Champions League Final Betting Preview
May 31, 2019
For the first time since 2008, we have an all an English Champions League final. Two of the finest teams to grace the Premier League will go head to head on the grandest stage of all.
Will Liverpool land the silverware they so desperately crave or will Tottenham shock the world and steal it from them? Whatever happens, there it is sure to be a thrilling affair.
For the team from Merseyside, there is one prevalent theme in their narrative; redemption. Twelve months on from that excruciating night in Kiev, where dodgy goalkeeping, unlucky injuries and perhaps the greatest goal in Champions League’s history denied them, the Reds once again find themselves in the final of Europe’s premier cup competition. Liverpool have had an excellent campaign, recording their highest ever points total in the Premier League and playing an exhilarating style of football.
Jurgen Klopp’s ideas have never been executed to this level and the success they’ve enjoyed is the culmination of years of work. However, irrespective of all the positives, that same disappointment felt by the fans last year lingers. Despite the quality of their play, Liverpool have nothing to show for it. And, whether he or his supporters like it or not, Klopp is beginning to develop a reputation for falling at the last hurdle.
The German’s last six finals have all ended in defeat, with two of those losses coming in this very competition. There are a variety of factors that influenced these results and are by no means representative of his ability as a manager. But football cares little for nuance and stories last far longer than the action on the pitch. If he fails, it will only fuel his detractors’ arguments, whether they are justified or not.
That’s the missing piece for both Klopp and Liverpool. No one can seriously suggest that the Reds aren’t one of the best teams in the world right now, and fewer still would doubt Klopp’s managerial prowess. But until they win a trophy, the questions will remain. When they narrowly missed out on the title by a single point, fans of teams far off Liverpool’s level felt comfortable mocking them. For many, they are the butt of the joke. The only way to silence them is by winning the Champions League.
Redemption then is key, but so is defiance. Defiance against fate, which has so cruelly denied them before. Defiance in the face of those who would laugh, despite their obvious talents. The match at Anfield against Barcelona showed they had plenty of this, miraculously scoring four to land a result many thought impossible. The past two years have thrown so much at Liverpool, from players to fans to the man in the dugout. But another opportunity has presented itself and you feel this is one they have to take.
I’m stopping short of calling Mauricio Pochettino the best manager in the league, that honour obviously belongs to Pep Guardiola, but he’s not far off. To secure a top-four finish and a place in a Champions League final without making a single signing is an incredible achievement in itself. It’s all the more impressive when you consider the long-term absences of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son for much of the season.
It’s the nightmare scenario for every Arsenal fan in the world. Spurs could win a Champions League. Just let that sentence sit with you for a second, because it’s pretty ridiculous. Back in October, they had managed just one point from three matches, and their European ambitions were ‘over’ by the manager’s own admission. But they persevered and went through by the finest of margins, based on goals scored.
At each stage, they’ve faced the toughest of adversities and still Spurs have prevailed. Against Manchester City, who perhaps played their best football all season, they countered every attack with one of their own to squeeze through. In Amsterdam, when it all looked to be over, they overturned the deficit yet again. This is a team that does not know how to give up, no matter the circumstance, and this will serve them well in the final.
They have made immense strides, both on and off the pitch, since the arrival of Pochettino. Spurs are firmly established as a top four club, the next step is to make them a title winning side. Winning the Champions League doesn’t just give them a trophy, it raises their stature immensely. To Illustrate, in 2012 Chelsea finished sixth, fired a manager and generally looked well off the pace for the whole season. However, they won a Champions League and this was enough to convince Eden Hazard to join the blues. He became a modern legend for them, delivering title after title, and this is the type of player Spurs will be able to attract with a victory in Madrid.
Spurs are entering a crucial period in terms of the club’s development. They have an incredible squad that still has plenty of room for growth, guided by the steady hand of an exceptional coach. The stadium has been built; a modern-day Colosseum fit for the finest fixtures in football. They are on the precipice of joining the elite, not merely coasting on the periphery, but genuinely competing with the best of the best. While defeat for Liverpool would be heart breaking for them, it could prove transformative for Tottenham.
For Jurgen Klopp, the only player confirmed to miss the match is Guinea midfielder Naby Keita, who is out with a hamstring injury. They have plenty of replacements ready in that position, but Keita had begun to really kick on in the latter half of the season and will be missed. The only other concern was Roberto Firmino, but he seems to be fit for the final. If he is, he will almost certainly start as the sole striker.
He will be one part of a front three that has terrorised most of Europe this season, with the mercurial duo of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah finishing off the attack. They will be counted on to constantly the test the pace of Tottenham’s fullbacks, who will have an almighty job stopping them. With Keita out, they will have to count on Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum to provide the creativity in midfield. Fabinho has been excellent all year and will be called upon again to protect the back four.
In defence, there’s one name sure to be first on the team sheet; Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman has been imperious this year and is the Red’s best player. He will partner Joel Matip, who has really kicked on recently. The fullback positions are vital to the way Klopp plays and he has two of the best at his disposal in Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The erratic goalkeeping in last year’s final forced Liverpool to spend big in the position, and there’s no doubt Alisson will start.
For Spurs, there is only one area of concern, but it’s a massive one. Harry Kane has been out for a while but is reportedly making his way back to full fitness. The question for Poch is do they risk starting an unfit striker who hasn’t played in months? If not, they will start the final without their best player and captain, which isn’t ideal either. Personally, if he is able to start, I think he will, as he is just too important for Spurs to drop in a match of this magnitude.
Partnering him up top will most likely be Son, whose pace and lethal finishing could be a real problem for Liverpool. Christian Eriksen and Dele Ali will be the two in midfield supplying them, and their range of passing can split defences in an instance. Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko will start behind them, to add a little stability to the mix.
In defence, the Dutch duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will certainly start. They may be a little older than the rest of the side, but the experience they bring might prove invaluable. On the flanks, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose will have a tough task shutting out Liverpool’s wide players. Hugo Lloris has been an excellent servant for the club and will be looking to seal the first trophy of his Tottenham career.
Liverpool go into the match as favourites, but if there is anything I’ve learnt this season, it’s that you can never count Tottenham out. It has been a sizable break since the season ended and this might actually help Tottenham. They didn’t end the season well and a couple weeks’ worth of reflection and rest may do them the world of good. Liverpool will be fuelled by their failure to secure a first Premier League title, though they must be wary not to lose their heads. Passion is one of the club’s biggest strengths, but Klopp must ensure each of his players is disciplined and collected on the pitch.
It isn’t an easy call by any means, but I almost feel like Liverpool are due a trophy. Having played the way they have all season, to end it empty-handed would be a travesty. I think they are the better side anyway, but momentum will most likely see them through if ability doesn’t.
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham – 15/2 with Betfred
Find all your Champions League betting odds here
Cyrus has been writing about sports and many other topics for major publications over the past five years. Now working in digital marketing, he spends his days arguing over football and dreaming of his beloved Manchester City winning the champions league.