MADRID welcomes Liverpool and Tottenham for the Champions League final on Saturday night. Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over the best betting options.
Liverpool v Tottenham | Saturday 1st June 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
For the first time in 11 years, two English clubs will compete to be crowned European champions when Liverpool take on Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday night. Whilst some may argue an all-Premier League tie takes a little lustre away from the Champions League showpiece, as punters we should relish the battle – it makes our job slightly easier.
Instead of attempting to weight certain leagues, nations and clubs against each other – the tricky part of European club football – we already have mountains of evidence to compare the pair from their domestic duels. We also have the luxury of seeing at first-hand what these two teams are capable of, their weaknesses, and where their most likely to hurt opponents.
Saturday night will be the first Champions League final for 10 years not to feature one of the continent’s big guns – Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich – and I think we can all agree, the contest should chuck up plenty of thrills and spills, with both Spurs and the Reds packing plenty of punch in the final third.
Liverpool won both Premier League meetings with Tottenham this term by the same 2-1 scoreline. In fact, the Merseysiders have lost just once in 14 recent encounters with Tottenham, although I’m going to take a broader look at their 2018/19 duels.
The Reds fired in 10 attempts on-target when they locked horns at Wembley at the beginning of the campaign; Spurs set-up in a 4-2-3-1 system and were largely second-best with Mauricio Pochettino admitting his team suffered a deserved defeat. At Anfield in March, the capital club approached the game with a 3-5-2 formation and provided much sterner opposition.
Both matches followed a similar theme – Liverpool were the main aggressors, but Spurs made a few tactical tweaks, enjoyed spells of dominance, but only managed consolation strikes. Tottenham were unfortunate to depart Merseyside pointless in their last meeting and will have taken plenty of positives from the game, particularly in how to combat the Reds’ threats.
Liverpool fair favourites
Nobody can dispute that Liverpool (19/20 Bet365) are justified jollies. The Merseysiders suffered a sole domestic league defeat, were streets ahead of their opponents across all the major performance data metrics, arguably progressed via a more difficult route to Madrid, as well as having recent Champions League trends onside.
Since 2001, only one underdog has won the Champions League final in 90 minutes having arrived with a lower rating or ranking on the ELO system. That was a Barcelona side in a very closely contested final. The only other two examples of an outsider securing top honours came via penalty shootouts. On the whole, the cream tends to rise to the top.
I’ve been blown away by Jurgen Klopp’s charges this campaign but particularly in 2019. Their relentless attitude, application, focus and character to rise to every occasion – often every three or four days – has been really quite remarkable. I believe that burning desire to go again and not leave such a stunning season trophy-less can be a key motivational factor here.
If there is one area of weakness, it could be the three-week layoff. Klopp has been irked by the downtime and scrabbled around to arrange a friendly fixture against a mix-and-match Benfica B team during their Marbella training camp last week, just to keep his team tuned-in. However, reports suggested it was no more than a gentle kickaround and the Reds might not be the lean, mean, intense beast we’ve become associated with.
Tottenham in unchartered territory
Whilst Liverpool will feel a defined right to be contesting European finals, Tottenham (7/2 10BET) supporters are savouring the occasion. Of course, the players aren’t here in Madrid to make up the numbers and Spurs’ squad will be keen to utilise their role as underdog – it’s a worked a treat throughout their route to the Wanda Metropolitano so why not once more?
If you needed a reminder, Pochettino’s outfit lost their opening two group games, had tabled a sole point from their first three fixtures and qualified with just eight points and a negative goal difference. In the decisive final game at the Camp Nou, they came up against a rotated Barcelona side and scored crucial late goals in key contests as Inter Milan fluffed their lines.
Unlike Liverpool, the three-week layoff has been ideal for Tottenham with their weary squad given a breather. Many were away with England and Belgium at last summer’s World Cup, whilst Harry Kane has had time to recover from injury. His presence alone will bolster belief in the Spurs ranks, although it’ll likely mean a place on the bench for Lucas Moura.
There’s undoubtedly a weakness at full-back and it’s true too that Tottenham allow their opposition twice as many shots inside the penalty area, and Expected Goals (xG) than the Reds. That’s clearly another concerning return, along with Spurs’ W2-D1-L7 record against the Big Six this season, as well as their W0-D0-L4 efforts against Liverpool and Man City this season.
Goals on the agenda
Contrary to the general opinion that cup finals are low-scoring affairs, the Champions League has been a haven for goal-friendly games this century. The last eight finals have featured winning Both Teams To Score bets, with 12 of the last 14 also paying out for BTTS backers – a repeat appeals, although the odds have been clipped into 3/4 (Boylesports) quotes now.
Elsewhere, all bar two of the past 23 finals have produced at least two goals, six of the last eight have returned winning Over 2.5 Goals selections and only one has ended 0-0 going back to 1992. Considering Liverpool and Spurs is the highest-scoring Premier League fixture in history – eight of the last 10 meetings saw BTTS and 11 of the past 15 went Over 2.5 – goals do appeal.
Over 2.5 Goals can be taken at 10/11 with Betfred – far too big, in my eyes – but I’m going to be a touch greedy and support the 14/5 (William Hill) available on Liverpool winning in a match that sees both sides score.
Liverpool v Tottenham – Liverpool to win and Both Teams To Score (14/5 William Hill)