Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool will meet in the UEFA Champions League Final on Sunday morning (AEST) at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid in the first all-English final in 11 years, with both clubs looking to clinch their first piece of silverware in some time.
Spurs were at one point in second place, ahead of Manchester City, and were flying in the league before a turbulent end to the season saw them muster only a fourth placed finish domestically.
The Reds are coming off their best domestic season ever, finishing with 97 points but incredibly failing to win the Premier League, taking it all the way until the final matchday but losing out to Manchester City.
With a mix of disappointment for different reasons in their league campaigns, both sides come into the Champions League final after incredible campaigns and superb semi-final comebacks.
Tottenham’s road to the final
Spurs were faced with somewhat of a group of death with Barcelona and Inter Milan as well as PSV to battle past, and after taking just one point from the opening three games it looked as though Tottenham’s European run was over before it had started.
But dramatic late wins against PSV and Inter in their next two games meant they had a slim chance of advancing on the final day.
Tottenham again left it late, with a Lucas Moura strike five minutes from time at the Nou Camp coupled with PSV holding Inter to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro enough to send the Lilywhites into the knockout stages.
The Londoners toppled a Borussia Dortmund side that was at the time capitulating in the Bundesliga, and claimed a 1-0 win against a bizarrely weekend Manchester City team in the first leg of their quarter final tie at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
What transpired in the second leg will go down in Champions League history as City took the lead early, before Son Heung-Min turned the game on its head to have Tottenham in front inside 10 minutes.
City would regain the lead 10 minutes later and were going through when Sergio Aguero made it 4-2 on the night, but Fernando Llorente bundled home a corner and a potential Raheem Sterling winner was incredibly chalked off with the help of VAR, meaning that Mauricio Pochettino’s men advanced to the last four.
Tottenham were up against it again when they lost to the exciting young Ajax team 1-0 at home, but rode a Moura hat-trick and 96th minute winner to reach the final in simply incredible circumstances.
Liverpool’s road to the final
It is important to remember that Liverpool were a dramatic last-gasp Alisson save away from being knocked out in the final game of the group stages against Napoli.
Liverpool’s campaign was off to the perfect start when they defeated Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 at home in the opening game, but three losses in each of their away ties – including an insipid display in Serbia against Red Star Belgrade – had them needing to beat Napoli 1-0 or by two clear goals at Anfield to advance.
Mohamed Salah scored the only goal of the game and the defence held firm to see the team through to the round of 16 where they faced European powerhouse Bayern Munich.
After a goalless draw in the first leg at Anfield, Liverpool dominated the Bavarians at Allianz Arena, running out 3-1 winners and advancing to the quarter finals where they dispatched of FC Porto 6-1 on aggregate.
The return of old friends Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho came with a semi-final showdown against Barcelona, which was one that Liverpool seemed all but defeated in after losing 3-0 at the Camp Nou.
But in true Liverpool style, the Anfield faithful got behind the team in the second leg and doubles from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum saw them win an incredible second leg 4-0, sending Jurgen Klopp’s men to their second successive Champions League final.
Tottenham’s star striker Harry Kane has declared himself fit and ready to play after not featuring since a Fabian Delph challenge injured his ankle in the quarter-final first leg. An injury cloud still hovers over midfielder Harry Winks.
Liverpool will welcome Roberto Firmino back into the side with open arms after he missed the second leg against Barcelona and last two league games with a muscle injury. Naby Keita remains an absentee after tearing his groin at the Nou Camp at the beginning of the month.
Tottenham are in a very similar situation to the one Liverpool found themselves in last year when approaching the final; a Cinderella story who was not tipped to reach the final but is ultimately there on merit.
Speculation continues to mount over Pochettino’s future, and perhaps there will be a sense of playing for the manager’s future for the playing group that could spur them on to success.
Klopp has not had great success in finals throughout his career, and certainly not since joining the Reds where he has lost all three of his cup finals, including two in Europe and the one Champions League final last year in Kiev.
He and his players will have learnt from this experience, used it to fuel their journey for success this time around and will doubtless be ready to play come kick off at Wanda Metropolitano.
The game will likely be won in midfield; whichever team can dominate, control possession and dictate the tempo of the game will give themselves a platform to grow into the game from.
By that assertion, Liverpool have the stronger midfield with Fabinho, Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson all enjoying excellent campaigns, with James Milner also able to come off the bench.
The influence of the returning Firmino will be important as he will make space for Salah and Mane out wide, who will be able to expose Tottenham’s at times suspect defence, and should lead the Reds to European glory for the sixth time.
Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool