How to watch: The Champions League final is on TNT and Univision Deportes in the United States. To find broadcast options where you are, click here.
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Here are the latest developments:
44’ Now it’s Spurs getting forward, but Dele misfires
He tried to lead Son in on Alisson, but his touch was too heavy, and the chance vanished. One has to think both teams just want to get a drink and break and a rethink now.
And remember this paragraph from Rory’s “Why Tottenham will win” piece today:
Spurs and Liverpool’s meetings tend to share a pattern. At some point, Pochettino will tweak something, do something unexpected, and as a rule, Liverpool will struggle to react.
Halftime definitely will be a good time for another one of those tweaks.
42’ Another Liverpool corner, another test for Lloris
Liverpool is leaning on Spurs a bit more now. Tottenham clears the first but only gives up another.
Salah wastes it by hitting the first man.
38’ A chance for Robertson out of nothing
Joel Matip springs Robertson down the left with a quick-thinking pass and Robertson, driving forward and seeing no options, rockets a shot from outside the area. Lloris tips it over, though, and Spurs clear the corner.
But now Vertonghen is down; he injured his left elbow in the jostling inside there. Doesn’t look terribly hurt. Maybe just a ding on the funny bone?
26’ Half-chances and a few corners as the game steadies
Both teams have calmed down, but Tottenham, to its credit, has looked a bit dangerous at times through Son’s runs and Eriksen’s work in tight spaces. One can only hope a first-minute penalty doesn’t decide this.
18’ A pitch invader stops the match
In an age of security and terror fears, it’s really stunning that this continues to happen at major sporting events. This time the fan got all the way into the center circle.
12’ The heat may be slowing everyone down
The penalty got the match off to a rollicking start and had the Liverpool fans singing at full voice, but everyone seems to have dialed things back now, perhaps aware that a frantic pace is probably not wise on this sweltering night.
6’ Tottenham in regrouping mode now
The game could not have started worse for Pochettino and Spurs: All that work, all that planning, to give up a penalty after 30 seconds. They’ll be looking for some position now, to get their footing and get back into this.
2’ GOAL! 1-0 to Liverpool in Madrid!
Mo Salah buries the penalty past Lloris, who had no chance.
The penalty was a handball on Sissoko, who inexplicably had his right arm out on a Mané cross. What a disastrous start for Spurs.
Rory Smith: I wish I had some strong opinion on whether that was a penalty or not, but to be honest the rules now seem to vary so much between the Premier League and UEFA competitions, and the definitions are so sketchy and subjective, I’m honestly not sure. I can understand why Spurs are baffled, I can understand why Damir Skomina, the referee, gave it. It would be unsatisfactory, though, if that proved decisive.
1’ PENALTY!! What a start!
The referee, Damir Skovina of Slovenia, whistles a penalty against Tottenham after less than 30 seconds!!!
First, a moment of remembrance
The teams are on the field and are holding a moment of remembrance for the Spain and Arsenal player Jose Antonio Reyes, who died in a car accident today. As is customary, it is applause, not silence.
A full house on a sweltering day
Rory checks in from the Wanda Metropolitano:
The scale of the Champions League final seems to grow every year: Strange as it is to say, it isn’t that long since this game was not always necessarily a sellout. Now it takes over an entire city: Madrid has been awash with Liverpool and Spurs fans since Wednesday; roads have been closed and hotels requisitioned and sun-bleached plazas staked out.
In fact, it’s not just the fans of the two clubs. One of the best things about the Champions League final is the vast assortment of fans who travel just to be here: You see Argentine and Brazilian club jerseys — there must be dozens of Flamengo fans here — and always, always a contingent of fans, clad in emerald green, representing Mexico. Then there are the vanquished and the disappointed: the fans of those clubs who thought they might make it and never did. Normally that means Bayern Munich, but this year there are a number of Ajax fans, here to sample the occasion, and possibly to sell their tickets.
It feels as if Liverpool is, perhaps, better represented — both in the stadium and in the city as a whole — but the difference in noise is likely to be marginal. One bank of the Estadio Metropolitano has been given over entirely to Tottenham, another to Liverpool. Neither team will be short of support.
Spurs fans would have been cheered to see Harry Kane (and, less headline-grabbing but almost as significant, Harry Winks) in Mauricio Pochettino’s team. That was the only really difficult selection decision either manager had to make: whether Kane, who has not played for almost two months, could be drafted straight into action. Clearly, the idea of leaving him out was unimaginable for Pochettino. It is unfortunate that Lucas Moura, the player whose goals against Ajax brought Spurs here, misses out, but this feels like Tottenham’s strongest team.
Now that we have an answer to the first Kane dilemma, the question shifts to how long he can last, particularly in the sweltering heat. It has been blistering in Madrid today, and it will be hot, and close, on the field. That will be a challenge for everyone, not only Kane.
Liverpool Starting Lineup
Liverpool’s lineup (4-3-3) is out: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson; Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané
Substitutes: Mignolet, Lovren, Milner, Gomez, Sturridge, Moreno, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Brewster, Origi, Kelleher.
Analysis: No surprises here. Firmino had been dealing with a groin problem but Klopp declared him fit and ready to go this week.
Tottenham Starting Lineup
Tottenham’s lineup (4-2-3-1) is out: Hugo Lloris; Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose; Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko; Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min; Harry Kane
Substitutes: Gazzaniga, Vorm, Sanchez, Foyth, Davies, Aurier, Dier, Walker-Peters, Wanyama, Lucas, Lamela, Llorente
Analysis: Kane has not played since April 9, and Pochettino was coy about his inclusion right up until Friday’s prematch news conference, when he said, “We have one training session and then we are ready to decide.” But no one really expected Kane to miss this one.
Why Liverpool will win
Rory Smith makes the case for the Reds:
Jürgen Klopp does not feel cursed. He does not, as he made plain during his Friday evening news media call in Madrid, even feel unlucky. He might have lost every final he has reached with Liverpool, and six of the seven he has contested over all, but he does not see that as a harbinger.
The reason for that, put simply, is that this is the possibly the first time — and certainly the first time with Liverpool — that he has gone into a final in charge of the favorite. The bald fact of the Premier League table illustrates that Liverpool has been significantly more consistent than Tottenham this season: Klopp’s team eventually finished 26 points ahead of Spurs.
Throw in that Liverpool had England’s best defense and two of its three top scorers, and then add that it went through the pomp, circumstance and attendant emotional sweep of a Champions League final 12 months ago, and Liverpool’s quiet, unassuming confidence is understandable.
For Klopp, unlike his Spurs counterpart, Mauricio Pochettino, there are no selection dilemmas or tactical alternatives: He, his players and his opponents all know how Liverpool will try to play. Klopp rarely changes; he is not the sort of manager to try to spring a surprise.
This season, he has not needed to. For the most part, what Liverpool does works: Even Barcelona, even with a 3-0 lead, even with Lionel Messi, could not resist. Klopp will feel that if his players do not freeze, if there are no individual mistakes or moments of inspiration from Tottenham, Liverpool is strong enough to overcome Spurs, and finally see off even the mention of a curse.
Why Tottenham will win
Rory Smith makes the case for Spurs:
It is the nature of a single, winner-takes-all game that every advantage can, in a different light, start to look like a disadvantage. Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs do have choices to make: Do they play with a three-man defense or a four-man back line? Does Harry Kane start, or is he best used from the bench? If he does, who joins him? From one angle, it looks like uncertainty; from another, it looks like unpredictability
Though Klopp’s record against Pochettino is good — one defeat in nine games — Spurs and Liverpool’s meetings tend to share a pattern. At some point, Pochettino will tweak something, do something unexpected, and as a rule, Liverpool will struggle to react. That happened, certainly, in the last encounter, which Liverpool won by 2-1, but only thanks to a Hugo Lloris mistake and a Moussa Sissoko miss. Spurs dominated for long stretches at Anfield. That will give Pochettino’s team hope.
Not that hope is in short supply. There is a weightlessness about Spurs, thanks, in part, to the chaos and wonder of the team’s run to its first European final in 35 years — the comeback in Amsterdam, the heart-stopping drama of the quarterfinal with Manchester City, even the fact that, after only three group games, the team seemed likely to be eliminated. By meeting every challenge, by surviving every scare, Tottenham has cultivated an air of invincibility. Destiny, Pochettino might call it.
Partly, though, it is because Spurs is not expected to be here. Liverpool has the pressure of its failure in the league and its defeat in Kiev; Spurs has only the opportunity to become the least likely champion of Europe since — probably — Liverpool in 2005. Over a season, it has been unable to compete. Over 90 minutes, there is little between the two teams. Spurs only needs a little luck, a little belief, a little something. It has had that in spades in this tournament so far.
Will the three-week layoff since the end of the Premier League season affect the teams?
Rory went to Spain’s Costa del Sol — yes, tough duty, but he was surprisingly amenable to the request; go figure — to find out. Here’s a little of what he discovered:
“Some Liverpool players found it was in the evening when their minds tended to wander. It was then, once the children were in bed or training was done, that their thoughts would drift to the Champions League: back to Kiev, forward to Madrid, lingering on what might have been, and what could yet be.
Others were caught when they were most vulnerable: as they went to sleep, or as they woke up, those moments either side of consciousness, when you cannot help yourself. For them, as one member of Jürgen Klopp’s squad puts it, Saturday’s final against Tottenham has been ‘the last thing you think about at night and the first thing you think about in the morning.’”
Read his full piece here.
Would Tottenham’s Son Heung-min be a bigger star if he wasn’t Korean?
It’s an interesting question, and Rory explored the idea a bit the other day. For years, clubs looked to Asia for players who could move shirts, attract sponsors or offer valuable, high-workrate minutes. But stereotypes about Asian players sell many of them — and Son especially — short.
As Rory wrote:
“It was not until this season — and, in reality, until those few weeks recently when he went supernova — that England, and Europe, started to afford Son the star treatment: the forward whose absence is worth fretting about, the player who might lead his team to the Champions League title, the subject of countless long-form profiles in half a dozen languages. A few days before the game against Liverpool in which he might cement his place as a global superstar, it is worth asking why.”
The elephant in the room: a great coach will lose
Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino are both respected coaches with résumés that would be the envy of most managers. But neither has won a piece of European silverware — Klopp has lost twice in the Champions League final, and Pochettino has never lifted a trophy of any kind since becoming a head coach — and so their legacies have been a topic of discussion since the final’s matchup was set.
The good news is that one will shed that label of great-coach-who-couldn’t-win-trophies on Saturday. The bad news is that, for the other man, the stigma will continue. But Pochettino pointed out, correctly, on Friday that the result of any single match — even a big one for which a coach and his staff have had three weeks to prepare — isn’t always in the manager’s control.
“People talk about lost finals,” Pochettino said Friday. “The most difficult thing is arriving in finals. And when you arrive, there is a lot of things you can’t control.”
An all-Premier League final for an era of big clubs
The idea of the European Cup, when it was created in 1955, was to bring together soccer champions from across the continent to decide which country truly had the best team. Was Real Madrid better than A.C. Milan? Could Manchester United beat Benfica? Could Ajax beat Juventus?
But lately the same small clique of big clubs has tended to dominate:
Victor Mather of The Times explored the evolution of the tournament once this year’s final was set, and Tariq Panja has chronicled efforts to make that a feature, not a bug.
Liverpool vs. Tottenham: top story lines
Liverpool, which lost to Real Madrid in last year’s final, is seeking its sixth Champions League title. It last won the trophy in 2005, adding it to titles claimed in 1977, ’78, ’81 and ’84. (The games were less commercial but absolutely no less festive back then.) Liverpool has also lost three European Cup finals, in 1985, 2007 and last year’s in Kiev against Real Madrid.
Tottenham is playing in the Champions League final for the first time. Its most recent European trophy was the 1984 UEFA Cup, won when it beat Anderlecht.
This is the first all-Premier League final since Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties in Moscow in 2008.
That matchup was more than a decade ago, but single-country finals are no longer rare: The Spanish city rivals Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have met in two recent finals (2014 and 2016), and Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, was the coach at Dortmund when it fell to Bayern Munich in the 2013 final at Wembley.
This is the fifth Champions League final in Madrid but the first at Atlético’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which opened in 2017.
Rory Smith is the chief soccer correspondent, based in Manchester, England. He covers all aspects of European soccer and has reported from three World Cups, the Olympics, and numerous European tournaments. @RorySmith
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