somewhat ramshackle. Mousa Dembele looked leggy and was moved on, Eric Dier has been injured and out of form, and Harry Winks has continued to struggle with his perennial injury troubles. 

                

Image Credit: Dudek1337 via Wikimedia Commons

Other players have stepped up, though. Moussa Sissoko has seen a dramatic turnaround in his Tottenham career as a box-to-box midfielder, Son has shone in Kane’s absence and Moura has provided some telling quality at vital times. Even Fernando Llorente has adequately chipped in, his physical presence providing a useful plan B for Mauricio Pochettino. 

So what if Kane is fit for the final? Surely he would be expected to come straight back into the side, given his talismanic stature. But what about the quality Son has provided throughout the season, or the vital goals Moura has scored? And then, is Kane even match fit? 

Despite all their struggles, Tottenham have somehow made it into the top four of the Premier League and into the Champions League final. A feat also off the back of two transfer windows in which no players were signed. 

Liverpool have been utterly magnificent this season, and have done so off the back of a strong transfer window in which they recruited perfectly. At first glance, they are a far stronger side than Tottenham. Virgil Van Dijk has been magnificent and has managed to shine in a team that has been excellent from front to back. 

Even with their own striking fitness dilemma in Roberto Firmino, they would appear favourites for the final. This Spurs side, however, has pulled off some miracles in the Champions League this season. Sissoko scuffing a left footed shot into the bottom corner past a wrong-footed Alisson in stoppage time isn’t too hard a scenario to imagine. But Liverpool have also proven themselves to be miracle workers, not least with their own incredible semi-final victory. Considering the manner in which both they and Spurs have reached the Champions League final, it is a game that is almost impossible to call. 

Lead Image Credit: Fernandopascullo via Wikimedia Commons




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