Would like to start this article with an honest warning: chaps, it’s going to be annoying. The majority of it will be sweeping generalisations, guesswork and hyperbole.
The phrase “The Oyvind Leonhardsen Derby” will be presented as if I invented it and didn’t read it on the internet. There will be a bit where we pretend to think the difference in Premier League points will have a significant effect on the result. If that doesn’t grind your gears, you will be told things you already know, and reminded of things you still remember.
But, let’s face facts, we’re all just here killing time until the most remarkable event ever in the history of life on earth: The O.L.D.
And one thing I can guarantee you is this: however irritating the waffling of an armchair pundit can be, it will be nothing, nothing my friends, compared to how insufferable the winning set of fans are going to be for the rest of your god damn life.
Who Deserves It More?
How the UEFA chairmen must have chuckled when Tottenham’s Daniel Levy messaged the group last September. “Oops, forgot to do my transfers lol, this season doesn’t count,” closely followed by: “Anyone got a spare home ground? Chuffing cowboy builders :O…”
You could say Spurs reached the final with one hand tied behind their backs, and metaphorically at least, you’d be right.
But in last year’s final, Liverpool hero Mo Salah had his hand literally tied behind his back by Sergio Ramos, denying the Egyptian Scouser an honest shot at the title.
Then there were the miracles. There are certain things in the Champions League that don’t happen unless God loves you and he wants you to win. Taking points at the Nou Camp. Winning at the Allianz. Beating the Premier League winners. Scoring 4 past Barcelona. Aguero missing a pen. No Salah no Firmino. Second-half hat-tricks. Messi playing like a human.
Both sides have overcome considerable adversity to be here – Liverpool a rotten draw throughout, Spurs the fact that they don’t haven’t been able to boast 23 actual footballers/a stadium through the vast majority of the campaign.
Who Is Better?
There’s the 26-point gap between the two teams in the League, the fact Liverpool haven’t lost to an English team since January and have beaten Spurs 2-1 twice this term. Yeah, Liverpool are better.
But both sides are capable of moments of genius. Lucas Moura’s 96th minute winner against Ajax came after the goalie had returned to his area after a last-ditch corner. And if that was relentless, how about Trent Alex-Arnold’s corner, where the youngster paused time itself to tee up Origi for an Oscar-worthy fourth in Barcelona.
Both teams have made their own luck in this competition, and heart for heart, guts for guts, cojone for cojone, there isn’t a rizla’s width between them. The Wanda Metropolitano will be a bubbling cauldron of wracked nerves and blind faith – even if it’s 3-0 at half time, the fans will believe the comeback is on.
Sadio Mané already has a goal in the Champions League Final and will be rubbing his hands at the chance to get at an overachieving Kieran Trippier. The former Burnley boy was the main culprit at Spurs shipped 4 goals to City at the Etihad.
Meanwhile, Christian Eriksen will be the most naturally creative midfielder on show and has the cunning to dissect the meaty wall of Milner, Henderson and Wijnaldum.
Finally, I can’t wait for Spurs’ inevitable roll of the football’s most handsome dice. Virgil Van Dyke has proved bulletproof this season - too quick, too smart, too strong. The one thing we’ve never seen him tested against is a chest with the gravitational pull of Fernando Llorente. The Spaniard was a colossus against Ajax, beaming punt after punt into his warm bosom.
Obviously, he’s utterly useless beyond the initial aerial scrap, but it’s worth noting that in their one career meeting to date in 2016, Llorente dominated proceedings winning three times as many headers as Van Dyke with 9.
Come on Poch, to dare is to do. After all this talk of Kane coming back, broadside them by starting the big lad from the world go and prep him for 90 minutes of the kitchen sink coming his way.
What if Momo Sissoko’s miss when clean through at Anfield was a devious dummy? A plot twist so cunning and prescient it would look fanciful on the pages of a Poirot novel.
And who would I be to suggest Spurs’ midfield messiah hasn’t got that level of genius in his locker these days? If so, he’s bought himself the freedom to shoot with his left from anywhere in the pitch, and I mean anywhere. Can he cash that check in Madrid?
Spurs fans’ view of the Sissoko miss pic.twitter.com/A9pooUKfDU— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) April 1, 2019
Harry Kane hasn’t played since a juddering challenge from Fabian Delph in the quarters, and presents Pochettino with a weird dilemma. His team play better without their best player. After his last injury comeback in January, Hazza bagged 6 in 7 games, proving he’s not beyond slotting right back into the groove after a spell in Matron’s care.
Whether he starts or not, the bechinned one will no doubt be on hand to dish out a half-time bollocking that consists entirely him shouting his trademark ‘COME ON, LET’S GO!’ with ever decreasing levels of conviction.
Over in the red corner, the Scouser’s strength in depth gives them a few more options from the bench. The surest bet you can make is for Divock Origi to come on in the 89th minute, no matter what the score/game situation is. The lad’s an absolute sucker for an appearance bonus.
Damir Skomina is the man in the middle this time and a familiar face for both teams.
He’s presided over four Spurs games in Europe, including the unforgettable ‘Taxi For Maicon’ game against Inter in 2010, which, in case you’ve forgotten, Spurs lost 4-3. The Slovenian has never reffed a Spurs win.
Skomina has also taken charge of Liverpool on 5 separate occasions – the only time the Reds have come out on top was in this season’s 1-0 home game against Napoli.
His most memorable moment this season, however, was awarding a last-minute penalty for Man United in their PSG comeback. So there’s always a chance of a cheeky penalty if you blaze in a long-shot and yell “handball!” loud enough near him.
The stage is set for an amazing final between two honest teams who have no idea when they’re beaten. Please, football gods, don’t let VAR ruin it.