Who will win the Champions League?

First things first, what an achievement from the 2 teams to make it to a European final and the glam of the Champions League. Both of these teams has a different story but ultimately there is only one goal and that is to win. I will pick up the differences below and why that night in Madrid could be huge for both clubs involved whether it be the biggest achievement in the history of the club or break a ‘voodoo’ and get some more silverware added to the cabinet.

 

I probably speak for most people who said 10 days ago, neither of these teams would be battling it out for the pinnacle of European Football, the Champions League trophy. That night at Anfield will probably live long in the memory of all Liverpool fans. 3-0 down against the Greatest player of all time, missing Salah and Firmino who are instrumental in terms of goals but also the style that Liverpool play in. Moments of magic from Gini Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold allowed Liverpool to run riot over a Barcelona which were completely outwitted in all areas of the pitch. Tottenham on the other hand were down and out. 2-0 against a young Ajax team which were always looking dangerous and creating chances but as soon as Ziyech started missing chances, maybe it was meant to be? Lucas Moura produced his inner Ronaldo 9 and the 96th minute left limbs still being picked up around Amsterdam by the travelling faithful.

 

Liverpool have 5 European Trophies in their trophy cabinet, Spurs have 0. Maybe that is the 1st advantage given to Liverpool. The club is built on European success and I have no doubt that they won’t need reminding. For Spurs however, the pressure is off. Win and they become the greatest ever Tottenham team in history, instant legends. Lose and they lost to a team that have just got 97 points and somehow not won the league? Beaten Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG along the way so you may have to give credit where credits due, still a monumental occasion for the club and they will be hopeful of the future under Pochettino.

 

Liverpool are back to full strength and will be ready to fire on all cylinders after last year’s defeat to Real Madrid. They have won both Premier League fixtures vs Spurs this Premier League campaign by 2-1 at Home and Away so maybe that will also add a psychological advantage? Spurs are possibly going to risk Harry Kane for the big one and he won’t be 100% for sure, but a calculated risk and this occasion will not hold him back. Jan Vertongen is rumoured to be struggling which would also be a massive loss when having Salah and Mane charging down the wings so again, another advantage to Liverpool.

 

But, have you ever heard of the term ‘Spursy’? Well this has the potential to not be it.. Underdogs and 2 key players possibly not 100% BUT nobody wants to write Spurs off. Even getting to this stage has defied the odds. A headline in the Evening Standard on 12th December 2018 shows why.. PSV have told Tottenham to “thank us later” after holding Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw at San Siro to help Spurs reach the Champions League last-16 stage. I am sure PSV are even more delighted that the team they helped have now managed to knock out their arch rivals Ajax out in the semi-finals and saved themselves the antagonisation from Ajax fans that would of followed. With counter attacking football, Spurs are able to get from front to back very quickly with link up play between Alli, Son, Moura, Kane with the occasional cameo from Moussa Sissoko.

 

I think this final will come down to Full backs. Yes, I said Full Backs. Both strike forces have the ability to punish either team and create chances right until the end and maybe it could be an absolute goal fest? But with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson vs Trippier and Rose, this could be the real game changer. May be an easy selection to pick out but I really feel both sides are fairly even all over the pitch except here. Both have average to good midfielders (Liverpool maybe edge it with Fabinho, Gini, Henderson) A solid centre-half partnership and a very very good front 3.. so this full back mismatch could win it.. in Liverpool’s favour. Overlapping and Assists have been key to Liverpool’s success this season, TAA and Robertson have managed to transform that position into their own and nobody can get close to the levels that they have reached this season in the whole of world football.

 

Who is this game bigger for? Liverpool and Klopp are still chasing silverware as they have not managed to get one since 2006 in an FA cup Final at the Millennium stadium (yes it was that long ago) **2012 League Cup actually, I stand corrected** . They have obviously come close and are improving massively but they need to go that one step further and get the winning mentality back in the club and they could become a force for years. Spurs have an opportunity to be written into Folklore but again, they have not won a trophy since 2008 in the League Cup Final (if that counts). The winning of the Champions League is one that every footballer dreams of and for sure this game will be one to remember.

 

The fans will be there in their thousands and I’m sure the atmosphere on the streets will be like a carnival. Whatever method of transport people have been forced to use to get there due to the greed of the airlines and the hotels, this will be one to remember forever.

 

May the best team win but I believe Liverpool will edge this 2-1.

 

 

**Photo Courtesy of sportinglife.com**

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The best league in the world?

So with the end of arguably the most exciting Premier League title race in history complete, Manchester City ran out Champions again but the question that appears to be asked now is whether the Premier League really is the pinnacle of World Football? With both European Competitions dominated by English Teams, some would believe that this is the answer to your question, however critics could say this is not always how the cookie crumbles.

Manchester City, the greatest team of the Premier League era, were tracked all the way until the final whistle by Liverpool, the greatest team to ever come 2nd (?) if there is a commendation for that. However, the gap to the rest and the quality of the competition may not have boosted the form claim in question. With Huddersfield Town ending on only 16 points – 3 wins, 7 draws and a -54 goal difference – Fulham managing to scrape 26 points and Cardiff battling hard but falling late on with 34 points.

Looking into Europe, the leagues are clearly dominated by 1 or 2 Teams everywhere. PSG 16 points clear and despite the endless piggy bank funding them, they still have no recent european success. Barcelona have taken advantage of an abysmal Real Madrid season have won the league at a cantar with Atletico 11 points adrift. Bayern Munich are stuttering to a possible marginal league title again over Borussia Dortmund. Juventus strolled to a 13 point margin lead over the rest in Serie A with Inter Milan in 3rd a whopping 23 points behind. So maybe we do have the best league in the world, right? Manchester United are the biggest club in World football, huge budget and finished 32 points behind the league leaders.

Sky Sports and BT Sports money is pumped into the Premier League. Hundreds of Millions in fact. Parachute payments for relegated teams are more than the budgets of most european clubs so I would hope that the quality of those bottom clubs would provide a better return on what we are currently getting?

The Premier League is often known to be the most exciting in the world where anyone can beat anyone on their day but this season seems to have been a strange affair. Teams would prefer ‘not to lose’ and especially when setting up away from home, it has turned into an Attack vs Defence at most stadiums in the country and hopefully hit them on the counter. Most bottom half teams are even adopting this strategy at home vs the ‘Big 6’. This philosophy may keep them in the league and ultimately depending on the ambition shown by the club and the manager then this may be enough however one example of success I have enjoyed this season would be Wolverhampton Wanderers. Yes they heavily invested but some of those signings have been a revelation. Playing attacking wing backs such as Doherty (a fantasy football favourite) and a midfield containing a bargain Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves feeding into Jimenez has caused ‘upsets’ by simply attacking the so called ‘Big 6’ and not giving the respect supposedly all big teams deserve.

An early 1-1 draw at Home to Man City in August set the tone for the season ahead. Followed up by a 1-1 draw away at Old Trafford and a 1-1 draw at The Emirates. A 2-1 home victory against Chelsea when coming from behind. First loss was at Home to Liverpool (the only team to not drop any points against Wolves this season but they did lose 2-1 in the FA Cup). Wolves beat Spurs away 3-1, lost 3-0 to City, Drew 1-1 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge undone by a 93rd Minute Hazard equaliser, 2-1 win against Man United and finally a 3-1 win at home to Arsenal.

Now ‘anybody can beat anybody’ is a typical cliche and the magic of the FA cup does show that but the table at the end of the season never lies. The finances of the Premier League allow all clubs to attract top talent from all over the world but ultimately the pinnacle of most players is to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona in front of the Camp Nou.

Could bottom half teams invest better and be able to play a brand of football that Wolves adopted and ultimately match the big boys of the Prem?

With the Champions League and Europa League finals contested by 4 Premier League teams, the standard of our top teams is clearly peaking in comparison to other leagues in Europe. England’s performance at the World Cup was very encouraging and we are definitely moving in the right direction but still not the best in terms of national teams. We can certainly look at our amazing academy’s and be proud of what we are now producing. Talent such as Jadon Sancho who has torn the Bundesliga apart but Premier League clubs have young english talent yet to play consistently enough which may be holding back their development. Callum Hudson-Odoi, Phil Foden, Dominic Solanke, Mason Mount, Reiss Nelson and so on.. all have the world at their feet but may not have the opportunities available to them.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been voted the best right back in the world this week. Given a chance by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and now in his 2nd Champions League final in 2 years as well as creating ‘that’ goal in front of the Kop to produce one of the greatest comebacks in football. English football has the potential to be the best National Team in the world to match arguably having the best club teams at the top of the league. Give the youth a chance and it will benefit both club and country.