By James Miller – @JamesMillernews
At the beginning of June Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool will have a second bite at the UEFA Champions League final, twelve months on from the crushing disappointment of losing to Real Madrid in Kiev.
Heading into the final of the Champions League last season things were much different to what currently awaits the Reds this time around. Twelve months is a long time, especially in football.
Looking back at a disappointing trip to Kiev in the 2017/18 season, factors were very much against Liverpool being glorious. However, now moving on to June 1 all of a sudden, the Reds are installed as favourites to take the title in what will be their second successive attempt. Why is that?
Well, realistically – without being disrespectful to Maurico Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur – Real Madrid at the time were much more of an established side. Take into consideration the wealth of quality that the side boasted without even mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo.
It was a side vying for their third straight Champions League crown went into the final in Kiev, stacked with quality in every position. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale… the list of high calibre names goes on.
In addition, experience. Real Madrid were on course for a third-successive title. The players that Zinedene Zidane had available to him were some of Europe’s most capped players internationally as well as at club level. You could use the term, winners.
That is a phrase though that couldn’t be affiliated with Spurs and Pochettino. This will be far and away the Argentinian’s biggest game as manager. It may turn out that he is out of his depth in uncharted waters.
A final can be a very daunting thing for inexperienced players and managers. Liverpool will definitely head into the game with a slight advantage in that respect. The experience of Kiev may well prove to be a defying factor.
Another thing that will be different on this occasion will be the squad. One of the main points that will be remembered about the Champions League final 2017/18 will most definitely be the calamitous errors from Loris Karius. Hopefully, that will be a memory of the past though after the Reds splashed out big money to improve that area of the field.
Having already been involved in a Champions League semi-final last year, the decision was made to bring in Brazilian Alisson Becker from Roma. The deal has certainly paid dividends after he was awarded the Premier League Golden Glove award for his efforts, finishing the season with 21 clean sheets.
Klopp has noticeably addressed the issue of defence and the likelihood is that the only two differences in the side that takes to the field in Madrid compared to that in Kiev, will be defensive.
It is expected that Alisson and Fabinho will both feature against Tottenham this season and the addition of the Brazilian pair has vastly improved the side. Fabinho’s tireless efforts off the ball make him such a valuable asset in midfield, while Alisson’s addition ensures settled nerves around the ground – a trait which the Karius simply never offered.
In just a year, a lot has changed within Liverpool. The tactics look different, the hunger is clear now more than ever and the togetherness may just be at an all time high under the management of Klopp. If you flip that though and look at Spurs, there is quite the contrast. Take for instance, the last time Spurs beat Liverpool was 4-1 at Wembley, a superb result and performance.
Although they have a new stadium, the squad has remained very similar. There hasn’t particularly been much change. Moving on to Madrid the will be the fourth time the sides have met since and the previous three haven’t seen a Liverpool loss. There is a strong possibility that there will be at least six changes from that side that played Spurs in a 4-1 defeat back in 2017.
The same can’t be said for Spurs though with every player still regularly featuring for the club. In order for a squad to improve there needs to be recruitment, something that has been lacking lately at Spurs. Are they any better now than when they last beat the Reds?