Tottenham vs. Liverpool: A Break Down of the UEFA Champions League Final

UEFA Champions League Final break down

All-domestic Champions League finals can often feel quite strange.

The exotic, unknown quantity of how the two sides match up is missing, but it's replaced by an added intensity, as familiarity with one another sometimes spawns the need to get creative, to get clever, to do the unexpected.

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That will almost certainly be the case this year as two sides who know each other inside-out prepare to square off for the biggest prize in European club football.

On Saturday, the 67,829-seat Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid will be draped in white and red—depending on which half you're in.

The Fondo Norte, to the north, will host Spurs' fans. They know their side comes into this fight as the underdog but have recently borne witness to its incredible resolve and spirit, the sort that has masterminded incredible performances and comebacks against some of the continent's best.

And to the south, in the Fondo Sur, “You'll Never Walk Alone” and “Allez, Allez, Allez!” will ring out from a sea of red as thousands of fans gnaw their nails down to the beds, hoping and praying this wonderful season can be garnished with silverware.

Ahead of the clash, here is everything you need to know, analyses of both teams' major questions heading into the game while examining previous encounters to hunt for clues as to how this one will pan out.

Spurs: Formation and Injury Questions

The near-three-week reprieve between the end of the Premier League season and the Champions League final was badly needed by Tottenham. They limped to the finish line domestically, juggling so many injuries and games that it's a wonder Mauricio Pochettino was able to field a team at times.

Things are clearing up, though. The Evening Standard's Simon Johnson reported both Harry Kane and Harry Winks look set to be fit for the final. Should they make it, you'd imagine they will both start.

Surprisingly, within the context of the final stages of the season, Winks might actually count as the more important Harry ahead of this game.

There are two parts to that claim: First, he is the only one who can bring any semblance of control to Spurs' midfield. And second, Kane can look a little sluggish returning from injury (even if he's actually quite productive), and Pochettino does have good options up top in the form of Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son.

If Winks is fit, Pochettino can utilise a 4-2-3-1 formation with he and Moussa Sissoko at the base of midfield, then Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen in the band ahead. In that scenario, Kane would probably start and Lucas, the hat-trick hero in the semi-finals, would drop out.

The final question comes at right-back: Who gets the nod between fit-again Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier?

Reds: No Injuries, Just Tough Decisions

Nine of Reds' XI pick themselves, as does the 4-3-3 shape, with the only question marks coming in midfield. Who takes the two starting berths in front of Fabinho?

James Milner has been a stalwart throughout this Champions League campaign, starting 10 games, but he has recently seen his hold on a spot in the side slip due to captain Jordan Henderson's re-emergence in a box-to-box role.

It's three into two spots with Georginio Wijnaldum as the third contender, and it's impossible to call exactly how it shapes out. What Liverpool would get from each player won't surprise, though.

Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez are both fit again and able to step into defence, while Joel Matip has been phenomenal alongside Virgil van Dijk this year and should take his usual place.

The Previous Encounter: Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham

In gauging how this game will play out, the two teams' tussle at Anfield in March hands us plenty of clues.

On March 31, Liverpool beat Spurs 2-1 thanks to a last-minute Toby Alderweireld own goal in a match that see-sawed and swayed violently as both managers made tactical shifts in search of the upper hand.

Tottenham began in a 5-3-2 shape, likely in order to go man-for-man on Reds' narrow Sadio Mane-Roberto Firmino-Mohamed Salah trio. But with their wing-backs tucked in so deep and the midfield so narrow, they were unable to disrupt Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold's runs from full-back, and the first goal came from a Robertson cross.

Pochettino switched shapes after 30 minutes to remedy this, first moving Lucas from striker to left wing and pushing Eriksen wide in a 5-4-1 shape to engage Robertson and Alexander-Arnold higher, and then in the second half, shifting Jan Vertonghen to left-back and Danny Rose to left wing in a 4-2-3-1 look.

The Reds went from slicing Tottenham open at will to being unable to play through them, with a five-man midfield blocking the centre and preventing Robertson and Alexander-Arnold from roaming. The tide turned. Tottenham scored and seemingly deserved to hang on for a point, but a real melee in the box at the end led to a winner for Liverpool.

5 Things To Look Out For

1.  Pochettino Learns Fast

Tottenham may have been defeated in March, but Pochettino adjusted superbly as the game went on, increasingly nullifying the Reds and even seizing the upper hand at times. He learned a lot and will be able to put that into action in Madrid.

Based on this, it would be quite the surprise if Tottenham began with a back three/five in the final. The plan to cover Reds' front three man-for-man was good, but they fell victim to a well-coordinated press and allowed far too much room for full-backs with 23 league assists between them this term.

Pochettino won't repeat that mistake again.

2.  Spurs' Weakness

Whoever plays at right-back for Tottenham, Reds will likely see the area as a weakness to exploit.

Whether it's the rusty, rash Aurier—a player liable to give away too many penalties or threatening free-kicks even when he's fit—or the defensively sub-par Trippier, Robertson and Mane will fancy their chances.

3.  Liverpool's Weakness

Finding Reds' own weak point is hard, as they have grown into such a well-organised team under Jurgen Klopp. They expand and compress in midfield cleverly, press efficiently and dominate from set-pieces.

So while on-pitch frailties are virtually non-existent, their greatest enemy is arguably of the mental variety: pressure, or dealing with it, to be more precise.

It was the only thing that looked like it could derail them as they sought win after win in the Premier League title race. With the chances of earning something silver from this campaign now limited to this one game, it could become telling.

4.  Watch Those Corners

Most teams have recognised the Reds can be extremely fluent and patient in possession, recycling the ball across the back from full-back to full-back as they seek space into which they can venture. You have to be alert to what they're trying to do and aware of the coordinated movements.

What teams seemingly haven't realised, though, is that Liverpool are probably most dangerous when defending corners—yes, defending.

They counter with such incredible speed and precision from these situations, and teams have frequently failed to dedicate enough players to defensive duty to stop them. For an example, look no further than Salah's goal against Southampton in April.

5.  Is Kane Really Fit?

Kane being fit for the final is a boost, but what sort of condition he's in is a big question mark.

We've seen enough of his returns from injury to know he will probably look half-a-yard slow and less able to work shooting space for himself as a result, and that's a big problem when you're coming up against one of the world's best in Virgil van Dijk.

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Spurs' fate doesn't rest solely on his shoulders. But if he's actually match-ready, it could be the difference.

(Bleacher Report)

This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago

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