The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League concludes with Saturday’s final between Liverpool and Tottenham in Madrid.
Sportsnet’s soccer panel of broadcasters, writers and pundits offer their picks and predictions below.
John Molinaro: Saturday’s all-English affair is an intriguing affair between two sides who overcame adversity en route to booking their place in the final. One wonders what Liverpool can possibly do for an encore after coming from behind to stun Barcelona at Anfield, or what Tottenham might have in store for us in the aftermath of their dramatic road win against Ajax.
One of the major storylines ahead of the game surrounds Harry Kane, who is back from an ankle injury and deemed himself fit to play against Liverpool. Should he go straight back into the starting 11? An argument can be made that he shouldn’t, as all of Spurs’ best performances – a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund, away to Man City in the second leg in the quarterfinals, and the second leg of the semis vs. Ajax – came with Kane watching from afar. In his absence, both Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura have stepped up in very big ways, so it’ll be interesting to see if Mauricio Pochettino leaves well enough alone, or whether he changes things up by starting Kane.
As for Liverpool, they enter this final as the favourite thanks to a lean and mean defence anchored by Virgil van Dijk, and a dangerous attack featuring Mohamed Salah. The Reds came up short in the Premier League even though they enjoyed a spectacular season, so you get the sense they are extra motivated to win this one. Will that be enough for them to beat a Tottenham side that just seems to find ways to win?
Prediction: Tottenham wins 1-0.
Geoff Lowe: Liverpool get a shot at Champions League redemption a year after the disaster that was the 2018 final against Real Madrid, in which Jurgen Klopp’s side was unable to overcome an injury to Mohamed Salah and goalkeeping errors from Loris Karius.
And while there’s plenty to like about Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham entering Saturday’s final in Madrid, it’s the ways Liverpool has remedied the problems that plagued them last year which give the Reds the upper hand against Spurs.
Alisson has made a world of difference in net for Liverpool this season and won’t make Karius-level mistakes on this stage, while Klopp’s team now has the depth to withstand injuries to its best players. Case in point: Liverpool’s ludicrous comeback against Barcelona came without Salah or Roberto Firmino.
Ironically, it’s depth that could be the biggest issue for Tottenham, who will likely have talismanic striker Harry Kane back in the starting 11 after a long absence but will struggle to deal with any injuries should they come in the final.
For those reasons, I’m aligning my pick with the great Ronaldo and taking Liverpool as 2019 Champions League title winners.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 30, 2019
Prediction: Liverpool wins 3-1.
Peter Galindo: Familiarity can be a blessing and a curse, especially in a one-game final. Liverpool has traditionally performed very well against Tottenham, losing just one of the last 12 meetings against their London rivals. But a stage as big as the UEFA Champions League can render any stat, or piece of history, moot.
Tottenham has a few question marks surrounding its potential starting 11. Harry Kane has not played a single match since the 1-0 win over Manchester City in the first leg of the quarterfinals back on April 9, so his fitness will be worth monitoring. Victor Wanyama also suffered a knock against Ajax in the semifinals, so he could be lacking sharpness as well.
Liverpool allowed only 10 shots per 90 minutes in this season’s Champions League. Only Manchester City (9.7) and Atletico Madrid (9.6) have conceded fewer. It will be a far tougher proposition for Spurs to penetrate the Reds’ defence, unless they exploit Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson’s whenever they bomb forward from the defensive third.
Prediction: Liverpool wins 2-1.
Dan Riccio: For one of these teams, a major trophy drought is coming to an end. Liverpool has made a habit of finishing as runners up, while Tottenham are constantly trying to prove themselves as a top side. This is their chance, but they are massive underdogs in this tilt, having finished with 26 fewer points in the Premier League than Liverpool.
The Reds are better in virtually every category, making this a big ask of Spurs. Liverpool had Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both on 22 goals this year as co-golden boot winners. They also boasted a stifling defence, conceding just 22 times compared, to Tottenham’s 39. Jurgen Klopp has built a giant in Liverpool, while Spurs are trying to do the same, but on a much tighter budget.
If Spurs win, it would be a massive upset and arguably the biggest surprise since Porto lifted the title in 2004. If the Reds play their game, they should be crowned the champions of Europe.
Prediction: Liverpool wins 2-1.