Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League final place is fully deserved. This match will be the most important match in this club’s modern history this Saturday in Madrid. Liverpool provide fierce opposition, eager to put their failure to secure the Premier League behind them and to get some recognition of their achievements this season.
Tottenham Hotspur Deserve Place in Champions League Final
In Response to Graham Souness
Graham Souness had the audacity to suggest that Tottenham did not deserve to be in the Champions League final. He highlighted the impressive “19 losses” that the club has clocked up over the season, finding themselves “fortunate” to be in the final. Then, he added how only Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane would find their way into a combined XI.
It is a ridiculous notion to suggest that a team that has held Barcelona at the Camp Nou (and knocked out Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and then Ajax) does not deserve to be in the final. Ironically, Souness argues that it is fruitless to apply logic to football and to this final. But, he is out of touch with the basic logic of how a sporting tournament works. Spurs qualified, then progressed past the group stages and the knockout stages to reach the final, just like Liverpool did.
Admittedly, Spurs had two very euphoric matches against Manchester City and Ajax, where the last kicks (and a last-minute VAR call) of the game decided their future in the competition. But, this was all within the laws and minutes of the beautiful game. In fact, if anything, their resiliency to fight back from improbable scorelines affirms their right to be in the final.
Lastly, on the combined XI comment, Souness merely falls into the trap of this latest obsession in football media. The combined XI is farcical since it singles out individuals from totally different systems of play to suggest what the best team would look like. This is simply illogical. Of course, there will be players that are individually superior when compared to another. But, this game isn’t determined by how many superstars that can fill a team. Instead, it is, of course, the combined efforts of an entire squad of players.
Harry Kane to Start?
Pochettino will deliberate on who to start up front, with Harry Kane regaining his fitness before the final. The first decision is whether he should start, or wait on the bench. But, if he does start, who has to fall out of the team in his place?
Lucas Moura‘s sensational hat-trick should surely cement his place in the team. Dele Alli set up two of Moura’s goals, too. Christian Eriksen is another important technical influence, and Heung-Min Son has the ability to be talismanic on his day. Any decision that the manager makes is likely to cause a grievance somewhere.
But, the larger argument is that Kane is one of the best strikers the Premier League and Spurs have seen. He leads by example on the pitch with his relentless pressing, adept passing and world-class finishing skills. But, he could also provide a fantastic back-up to bring on in the second half. Alternatively, Son would be brilliant to bring off from the bench.
Fielding Kane and Moura could, therefore, be the solution. In two of Spurs’ goals against Ajax, it was Fernando Llorente‘s sprawling presence that led to Moura scoring. Kane has a greater ability to hold up the ball and knock it down for Moura to finish. This would mean probably benching Son, and playing a midfield of Eriksen, Dele with Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama supporting.
Kieran Trippier is not having the greatest season. And, on Saturday, he will face the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamad Salah. Serge Aurier is in contention for the match, but he has not been favoured in the last match against Ajax. Trippier is likely to make the start, and he will have a lot to prove.
This is especially so after Southgate dropped him from the England squad. Mane and Salah have electric pace and the effortless ability to beat a man. They will be tough opponents for Trippier, which will require the utmost concentration and no more unforced errors.
Hedge the Bets
With two all English European finals, there is an intimate and familial feel to these encounters. Any form goes out of the window, especially after the extensive break after the end of the domestic season. Thus, it is really up to whichever set of players wants to win the trophy, to justify why they deserve to be the Champions of Europe.
Tottenham and Liverpool have both had fantastic seasons. They both have squads that have quality as well as the drive to win. This year, this final will be intensely emotional for two managers that also want to finally win a major trophy. The team that can harness that emotion, to be both clinical and imbued with belief, will surely be able to lift that famous trophy.