Liverpool vs Tottenham Stephen Drennan prediction: Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool
Stephen Drennan is a Liverpool fan. See more of Stephen’s work via Twitter here.
Stephen has written virtually all our Liverpool match previews this season.
We asked Stephen to elaborate on how Liverpool can beat Tottenham in the Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday evening.
Tottenham vs Liverpool: Setting the scene
Liverpool head to Madrid with some unfinished business in this competition from last season.
After defeat in Kiev, a video went viral showing Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, filmed at 6am singing with friends that they would return to “bring the trophy back to Liverpool”. True to his word, twelve months later, his Reds are back in the final with a point to prove.
Their journey to get here hasn’t been easy, facing PSG, Napoli, Porto, Bayern and Barcelona to get to the final. When has a Klopp side ever done anything the easy way though?
They face a Spurs side who are being framed as the plucky underdog, just happy to be here, in the press.
Make no mistake though, this Spurs side will be desperate to succeed and win the club’s first European Cup.
Liverpool vs Tottenham betting tips: Will Liverpool win?
Jurgen Klopp has faced Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino nine times since arriving at Liverpool. He has been victorious on four occasions, including both matches against them this season. This sees Liverpool favourites at 19/20 to make it three wins from three this season on Saturday.
Four of Klopp’s encounters with Tottenham have ended in stalemate. Should this match go into extra-time, you can back Liverpool to win in extra-time at 17/2.
The odds of the Reds defeating Spurs on penalties to lift the cup are 12/1.
With Bet365, Liverpool are at 1/2 to lift the trophy for the sixth time. Or, you can back the North Londerers to lift it for the first time at 13/8.
What Tottenham should look out for vs Liverpool
Sadio Mané has only scored in one of the nine matches he has featured in, for both Southampton and Liverpool, against Spurs. On that occasion, he bagged both goals for Liverpool in a 2-0 home win.
However, he has been in fantastic scoring form for Liverpool this season. He has scored twenty-two league goals and four Champions League goals already this term.
Mane also scored both goals for Liverpool in their final match of the season; a 2-0 win against Wolves. He is 5/1 to score the first goal here, 8/5 to score at any time.
Roberto Firmino is a doubt for this game with a groin injury. Spurs fans will certainly be happy if he takes no part in Saturday’s game. He scored in both of Liverpool’s victories against them for Liverpool this season. However, previous to this season, he had failed to score in four games against Spurs. Firmino is 6/1 to score the first goal here, 15/8 to score at any time.
Mohamed Salah has scored twenty-two league goals and four Champions League goals for the Reds already this season. He was also in good form as the season ended, with five goals and two assists in his last seven games.
The Egyptian King has a good record against Spurs, with five goals in nine appearances. Three of those goals have been in the red shirt of Liverpool. He scored once each for Fiorentina and Basel, seeing Spurs eliminated from the Europa League on both occasions. Therefore, it is no surprise he is the favourite to score first here at 15/4. Or you can back him to score any time during the game at 10/11.
What Liverpool should look out for vs Tottenham
All eyes will be on whether Harry Kane can get himself fit to be involved in the final. No Spurs player in history has scored more goals against Liverpool than Kane. He has five goals and two assists in nine appearances against them. However, only one of those nine games ended in victory for his side.
Kane is Spurs’ top-scorer this season with seventeen league goals. He is also their joint-top scorer in the Champions League with five goals in eight games. He is the bookies favourite to score first for Spurs at 9/2 or 11/8 to score at any time.
Son Heung-Min has been the man to stand-in this season when Kane is out. He has had a fantastic season for Spurs with twelve league goals and four Champions League goals to his name. However, he has only scored once in six appearances against the Reds. He is 9/1 to score first or 3/1 to score at any time.
Lucas Moura is the main man Spurs fans will thank for getting their side to Madrid. When they looked a beaten side against Ajax, he came to life and scored a stunning hat-trick. He has only scored in two of his last eleven appearances for the club. However, on both occasions, he bagged a hat-trick to win his side the game.
Will Saturday night see quiet Lucas or the headline grabbing one? He is 17/2 to score first or 11/4 to score at any time.
Where Liverpool could win the game vs Tottenham
Liverpool are coming into this final as strong favourite for a very good reason. They have amassed 97 points in the league; something unthinkable just a few seasons ago.
Their players have also been here before and have the experience of playing in finals that Spurs players lack. They are less likely to get wrapped up in the occasion.
The Reds are also the form team coming into the match. They have won thirteen of their last fourteen matches, in all competitions. The only blemish on that record was the 3-0 defeat in Camp Nou.
In contrast Spurs have lost five and drawn one of their last eight games. They also have more injury and fitness concerns coming into the game than their opponents.
Focusing on key battles on the pitch, let’s look at three key areas.
1. The midfield battle
A consistent thread in the two European finals that Liverpool have lost under Klopp was losing control of the midfield. Sure, there were many contributing factors, mistakes being made at both ends. However, if you cannot play through midfield and your team can be broken into isolated parts, you will struggle in any match.
With Milner + Can against Sevilla, or Henderson + Milner + Wijnaldum against Madrid, there was an issue there in terms of players who prefer to move out of midfield to get on the ball where there is more space. This sees your shape lose compactness. The second problem is all the individuals, bar Wijnaldum, lacked press resistance as individuals.
In signing Chamberlain, Keita and Fabinho, the Reds have gone some way towards addressing this weakness. In doing so, they may even turn this into a main strength for them in this final.
We saw Eric Dier struggle with pressing traps against Liverpool this season. He was robbed of the ball deep in his half several times, one of which resulted in a Liverpool goal.
Likewise, against Ajax, Wanyama similarly struggled to complete a pass. It wasn’t until Sissoko was brought on that Spurs could gain a foothold in midfield.
With Winks having not played any football in months, we are likely to see one of Dier or Wanyama paired with Sissoko in midfield. Or, Winks will be pressed into action without playing for Spurs, since the 1-0 win over Manchester City in April.
2. Full backs
Just a few years ago, Spurs were held up as the side with the best full backs in the league, if not the world. Walker and Rose in the first XI. Trippier and Davies offering depth when rotated in.
Since then, Walker has been sold and replaced with Aurier. Injuries to Rose seems to have taken a little something out of his game. Trippier hasn’t really progressed and, if anything, has declined.
While at Anfield, they have upgraded their full back positions with Trent Alexander-Arnold emerging from the academy and Andrew Robertson picked up for just £8m; a pittance in today’s market.
They have twelve and eleven league assists this season respectively. The most any of their counterparts at Spurs have, is three.
The Liverpool full backs play more like continental laterals in Liverpool’s system. They aren’t ‘defence first’ as full backs are seen in British football. This is best typified in the first of Wijnaldum’s two goals against Barcelona.
When Trent lost possession in midfield, he was left with the defensive option of tracking a runner or advancing to counter-press Rakitic. He chose the latter, mugging Rakitic of the ball, before finding Gini in the box who drilled his low shot into the Barca goal.
Trippier has also had many defensive lapses this season. The most obvious being against Chelsea where, under pressure from Willian, he put the ball past his own keeper to seal their defeat in the London derby. Up against Mané, one of the most rapid and ruthless pressers of the ball in the game, life certainly won’t be any easier for him in Madrid.
3. Going Right to the End
Every side has scored and conceded late goals. Often, in finals, we see goals in the dying moments that change victors into losers in the most heart-breaking of manners. Perhaps no moment typified this more than Sergio Ramos’ 93rd minute equaliser for Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final.
Real went on to hammer three more past them without reply in extra time. It was brutal to watch for Atletico fans but everyone knew from the moment that Ramos headed past Courtois, Atletico were done. Not least the Atletico players.
In getting to the final, Spurs will forever remember the final moments in their games against Manchester City and Ajax where, with just seconds to spare, they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. One through a goal conceded being disallowed. The other through the beautiful left-foot strike of Lucas Moura.
However, in Liverpool, they face the side who has most consistently changed the course of games in the final minutes. From the 80th minute onwards, they are outscoring every side in the Premier League, with eighteen. While, at the other end, only Chelsea and City have conceded less, with three goals to Liverpool’s four.
In contrast, Spurs are scoring a little over half the number of goals Liverpool are in that time period while also conceding twice as many at the other end. Their goal difference in games from the 80th minute onwards is +2 compared to Liverpool’s +14.
Whether this is superior fitness and conditioning, or Liverpool being ‘mentality giants’, what is clear is this Liverpool side is getting stronger as the game goes on. While Spurs are increasingly likely to concede as the game gets into the final stages.
Where Liverpool could lose the game vs Tottenham
We mentioned above that Liverpool should have the advantage in midfield on Saturday. However, with Keita likely to miss the game and Chamberlain having barely kicked a ball in over a year, Liverpool could find themselves relying on both James Milner and Jordan Henderson in midfield.
While they have both been excellent servants to the club, when paired together in midfield, it has often caused issues for Liverpool.
The entire concept of counter-pressing is essentially casting a net over the ball carrier leaving him nowhere to go and no means to escape. This makes compactness a crucial aspect of counter pressing. However, if your midfielders are typically drifting wide to find space outside the opponents shape, as both Milner and Henderson will tend to do, then it is impossible to stay compact when attacks break down.
This could see the likes of Eriksen and Alli have a lot of joy in those pockets of space around Fabinho which have been exploited by sides in these situations in the past.
Eriksen, in particular, has been at his creative best this season with twelve assists in the league. If Liverpool aren’t able to keep pressure on the ball, the Dane will pick off their high line with ease.
2. Pace Against Full Backs
While Robertson and Trent have been huge positives for Liverpool this season, there have been times when they have both struggled. Typically, this has been when faced with raw pace isolated in wide areas.
Serge Gnabry of Bayern absolutely destroyed Robertson countless times in the Round of 16. Few defenders will cope with the pace Gnabry possesses; he was a talented young sprinter before focusing full time on football as a kid.
However, it highlighted that while Robertson is a massive upgrade on Moreno, he doesn’t have the same straight-line speed as the Spaniard and will need support if he gets isolated against a quicker opponent.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has had similar problems at times in his career too. Most recently, he struggled against the sheer physicality of Karlan Grant (Huddersfield) and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (Cardiff). Jordi Alba also exposed him a few times at the Camp Nou.
This is the trade-off Klopp accepts from having full backs who provide all the width in your system, similar to 1994 World Cup Winners, Brazil. In Brazil’s case, Mauro Silva was used to delay and disrupt counters allowing the full backs time to recover.
In the defensive phase, Mauro Silva and Dunga would move across to support the full backs and prevent them being isolated 1-v-1 offering some depth in defence.
This will be crucial in Liverpool’s attempts to contain both Lucas Moura and Son. Both players are capable of a moment of brilliance that can turn a final from victory into defeat in an instant for Liverpool. Stopping them will be vital to Liverpool’s hopes of ‘bringing it back to Liverpool’.
Liverpool team news vs Tottenham as it stands
Naby Keita looks set to miss the game due to a groin injury. Despite the Guinean national team coach making positive sounds about him being fit before the AFCON and maybe even for the final, given the nature of his injury, he is unlikely to take any part on Saturday.
Roberto Firmino has also been out with a groin injury. He hasn’t been involved for the month of May, bar a ten-minute cameo at the Camp Nou. He has been seen taking part in the Reds Marbella training camp and looks like he will be ready in time for Saturday.
Andrew Robertson was taken out of Liverpool’s historic victory against Barcelona by Luis Suarez, just before half-time. Since then, he has been struggling with a calf-injury. However, like Firmino, he has been taking full part in the Marbella training camp and is expected to start the final at left-back.
Klopp’s main choices at the weekend revolve around midfield. Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana are all fit and available.
Divock Origi will be hoping his name is a surprise inclusion should Firmino not have enough in the tank to play the full 90 minutes.
Liverpool predicted line-up vs Tottenham
Tottenham team news vs Liverpool as it stands
Harry Kane has not played for the club since 9th April when he injured his ankle ligaments in a collision with Fabian Delph. He is back in full training now and should be available for selection.
Harry Winks has been suffering from a groin injury since early Match. He finally had a surgery to solve it mid-April and has missed twelve games for Spurs in total. He is also expected to be available in time for the final.
Jan Vertonghen picked up an ankle injury towards the end of the season. However, it wasn’t a major issue and is expected to be fully fit and ready to go come Saturday.
Davinson Sanchez was also struggling with an injury at the end of the season. In his case, it was a thigh problem but shouldn’t prevent him playing at the weekend.
Dele Alli only made it to half time in Spurs’ final game of the season, against Everton. He is being assessed after stating he also felt strange in the warm-up. Alli is expected to be fit and available for the final also.
This all poses something of a problem for Pochettino though. With Liverpool expected to come out of the traps and set a hectic pace, having this many players lacking rhythm or sharpness could be a problem.
Therefore, Pochetino may opt to use the likes of Winks and Kane as impact subs if the game is getting away from him rather than from the start.
Tottenham predicted line-up vs Liverpool
Countdown to Madrid: Liverpool social media latest vs Tottenham
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 25, 2019
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 26, 2019
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 26, 2019
…but there was an element of planning in the goal ⬇️
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 26, 2019
All odds mentioned in this article are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change.