Who: Kieran Trippier
From Where: Tottenham
To Where: Atlético Madrid
For How Much: €25 million ($28M USD), plus add-ons
Grade for Atlético Madrid: B
Grade for Tottenham: C
Kieran Trippier to Atlético Madrid Overview
Atlético Madrid lost a lot to start this summer. However, they are doing all they can to mitigate the exodus of star Antoine Griezmann and Co.
Atleti are particularly ravaged on the backline. They’ve lost Lucas Hernández (Bayern Munich), Diego Godín (Inter Milan) and Juanfran (unsigned) this summer. Filipe Luis is another longtime Rojiblanco defender who is widely expected to leave the Spanish capital, as his contract is up.
In comes Kieran Trippier from Tottenham on a three-year deal to help shore up what had been a stout defense.
Who is he?
Trippier, 28, started most of the season at right-back for Tottenham, including the Champions League final loss to Liverpool. He also played a big role for the England national team during the Three Lions’ run to the 2018 World Cup semifinal, scoring in the fifth minute of the loss to Croatia in the semis.
As we’ve talked about on this site, defense — for a number of reasons, including injuries — was an issue at times for Tottenham in ’18-19. Those injuries and general lack of depth particularly hurt in the Champions League against Manchester City in the quarters and Ajax in the semis. It’s worth noting, though, that Spurs allowed a respectable 39 goals in 38 EPL games. Those 39 goals tied Chelsea for third best overall for the 2018-19 Premier League season.
Atleti is spending a significant sum on a player in an intriguing place after a tremendous World Cup followed by what many viewed as an underwhelming EPL campaign.
However, was this really a “down” year? Peaking at WhoScored historicals, 2018-19 was more or less in line with who Trippier has been his entire career (save for a stellar World Cup showing).
Top to bottom, he’s moving to a weaker league, if we’re going by the ’18-19 season. He’s squarely in his prime right now. And he’s going to a less demanding league and to a manager known for “coaching up” his defense.
And about that: he’s going to a team with a manager who has molded one of the most consistently reliable defenses in Europe. Will he be able to meet Diego Simeone’s high demands for a defender?
Is the price fair?
The €25M fee strikes me as a very fair price for a player who did not top any of the “players to watch this summer” lists that I saw. I could argue Atleti is lucky to get a proven, world-class defender at that price.
Transfermarkt, for what it’s worth, priced Trippier at €35M ($39.3M) earlier this summer.
What impact should we expect?
Trippier will be expected to replace Juanfran at right-back, who was a key cog for Atleti for a long time before leaving this summer at 34. At this point, it’s hard to predict how he’ll perform on a squad that suddenly has a ton of new faces in the back after maintaining impressive continuity for such a long time.
For so long, you could pencil Atleti in as one of the best defensive teams in both Spain and Europe. That’s been good enough to perennially keep them in the La Liga title picture deep into the season – with the team’s ability to win La Liga or make a serious run in the UCL determined by what it could muster offensively.
So far this offseason, which also saw Rodrigo exit to Manchester City, Trippier is the highest-profile replacement for the team’s outgoing veteran defenders. Atleti has also signed defenders Renan Lodi (21) from Brazil’s Athletico Paranaense and Felipe Monteiro (30) from Porto.
UPDATE (July 18, 10:15 a.m. Eastern): During the press conference to announce the Trippier deal, the club also confirmed it signed Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso. Atleti is reportedly paying (again) around €25M for the 24-year-old, who signed a five-year deal.
Trippier’s potential impact is hard to overstate. Considering the turnover elsewhere in the back four, if the Englishman is not solid at his position, Atleti may not be the brick wall we’ve come to expect it to be. And if he’s great, it will just mean his team is maintaining, not improving, at what it already does best. In other words: no pressure!
Atlético Madrid (B): This is a solid B. Again, they get a proven defender at a position of need at a reasonable cost. If Trippier has just 2-3 more years in his prime at the same production level as his last 2-3, that’s money well-spent.
Tottenham (C): This one is harder to understand from Tottenham’s perspective. Do they have another major signing in the works and need to free up a little cash? Was Trippier a locker room problem? Do they really like what they saw from Juan Foyth that much?
Given the modest sum they received for Trippier, it feels like we’ll learn more about Tottenham’s motivation for moving him in the coming weeks.
Who: Tanguy Ndombele
From Where: Lyon
To Where: Tottenham
For How Much: £56.5m ($71.1M USD)
Grade for Tottenham: C+
Grade for Lyon: B
Tanguy Ndombele to Tottenham Overview
January 31st 2018. 517 days.
That’s how long it has been since Tottenham Hotspur have bought a player.
That purchase, Lucas Moura, helped propel them to an unlikely Champions League finals run this year.
Can new Tottenham record-breaking transferee Tanguy Ndombele have a similar impact?
Who is he?
Tanguy Ndombele is a 22 year-old midfielder (mostly a 6 but can be attacking) from France.
He played for Lyon last year, tallying one goal and 7 assists in 31 games. He’s excellent with the ball at his feet (seriously, he’s an absurd dribbler), penetrates well and is an accurate passer (nearly 90% passing success rate).
Without seeing the data, my gut is his xG is greater than his actual goal count too. There’s a finisher in there, even if he doesn’t score much / at all.
Ndombele has been on most of the “top young transfer targets in Europe” lists all year (more on this later).
In theory, this is exactly the type of purchase that Spurs need to make.
Is the price fair?
This is the most Tottenham has ever paid for a player.
The initial reports a week ago pegged Spurs paying £65 million ($82m USD) for the 22-year-old. The final reported deal today has the number at £56.5 million with the potential for £8.5m in bonuses (so basically £65 million if fully paid) to Lyon.
While £56.5 upfront is certainly better than £65 — are there more productive midfielders on the market than that? The talent is there, but at that price, is the production?
What impact should we expect?
This is really difficult to say as of today.
First, a lot depends on if Christian Eriksen is staying or going. If Mauricio Pochettino needs to replace some of that offensive productivity, that could mean a more front footed role for Ndomele.
Spurs need some backline support, and a solid #6 isn’t a bad way to help plug a leaky defense. But Ndombele has the skill set of an attacker.
Second, Ligue 1 players can take some time leveling up on their fitness when coming to the Premier League. And adjusting to the physicality. Look at Fabinho’s phasing in at Liverpool last year. How long will it take Ndomele to meet the physical demands of going from a weak domestic league to the best one?
So…who knows? My gut says two things:
- Ndomele is going to frustrate the hell out of Spurs fans for awhile, and
- If anyone will figure out how to put Ndomele in a position for success before the season ends, it’s Poch.
Given how much shit Spurs have gotten for not buying anyone for 517 days, it’s really hard to crap all over this. But here goes!
One one hand, Spurs need depth. Anywhere and everywhere. Remember back in January when pundits thought it was a “three-team race” for the Premier League title? Then injuries hit Tottenham and they dropped, erm, 27 points off the top of the table?
Spurs really needed to solidify their backline. If Tottenham was going to make any real charge at the top 2 in the Premier League (stop laughing), improving their defensive quality would’ve been the best route.
However, if Eriksen is out the door, getting any talent to replace him in the mid helps. Regardless, the price Spurs paid and the likely return they’ll see from Ndomele this season almost feels like they were peer pressured into doing this transfer.
Also, for as much hype as there was about Ndomele as a top young talent–who were Spurs bidding against here? Did you hear any other clubs diving in on Ndomele? Griezmann, de Ligt, Felix…every big club in Europe was after them. But Ndomele? Bueller? Bueller?
As for Lyon, this is easy. Had they gotten the £65 million all up front, they’d have gotten an A. Still, extracting £56.5 million for a guy who tallied 1 goal and 7 assists for you is worth a solid B.
The 2019-20 Premier League schedule has been released.
While all teams play each other home and away, not all schedules are created equal. Here are six takeaways for the Big 6 clubs, plus a bonus seventh for Wolverhampton.
Also read: 2019-20 Premier League title odds.
1. Are Manchester City paying off the schedule makers too?
Manchester City, who are under FFP investigations by UEFA and the Premier League, have somehow come away with arguably the most favorable schedule of the Big 6.
Of their first 12 fixtures, the only Big 6 team they play away is a November 9th match at Anfield against Liverpool.
While their December has them away at Arsenal and Wolverhampton, their four game January is against relegation candidates (Aston Villa, Norwich) or mid-tablers (Leicester, Everton).
While Liverpool’s final month includes Arsenal and Chelsea, City close out the season against Southampton -> Newcastle -> Brighton -> Bournemouth -> Watford -> Norwich.
2. We’ll know if Liverpool will challenge City by November 9th.
Liverpool host City at Anfield on November 9th. They’ll have played all of the other Big 6 teams by then. If they only drop 4-6 points at the end of that initial stretch, they’ll be set up well to challenge City the rest of the campaign.
3. Tottenham’s schedule is well-balanced and they’ll probably finish third even if they don’t buy anyone else again.
I’ve often described Spurs as the “vanilla ice cream” of the EPL. They’re perfectly inoffensive, occasionally you enjoy it, but it’s never finishing first in a taste test.
Spurs schedule is set up in a way where heavy rotation will not be required. No brutal stretches. They’ll grind out a perfectly inoffensive third place finish again.
4. Arsenal catches a break around the holidays.
December in the Premier League is nuts, with each team playing 6 domestic games plus whatever Cups they’re competing in. PLUS they play a seventh game on January 1st.
Arsenal gets its three most challenging December-January games (City, Chelsea, and Manchester United) at home. That may be the break they need to earn a top 4 spot.
5. Chelsea’s first match is actually really important.
I’m not big on Chelsea or Manchester United this campaign.
Chelsea lost the Premier League’s best overall player when Eden Hazard went to Real Madrid.
They’re losing a volatile yet effective coach.
They’re under a transfer ban.
Their organization is unstable af in general.
Chelsea is moving in the wrong direction.
So their opening match at Manchester United matters. They’ll need all of the points they can get–and an away win buys them some Europa League top 6 cushion.
6. Manchester United is going to struggle to stay in the top 6.
United start the season with Chelsea, but get them at home. See above. That game is a big one for them.
Especially because they travel to Wolverhampton the next week. That will likely be a loss, and dropping 6 points your first two weeks is a rough way to start the season (more so when you’re Manchester United).
The good news for United is only City have a more cupcake ending to the season. If United can do the exact opposite of this year and actually end the campaign strong, they could maybe, just maybe, play some more Europa League football in 2020.
7. Wolverhampton is knocking someone out of the top 6 and maybe even top 4.
This year is set up for someone to crash the Big 6 party.
Chelsea is a mess.
United is in transition and also a mess.
Arsenal may improve…but they need to buy some players for Unai Emery.
While Tottenham is likely safe…if they lose Christian Eriksen and still don’t buy anyone, their top 4 spot may not be a given.
Wolves have a tough December, with Arsenal and City at home and an away match at Anfield.
However, their March, April and May is about as forgiving as you could hope if you’re making a run for European football. They end the year away at Chelsea, but before that, their only major challenge is a home match with Arsenal.
If anyone crashes the party, Wolves are set up to do it.
Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League title!
In a grind of a game against Tottenham, Liverpool simply finished their opportunities better, securing a 2-0 victory.
Early controversy, Salah scores
The game immediately started with controversy, as a Sadio Mane delivery hit Moussa Sissoko on the arm in the box. A penalty was awarded, which Mo Salah buried to give Liverpool a second-minute 1-0 lead.
Spurs grind game to a halt
From there, Spurs tried to slow the game down and limit counter-attacking opportunities. They out-possessed Liverpool 63-37% in the first half, playing the ball back in their defensive third often. Liverpool created all of the meaningful opportunities, with 8 shots on goal (2 on target) to Tottenham’s 2 and 0. The Reds were more on their front foot and linked up more creatively and effectively.
The first half heat map from WhoScored demonstrates how Spurs played the first half. Tottenham had possession and played it back. Liverpool had its most effective attacks up the flanks via Mane and Andy Robertson against Kieran Trippier.
Spurs up attack in second half
So much of the story leading into the match was how the chess match would play out between Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.
Spurs were the more aggressive and threatening team coming out the gates in the final 45. Klopp made to early substitutions, pulling Roberto Firmino for Divock Origi and inserting James Milner for Gini Wijnaldum.
While Poch was wise to sub out a putrid Dele Alli, he left Harry Kane in. Kane rejoined the starting XI but was mostly anonymous, as Spurs failed to find meaningful ways to service the ball to him.
Spurs continued to threaten, then…
DIVOCK ORIGI HAPPENED
Klopp’s substitution of Firmino for Divock Origi proved wise, as once again DIVOCK ORIGI HAPPENED.
The Belgian found the net with a brilliant strike in the 87th minute, securing Liverpool the 2-0 win.
Liverpool’s Sixth European Title
The win gives Liverpool six Champions League titles: 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, and 2019.
This is Klopp’s first title since winning the Bundesliga in 2012 with Borussia Dortmund. The win secures this year’s Liverpool team among the greatest of all time via ELO.
These two quotes perfectly sum up what it means to be a Liverpool supporter and teammate.
Trent Alexander-Arnold asked how he feels about following Liverpool FC legends who won European Cups: “I’m just a normal lad from Liverpool whose dream’s just come true.” #UCLfinal— David Conn (@david_conn) June 1, 2019
And pure class here 👏👏👏
Congrats, @LFC. Really happy for everyone at the club and fans. You deserved this.— Loris Karius (@LorisKarius) June 1, 2019
Here we go! The 2019 UEFA Champions League Finals. Liverpool vs Tottenham. It seems like a big Liverpool crowd. A full-throated “You’ll Never Walk Alone” started the game off.
Liverpool took a 1-0 lead into half after Mo Salah converted a penalty in the opening minute.
From there, some loser decided to go streaking and Spurs slowed the game down considerably. They out-possessed Liverpool 63-37% in the first half, playing the ball back in their defensive third often. Liverpool though created all of the opportunities, with 8 shots on goal (2 on target) to Tottenham’s 2 and 0.
Liverpool were just sharper early on, with crisper passing and more of an attacking mindset.
The second half was almost all Spurs. They attacked with desperation and if not or a sublime performance by Alisson and another clutch Divock Origi goal, we might’ve had a different result.
Ultimately, Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League title 2-0.
Here are the player ratings.
Liverpool Player Ratings
Jurgen Klopp (9) – Nailed the starting line-up. Didn’t make any first half tactical changes despite Spurs possession advantage–but he didn’t really need to either.
He made two early subs in the second half, as Liverpool was looking ineffective. He brought on Barcelona hero Divock Origi for Firmino and James Milner for Gini Wijnaldum. The Origi decision in particular proved critical. As Spurs were threatening at the end, Origi did was Origi does, scoring a critical goal to secure Liverpool victory.
Alisson (10) – Not challenged early at all. Challenged PLENTY in the second half, with back-to-back crucial saves in the 80th. His save on Eriksen’s penalty was world class. He proved worth every single cent of his 2018 summer transfer fee. A true difference maker.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (8) – Defended Son’s threats well early. Absolutely rifled a shot from deep just wide in the 17th minute. Then totally ate Son’s lunch in the 20th to kill a threat.
Virgil van Dijk (9) – Cleared an early corner with his big noggin. Made Harry Kane totally anonymous in the first half. BRILLIANT defending in the 76th minute on Son to thwart an opportunity.
Joel Matip (8) – A really steady, calm partner with VVD. Positioned himself well in first half stoppage time to shut down Spurs’ final attack of the first 45. Did well to defend an attack in the 55th minute to clear Liverpool out of danger.
Andy Robertson (9) – Dispossessed by Sissoko on his first booming run up the flanks. Gorgeous service in the 23rd that almost led to an opportunity. Took the ball up the field in the 39th minute and actually lasered a great strike that was just tipped high. A gorgeous bicycle kick to halt Spurs in the 45th.
Jordan Henderson (6) – In the few first half moments he was on ball, he looked confident. Could’ve pushed higher up the pitch to help progress counters better.
Fabinho (6.5) – Typical steady form and touch early. Well positioned to join in on counters. Played physical, giving Kane a good “welcome back” roughing up.
Georginio Wijnaldum (6) – Was involved, more on his front foot than we’ve seen earlier in the year. Yanked in the 63rd minute for James Milner.
Roberto Firmio (5) – Didn’t see much of the Brazilian early, mostly acting as a one-touch distributor. Subbed out in the 59th minute for Divock Origi.
Sadio Mane (8) – Got the handball on Sissoko that led to the opener. His speed on Trippier as we wrote was a problem–Mane looked like a streak of lightning. Great form. A dashing second half run in the 69th minute led to a James Milner near miss.
Mohamed Salah (8) – Confidently buried the pk to give Liverpool the lead. A pest and threat constantly. He wasted a great 1vs1 opportunity in the 54th minute but tracked back well to keep the attack alive.
Divock Origi (9) – Came in at the 59th minute for Firmino. Did what he does, scoring the clincher with a brilliant strike in the 87th minute.
James Milner (7) – A somewhat surprising non-starter, came on in the 63rd for Gini. Ripped a shot linking up with Salah after Mane’s blazing run.
Joe Gomez (NR) – Time killing, lead-holding late sub for Mane.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Alisson. What a performance. That’s why Klopp went after him. It has to be him.
The 2019 UEFA Champions League Final is just hours away.
Before you watch the match, catch up on some High Press Soccer preview content.
- UEFA Champions League Final Odds
- Liverpool vs Tottenham Champions League Final Preview and Analysis
- Champions League Final Preview Podcast
- 2019 UEFA Champions League Finals Predictions
- Liverpool – Tottenham Combined Starting XI
- UEFA One-Year Ban on Manchester City for FFP Violations
- Five First Thoughts on Champions League Final
- Liverpool vs Tottenham Narrative Alert
Liverpool face Tottenham in the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday at 3pm ET.
The High Press Soccer expert panel all picked Liverpool to win in our Champions League final predictions, and most other pundits have as well. While we *think* Liverpool will win, we hadn’t analyzed *why* the Reds should hoist the trophy in Madrid.
Site-runner Chops and contributing writer Tyler Everett did a deep dive into the match-up. We looked at Liverpool and Spurs’ two games from the 2018-19 Premier League season, their likely line-ups, and how Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino may tactically approach the final.
On paper, yes, Liverpool look like the dominant team. But the game isn’t played on paper. Here’s all you need to know.
Liverpool vs Tottenham Key Data Points
First, some key data about the two squads:
- Liverpool defeated Tottenham away 2-1 on September 15th. The game wasn’t really that close, as Liverpool had an xG of 3.01 to Spurs’ xG of 0.79.
- Liverpool defeated Tottenham 2-1 at Anfield on March 31st in a game that actually was that close. The Reds only secured victory in the 89th minute off a Toby Alderweireld OG from a Mo Salah header. The xG was 1.09 Liverpool to 1.05 Spurs.
- Liverpool finished 26 points ahead Tottenham in the EPL (!!!) and bested them by 39 in goal differential (!!!!).
- Liverpool are historically great–according to ELO ratings, they’re TIED FOR THE SEVENTH best team IN THE HISTORY OF SOCCER.
Neither team had a cakewalk to get to the Champions League final. Liverpool survived the “Group of Death” with Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli. They drew Bundesliga champs Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. They received a relative breather against Porto in the quarters. Then they completed an epic comeback against La Liga champs Barcelona in the semifinals.
Tottenham just heard the words “epic comeback” and said, “hold my beer.” Spurs made a comeback for the ages in the second half of their Leg 2 semifinal match against Ajax. Before that, they defeated FFP-violating Premier League champs Manchester City.
Liverpool Champions League Final Starting XI
Chops: We’ll get into the tactical reasoning behind the line-up selection below in How the Game Will Play Out, but Klopp’s most likely starting XI is a 4-3-3:
The only potential variable in that line-up is if semifinal hero Gini Wijnaldum takes the spot of Fabinho or Milner. As we saw with Gini when he subbed in the Leg 2 Barcelona match, and as we’re seeing with Jordan Henderson now, they feel more natural in a pseudo-#10 role than when they drop back deeper. Regardless, particularly with Harry Kane’s presence in the Spurs line-up, Fabinho in the #6 role seems like Klopp’s best tactical play.
Tottenham Champions League Final Starting XI
Tyler: Here’s how Spurs should line-up. It’s hard to say what formation Poch will go with (more on that in a minute), but regardless, here’s who he’ll likely use.
What stands out is how much firepower Spurs have compared to their lack of defensive depth. This is mirrored in our Liverpool – Tottenham Combined Starting XI post.
How the Game Will Play Out
Chops: I actually think this will be a fantastic match. Giving Klopp and Poch this much time to prepare and plan their adjustments will be fascinating.
Tyler: Both teams played entertaining, attacking soccer all year, in both the EPL and the UCL. They had to play with reckless abandon to pull off their respective miracles in the semifinal second legs. While they certainly won’t be swarming forward to that extent to start Saturday’s game, Liverpool-Barca at Anfield and Ajax-Spurs in Amsterdam (especially the second half) showed how good both those teams are at forcing turnovers and turning them into instant offense.
The question, then, is how aggressive these teams will be early. Considering how tough it will be to respond if either gives up an early goal, could both teams play a more conservative style than what we’ve seen all year?
Chops: There could certainly be a “feeling out” period. Klopp has gone with a (maddeningly) conservative line-up and approach in big domestic games all year. Remember the 0-0 draw at Anfield against Manchester City? Or the 0-0 away draw against Manchester United? I should stop now.
Tyler: Yeah, Liverpool were not on the front foot in those matches.
With that being said, how quick will Klopp have Robertson and TAA rushing up the flanks? That may be an early indicator as to how aggressive Liverpool will be. The two wing-backs are both extremely dangerous when they get involved in the attack. Will the threat of Son and Kane cause them to be more defensive-minded in the early going? The Reds have the luxury of deploying arguably the world’s best center-back in VVD and solid contributor Joel Matip to stifle attacks. They need less help from their left- and right-backs than most centerbacks do. With that in mind, I expect to see both Robertson and TAA looking to attack the Tottenham defense.
Chops: Examining the two previous matches this campaign, Liverpool dominated the first in September, and were lucky to come away with a win in the second game in March (that was the OG off Salah’s header).
Aside from the obvious Kane/Salah names, there are two players in this match to watch:
- Fabinho — His defensive quality/positioning and distribution can both shut Harry Kane down and launch counters (I swear to gawd if Klopp doesn’t start him…). He didn’t start on March 31st, but did sub in for Milner late in the game.
- Kieran Trippier — He can be gashed, and Sadio Mane might light him up. However, he had one of his better games on the 31st against Liverpool in more of a wider defensive midfield role. If deployed the same way, he’d be used to stop Robertson’s attacks and crosses (Robertson did assist the opening Firmino goal on March 31 before Trippier dropped deeper). One way or another, Liverpool’s attacking success will be tethered to what type of game Trippier has and how well Klopp can exploit him.
Of the two previous games, the March 31st one is obviously the most relevant as it was just a couple of months ago. Per understat, it was basically a draw:
Poch adjusted significantly during the second half of the game. While Spurs started playing a 3-1-4-2, in the second half Poch went with a 3-5-2. As noted, Trippier dropped and was sent wide to stifle Robertson’s booming runs. That’s smart, as Mane has too much pace for Trippier. Poch bunched Mane in the middle. Eriksen basically moved up top with Kane too, as you see from their positioning here (Spurs are in blue, and Kane is 10 and Eriksen is 23):
The initial formations will tell us a lot about their respective strategies (obviously). Liverpool have more quality depth to use, but Spurs can shape-shift a little more to change styles.
Tyler: You bring up a point worth discussing here. What are the chances Klopp thinks outside the box and comes out with a questionable — or unforgivable (as you might say), a la Leg 1 of the UCL semis at Camp Nou — XI? The only way to explain the group Klopp started that game with was to say he was trying to preserve certain players since the team was still in the thick of two title races. Sorry to bring that up (although you sort of opened the door to it), but how concerned are Reds fans about another head-scratching personnel decision or two by Klopp?
Tyler: Another big question for Saturday: can Harry Kane and Son Heung-min give Liverpool problems?
Son was the reason his team led Manchester City 1-0 after Leg 1 of the quarterfinals. He also scored twice early in Leg 2 against City. Then in the semis against Ajax, he was suspended for Leg 1. It was shocking, for many reasons, to see Spurs make their comeback in Leg 2, and all the more so because they did it without a big night from Son, who had come through when Kane was absent so many times this year.
Chops: As we discussed in our Champions League finals preview podcast, Kane and Son, along with Eriksen, Alli, and Moura, are all capable of creating individual moments of brilliance. Moura did it three times in 45 minutes against Ajax.
Son is an elite finisher, and Kane is an elite striker. It’s all about how they integrate with so much time apart.
Tyler: That’s a really vaid point. How will Son fare playing alongside Kane for the first time since April 9? It will be fascinating to see whether these two are in sync in the early going.
More importantly, what should we expect from Kane? Considering the length of his time off the pitch and how often he’s been hurt this year (not to mention his status as one of the best in the game when healthy), he is by far the biggest X-factor for either team. My guess is no better than anyone else’s, but I think it’s unreasonable to expect him to be at better than 80%, and I also think it’s fair to wonder whether he will play all 90 minutes.
Chops: In no way shape or form am I suggesting Tottenham are better without Kane, but they did just fine without him this season. They’ve had plenty of prep time leading into this match, so maybe he’ll be integrated fine and they’ll be firing on all cylinders with him. Or maybe he’ll be out-of-sync. I agree, this is the biggest X-factor of the championship.
Tyler: Ok, I might be saving my biggest question about this match for last: Will Alisson make the difference a year after his predecessor’s poor showing played a massive role in the heartbreaking loss to Real Madrid?
Chops: It’s worth noting that if what Sergio Ramos did to Mo Salah and Loris Karius last year happened in broad daylight on the streets in the U.S., he would’ve been arrested. Karius was doing just fine until Ramos dropped him with an elbow and gave him a concussion. Now, as you were saying…
Tyler: Alisson has had an unbelievable season. There’s already a strong case to be made his addition, along with VVD, were the best signings made by anyone in Europe last year. Those moves will go down as two of the best in club history if Alisson makes a few highlight-reel saves at Wanda Metropolitano. In a game as evenly-matched (and hopefully wild) as this one, I would not be surprised to see the match come down to goalkeeping. If it does, Liverpool have to like their chances, right?
Chops: It’s not just about Alisson. He’s the better goalkeeper, but it’s not necessarily a massive chasm either. It’s about Liverpool’s backline and how they limit big chances. Most games where Liverpool gave up multiple goals, it was due to opposing teams’ moments of brilliance. Lionel Messi in Leg 1 of the UCL semifinals. Sergio Aguero from an impossible angle at the Etihad. Now, Spurs have Kane, Moura, Son, Eriksen, and Alli–all of whom, as I wrote earlier, are capable of producing those individual moments of brilliance.
Ugh. I need a drink.
Point is–everyone is vulnerable to individual moments of brilliance. However, Liverpool is equipped, especially if Fabinho starts and is dropped deep, to limit those individual moments.
Tyler: Before we wrap this up, let’s talk intangibles. How important is the fact that Liverpool was in the UCL final a year ago (and lost in the fashion they did, if I can mention that without getting fired)? I think it’s huge, and I expect Tottenham to make some mistakes due to the stage, while Liverpool should be far more poised in the opening minutes.
Chops: I actually don’t think it matters. I could make the argument that Liverpool will dig in deeper and fight harder not just because of last year’s final, but because they don’t want to come away empty-handed this year. However, maybe that works against them. The tension and pressure from their fans will be palpable. Then again, it hasn’t mattered all year. I think after 10 minutes, none of it will matter. The lads will just be playing.
Tyler: I also have always believed — though I’ve never gotten confirmation — that there’s something extra difficult about trying to beat the same opponent three times. Is it just me, or is there sometimes added motivation for players who can look in the mirror and tell themselves they’re not going to go 0-for-3 against their rival? The fact I just talked about what they’ll say when they look in the mirror makes me second-guess typing this rationale for public consumption…
On a similar note, are Reds fans concerned that being heavily favored will have a negative effect? Klopp in particular and this team in general do not seem like they feel burdened — far from it, I’d argue — but if one of these teams is “playing with house money,” it’s definitely not Liverpool. OK, that’s probably enough cliche nonsense for one post.
Chops: Ultimately, these are similar teams with similar styles. Liverpool just happens to have a little more talent and are a little more effective at those styles.
Both teams counter-attack wonderfully, but Liverpool does it better.
Both are strong in attacking set pieces, but Liverpool is better (particularly on corners).
Yes, Spurs have a scary amount of goal-scoring talent. More than Liverpool. But Liverpool are one of the best teams ever.
If the last game of the season is a microcosm of the entire year, then expect a close and evenly-matched first half. Expect Liverpool to take advantage of a set piece for a goal. Expect someone on Spurs to hit a stunner to level the game. And then expect Liverpool to simply find a way to win.
The 2019 UEFA Champions League Final is under 48 hours away!
A nervous and barely able to function site-runner Chops is joined by contributing writer Tyler Everett to breakdown Liverpool vs Tottenham.
How will Klopp and Poch approach the match? Who are the key difference makers? Does Tottenham have the attacking power to break down Liverpool’s backline? Listen and learn–and look for our post with the full match analysis and breakdown shortly.
Editor’s Note: With the UCL finals this week, we’ll be reposting some earlier content and providing additional analysis of the match.
It’s going to be really, really hard for the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final to match the excitement and unpredictability of the semis. We still can’t believe what we watched this past week. Congratulations to Liverpool and Tottenham, you certainly earned your spots.
While yes, an Ajax vs Liverpool final might’ve been more captivating with more compelling narratives (still bitter we had to change that post at the last minute), these two teams didn’t fluke their way into the championship. Consider this:
- Liverpool: Survived the “Group of Death” that included Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli. Then defeated the Bundesliga champs (Bayern Munich) in the Round of 16. Then defeated the Primera champs/runner-up (Porto) in the Quarters. THEN defeated La Liga champs Barcelona by overcoming a 3-0 aggregate deficit. They did this while competing in the most grueling Premier League title race EVER. They haven’t lost domestically since January 3rd and will finish with the third highest point total in the history of English football.
- Tottenham: They survived arguably the second most difficult group in the Champions League, with Barcelona, Inter Milan (3rd in Serie A) and PSV Eindhoven (2nd in Eredivisie). In the Round of 16, they walloped an (at the time) surging Borussia Dortmund who were (again at the time) first in the Bundesliga. The quarters saw Tottenham only beat the best team in the world, Manchester City. And as you know, in the semis, they overcame a 3-0 aggregate–all in the closing 45 minutes of Leg 2–to defeat presumptive Eredivisie champs Ajax.
On to the predictions! We bring back the same cast of characters as our previous two rounds. Read our previous round here.
Champions League Final Predictions
I’m writing this on Friday. I still haven’t come down from the high of Tuesday. What even compares? Maybe I was still this amped four days after my daughter was born–but then again, she was colicy and I didn’t sleep for 3 months so maybe not.
Well, I’ve come to realize that betting is not my forte.
Liverpool was incredibly impressive in knocking off Barcelona despite losing Leg 1 3-0. How on earth do you climb out of a hole like that with a line-up missing two of its top pieces in Salah and Firmino? With both those players back, and with nearly three weeks’ rest between the EPL finale on Sunday and the final on June 1, the Reds will be fresh and at full strength for the first time in a long time.
I also think what happened last year in the UCL final vs. Real Madrid works in Liverpool’s favor: this team has been on this stage before and knows what it will take, and also doesn’t have to worry about Sergio Ramos.
The only “negative” I can think of for Klopp’s team is that it will be a long way from Anfield, and it’s last trip to Spain (Leg 1 against Barcelona) did not go well.
What to say about Spurs? I didn’t like their chances at all against City, and I didn’t think they’d beat Ajax, either. Still can’t comprehend what we saw Wednesday, by the way. This team needs the rest it will get between now and June 1 more than anyone, and it could have Harry Kane back as well. They have been gritty as hell, and from a motivation standpoint, having lost to Liverpool twice already works in their favor in that they’ll be determined not to go 0-for-3 against the Reds, but it won’t be enough. I think this will be tight for 45-60 minutes or so, but Liverpool will pull away late. I’ll stick with what I said this week on the High Press Pod (and continue to show Spurs no respect):
Liverpool 3, Tottenham 1.
What we all witnessed in both semi finals was what the Premier League is all about. That never say die attitude.
Without taking credit away from Liverpool and Spurs achievements, Barca went into Anfield with a philosophy to contain, which is the total opposite to their identity.
Ajax showed signs of complacency in the second half of the first leg and that complacency showed up again in the second half of the second leg due to inexperience. Both Liverpool and Spurs took advantage of their situations.
Yes we’re used to these two teams playing against each other, but what they’re playing for changes the dynamic in every way. We won’t see one team containing or the other fading due to inexperience in the second half. It’ll be a fast and furious 90 minutes of football and as much as I admire what Spurs have achieved — and proving myself and I’m sure many others wrong throughout the CL campaign– I called it from the beginning that this was Liverpool’s year. I believe they have the best manager and crop of players best equipped for lifting the trophy which should’ve been theirs last season.
Our predictions team consist of former Russian national team member Katya Gokhman. Joining her are site-runner Chops, contributing writer and La Liga expert Tyler Everett, and former Premier League striker Carl Cort. After a stint in the US with the NASL, Carl now conducts Las Vegas private soccer training and clinics.
The 2019 UEFA Champions League Final is just 10 days away!
Our Champions League Finals prediction panel all tabbed Liverpool to win with little issue.
Liverpool are odds on favorites to win the finals as well, priced at -210 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ and -182 on DraftKings Sportsbook. Tottenham is +145 FanDuel Sportsbook NJ at and +150 DraftKings Sportsbook.
While Liverpool are the odds-on pick, they’re not as heavily favored as you’d expect for a team that finished 26 full points ahead of Spurs in the Premier League table (and almost +50 goal differential).
Does the Liverpool – Tottenham Champions League combined starting XI indicate the match up will be as close as oddsmakers think? Chops and Tyler Everett tackle that question. Let’s find out.
Liverpool – Tottenham combined starting XI
Chops: We really didn’t disagree on any of this. No screaming hot takes for the sake of screaming hot takes here.
Tyler: Not at all. Unless I decide to make a sudden and unexpected Daenerys Targaryen heel turn and bang the drum for more Spurs representation just for the sake of balance/entertainment, this is going to be a lot of Chops explaining why a Liverpool player deserves the spot, and me nodding in agreement.
Chops: Damn right!
Chops: Let’s start between the sticks. Alisson was the Golden Glove winner in the Premier League this year. He had 21 clean sheets. He’s come up huge in key moments throughout the year. Easy pick.
Tyler: Hugo Lloris has been solid in his own right, but Alisson has been excellent.
Virgil van Dijk would be a lock regardless of the opponent. The PFA Player of the Year had what might be considered a “bad day,” by his standards, in Leg 1 of the semis at Camp Nou. But he bounced back in a huge way at Anfield, terrorizing Barcelona’s front line and looking like the best player on the pitch for long stretches.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have been huge for Liverpool all season, piling up a ridiculous number of assists for a pair of defenders. Joel Matip makes it an all-Liverpool backline, as no Spurs defender has a very compelling case for inclusion in this unit.
Chops: You are wise beyond your years, Tyler Everett.
We had no disagreements at midfield either, although there was at least one close call there.
There’s a reason why Christian Eriksen is possibly going to just stay in Madrid after the finals are over, as Los Blancos have been chasing him for some time now.
The one that was kind of sort of in question was Dele Alli. I respect Alli’s game and would like to see Liverpool buy him–but his advanced stats aren’t as strong as I thought. Fabinho has been incredible as the season has progressed for Liverpool. He deserves a midfield nod as well. My only trepidation is it’s not a 100% given he gets the start. Jurgen Klopp LOVES him some James Milner for important European road games. While I *think* Klopp will select Fabinho on June 1st, it wouldn’t be a total shocker to see a Milner-Wijnaldum-Henderson midfield trio either.
Tyler: Eriksen and Son are both excellent players who made for easy decisions. Son does not get enough recognition as he should for being one of the EPL’s top players. He can change that forever with a big day at Wanda Metropolitano next weekend. Eriksen has had to hold things together for a depleted roster and has done so admirably.
One question we had was whether we should include Lucas Moura here after his second-half magic vs. Ajax. No one will ever be able to take that away from him, but that doesn’t mean he should supplant Alli. While we’re on the subject of players who were extremely impactful in the semis, Moussa Sissoko’s performance in the first leg changed that match after it looked during the opening minutes like Spurs might get buried before halftime. But like Moura, that doesn’t mean he belongs in this XI.
Chops: Much respect to Moura. But those types of performances happen once-in-a-career [immediately regrets typing that].
Tyler: Up top, Mo Salah and Sadio Mané were shoo-ins considering they tied for the EPL lead with 22 goals apiece. Harry Kane was another easy decision as long as he’s healthy, which he seems confident he will be. Because of how how hard it is to predict the form for a player who has been out as long as Kane has been — he has not played since his injury in Leg 1 of the quarterfinals vs. Manchester City on April 9 — he’s this game’s biggest X-factor.
Chops: Speaking of getting fit, let’s not forget Roberto Firmino. He’s often the straw that stirs the Liverpool attack. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bobby outplay Harry all day long, but Kane deserves the nod.
The manager slot is almost a draw here. It’s genuinely difficult to say who has done a better job this year. Klopp has had some head-scratching line-up selections, but he’s been expert at in-game adjustments. Most of all, he’s got Liverpool peaking at the right time. Their best play was at the end of the year.
Tyler: The two most impressive/unlikely outcomes of the UCL this year were a depleted Spurs team knocking off [editor’s note: FFP violating / UEFA misleading] Manchester City in the quarters and a depleted Spurs team knocking off Ajax in the semifinals. We’ve said plenty on this site about Spurs winning both those match-ups, but at the same time, we probably haven’t said enough.
Against City, no Kane, no problem. Against Ajax, no Son for the first leg, no Kane (at all) and down 3-0 on the road at halftime against one of the most fearless teams we’ve seen in the UCL … no problem. There’s no overstating what a job Poch did to get this team here. Based on the Champions League alone, we’d go Poch (I think), but it’s got to be Klopp for the job he did all year leading Liverpool to a historically good EPL point total while navigating his team through a brutal Champions League path from the group stage all the way to the semis vs. Barcelona.
Chops: And that’s it. Liverpool places 7 of the 11. When you step back and look at this, what really stands out is Spurs have more quality attacking options, and Liverpool have the personnel to shut down those options.
As we always write, soccer can be fluky on a game-by-game basis. If Spurs are finishing well on June 1st, they could pull this out. But Liverpool could absolutely over-run them on counter-attacks, especially in the second half. Their fitness is absurd.
This will be a fascinating game to watch as Klopp and Poch chess match the hell out of it.
Tyler: Can’t wait!
With the 2019 Champions League Finals around the corner, we’re tackling Liverpool and Tottenham’s summer transfer targets.
We covered Liverpool summer transfer targets this weekend. Now it’s time for Tottenham Hotspur, the vanilla ice cream of the Big 6. Nobody truly hates Spurs, they’re pretty inoffensive, and sometimes you’re just kind of like, “Yeah, I forgot vanilla is pretty good sometimes.”
This could and should be incredibly brief. Over the past year, Spurs literally bought no one. Not a single person.
However, their gazillion-dollar stadium is now built which opens up greater revenue potential. And they’ll have a windfall of (most likely) $90M to (less likely) $100M in UCL winnings.
Will they actually spend it? If so, how?
Let’s go shopping!
Tottenham Summer Transfer Targets
- Depth in general
- Attacking midfielder
Chops: Ok, Spurs HAVE TO buy someone this summer right?
Tyler: It would blow my mind if they stood pat yet again. The recent lack of spending hasn’t made a ton of sense to me, and it would be even more ludicrous this year considering the impending windfall from the UCL. How do you explain to your fans that you can’t make any signings after you get an unexpected cash injection of around $90M?
Katya: Completely agree with Tyler – if this summer isn’t the time for the Spurs to do at least a little shopping, I don’t know when it would be. Keeping your team the same and building it up has its benefits (like making it to the Champions League final) but eventually, it needs new blood and a new outlook.
Chops: It’s not just that they have UCL money coming in, they may actually be sellers. Christian Eriksen has been a Real Madrid target for what feels like years. If they do sell him, that’s someone they must replace. What other spots in their roster need to be bolstered?
Katya: With a high likelihood of Eriksen leaving to Madrid, the midfield will definitely be missing some of its depth. Not to mention, they would benefit from a box to box midfielder – I wonder if the Spurs will reignite their interest in Adrien Rabiot. It was rumored that Rabiot’s sign on fee demand was pretty outrageous – perhaps, he may rethink his demands just a bit for the Champions League finalists/possible winners.
Tyler: Eriksen would be a big loss, obviously. I’d like to add here, though, that I don’t sense a move to Madrid. Maybe such a transfer is in the works, quietly. But most players who end up with RM are the subject of rumblings from As and Marca, among others, that start months before a deal is signed. Eden Hazard has been considered a lock for months, and a slew of other names have been mentioned in recent months. But at the moment, the Spanish papers have not given me the sense that this is imminent, for whatever that’s worth. And he could always leave Tottenham for one of a number of other European powers besides Los Blancos.
At any rate, the midfield would arguably be OK if Eriksen bolts, especially when Son Heung-min lines up there. If this team is healthy — as we saw this year, that’s unfortunately a massive if — it is talented up top and in the midfield.
The issue is depth and the backline. To me, the best “available” player who is proven, but still in his prime, is Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane. He would help Spurs immensely. He reportedly wants out of Madrid, but as we talked about in the Let’s Go Shopping! for Manchester United, he’s going to require a hell of an outlay.
Chops: Is there a “Poch” player? As in, what player would be an ideal fit for Mauricio Pochettino?
Katya: This is a tough one. But I will says this – it seems that Poch really values mentality over technical ability. Considering the fact that, at this level, any player will come with technical ability – if we take a look at how Spurs have played in the Champions League from the perspective of their team unity, fight, and passion, we can see that this mentality has been honed at Tottenham. With this being said, Poch needs a hard working player who won’t cause problems off the field and is reliable on the field.
Tyler: To echo Katya, there’s not one that immediately comes to mind. If the top characteristics Poch is seeking are mental toughness and perseverance, his targets are probably pretty under-the-radar right now — grit doesn’t land you on a lot of online wish lists. Tottenham has never hesitated to look to Amsterdam for up-and-comers from Ajax. It’s hard to call anyone on that roster “unheralded” after that incredible UCL run. But I’ll float defenders Nicolás Tagliafico (26) and Noussair Mazraoui (21) as players who might follow the Amsterdam-to-London path. Spurs fans would certainly welcome the latest in a long pipeline that includes current players Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez.
Chops: Mazraoui in particular makes sense. Big clubs have (mostly) gotten smart on what age to buy players, and he helps strengthen a long-in-the-tooth backline.
What will it take for Spurs to catch either Manchester City or Liverpool, other than breaking FFP regulations like the Sky Blues?
Tyler: The entire organization will have to adapt a very different mindset to close the gap on the teams at the top of the EPL. Because the Champions League is formatted in a way that makes upsets commonplace, runs like the one Spurs are on this year are possible even if your roster leaves something to be desired. That’s not the case domestically, where you play 38 games, meaning the deepest, most talented teams are going to pull away in the standings.
Maybe the windfall from both the Champions League and the deal with whoever signs on as title sponsor of Spurs’ beautiful new home — I can’t imagine it remains “Tottenham Hotspur Stadium” for long — will prompt Daniel Levy to change his ways and open up his wallet. Otherwise, third or fourth place in the EPL is going to remain this team’s ceiling. At some point soon, Spurs are also going to lose Pochettino if the “no incoming transfers” policy stays in place.
Speaking of Poch, how seriously should we take his comment — prior to leg 2 of the semifinals — about possibly leaving the club if it raises the UCL trophy on June 1? Could the winner of the Champions League drop the mic/trophy (see Zinedine Zidane/Real Madrid a year ago) and walk away in back-to-back years?? Seriously, though, is this a good time to talk about how much longer we should expect Poch to stay with this team?
Katya: Playing catch-up with the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool is a tough one – especially if, like Tyler mentioned, Daniel Levy isn’t willing to “open up his wallet.” Money is king and Manchester City and Liverpool have both spent quite a lot on transfers in the past – with Liverpool dropping the most cash out of all the EPL teams last summer.
In regards to Poch’s comment about leaving if the club hoists the UCL trophy – I have a feeling that Poch would come back for more. It definitely would be a tough accomplishment to repeat, but he would have something else he could focus on as well: catching up to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City…
Chops: Ok, let’s narrow this down and see if there is anyone that makes sense based on their past history. While Spurs didn’t buy anyone last year, they did the two previous summers (while shipping Kyle Walker out to Manchester City).
As Tyler noted, Spurs have history with Ajax. Their record signing (Davinson Sánchez) came from there for $45.6M. They’ve done some business with Newcastle as well, shipping out DeAndre Yedlin ($6.73M) and bringing in Moussa Sissoko ($39.9M). Semifinal savior Lucas Moura came from PSG for $32.38M.
Those are the parameters. With that in mind, I’m going to steal an idea Tyler had in the Liverpool summer transfer edition and say Donny van de Beek makes sense as a Christian Eriksen facsimile. The price and pipeline make sense.
Fortunately for Rafa Benítez, there’s not a player on Newcastle whose contract or age make a ton of sense for Tottenham. However, there is one from Paris Saint-Germain: Timothy Weah. On loan to Celtic, PSG has indicated they’ll listen to offers for the US international. He could help provide attacking depth and U.S. market access for Spurs (opening up a revenue stream from a new fanbase for the club if he does well). Make that one happen, Spurs. Do we have to do all of the hard work for you?
Tyler: It will be interesting to see what happens with van der Beek. Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars has said publicly that the club will do what it takes to keep both him and Manager Erik ten Hag. It strikes me as something that will be far easier said than done, but maybe the Dutch side can keep a few coveted pieces a year longer than many expect them to.
Chops: Given the financial windfall Ajax is going to see from the UCL and selling players like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, maybe we need to do a Let’s Go Shopping for them. Ajax is going to be sitting on potentially $200M in newfound cash this summer.
Regardless, Fulham and Londener Ryan Sessègnon is expected to join Spurs to bolster their midfield. He’s not exactly the “challenge City” import that moves the needle. Same goes for 19 year-old attacking midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo from Roma. Maybe one of these targets becomes a start like Son or Kane. Under Poch, that’s possible.
However, the reality is until Tottenham are willing to splash on a few true blue chippers, they’ll be perpetually playing European football without competing for actual titles. Maybe that’s enough for ownership. It won’t be enough for Poch. You simply don’t hear Tottenham even mentioned for the same targets that City, United, Madrid, Barca, and to a lesser degree, Liverpool are linked to in the press.
The way soccer’s landscape is shifting, as the rich keep getting richer (and buying the best players), this really is a pivotal summer for the Spurs. They have to start spending. If not now, then when?
New High Press Pod is up–and it’s a fun one!
Joining High Press Soccer site-runner Chops at first is contributing writer Tyler Everett. They discuss the Tottenham miracle at Ajax (1:00) and what the future could look like for the Dutch club.
Then at 16:00 minutes, Gluten Free Charles joins Chops and Tyler to discuss Liverpool (obv), who was the Red’s MVPs when singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with Anfield, who was Barcelona’s LVP, and closing with some initial, non-binding Champions League Final predictions.Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 5 – The UEFA Champions League Is Awesome” on Spreaker.
What happened was…
Full disclosure: at half-time we had a whole ‘nother post written. But soccer is a cruel and fickle sport. It might be the most cruel and ficklest.
Ajax, you deserved better. You also should’ve made some adjustments to shut down Lucus Moura.
While the narratives may not be as headline grabbing with Spurs as it would’ve been with Ajax, this is still an interesting match-up with many angles to cover.
Here are the narratives we expect to hear leading up to the game.
NARRATIVE ALERT #1: The Premier League is officially the best domestic league in the world!
It’s kinda hard to argue against this one now, right?
While the top of the top of La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 (lol) are all among the top 7-8 clubs in the world according to FiveThirtyEight’s global soccer rankings (well, maybe not Juventus), England have four teams in the top 10 and the Premier League has dominated this year’s UCL.
Liverpool and Manchester City are the top two ranked teams in the world. All four Premier League teams in the Champions League made the quarters, and both finalists come from England. And with a few exceptions, any Premier League team can win on any given day.
These things tend to ebb and flow. Every few years one league is up, another is down. The Premier League is currently way up.
NARRATIVE ALERT #2: Soccer done the right way!
This point is a remnant from the assumed Liverpool – Ajax match-up, but it still holds, although for slightly different reasons.
Liverpool and Tottenham have overcome some serious obstacles to get here. These are resilient teams who, obviously, never give up. They score and are exciting on the counter-attack. They have star power (although Tottenham’s biggest star, Harry Kane, isn’t a given to return from injury, though recent reports are encouraging that he will).
Maybe it won’t be as exhilarating as Liverpool vs Ajax, but this will be a great match-up with two squads and coaches familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
NARRATIVE ALERT #3: Klopp and Poch are the best coaches in the world!
About those coaches…
Jurgen Klopp has already gotten his just due for the job he’s done at Liverpool. A Champions League win would be the icing on the cake there.
Mauricio Pochettino is respected for sure. This, however, takes him up a few notches.
Neither are up in the Pep Guardiola stratosphere yet, but both are on their way. Prepare for pundits going full-on drool emoji over Klopp’s style and philosophy and Poch’s tactical acumen.
One thing to watch for that will be fascinating: both coaches have been fantastic at making in-game adjustments and substitutions. This will be a chess match. The second half in particular could be stunning.
NARRATIVE ALERT #4: Why aren’t Liverpool heavier favorites?
Despite being a full 24 POINTS AHEAD OF SPURS in the Premier League table–Liverpool aren’t really that heavy a favorite.
Over on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ — odds are:
|Tottenham +280||Draw +250||Liverpool -105|
More specifically, Liverpool find themselves as -220 to lift the cup to Spurs’ +155.
Why aren’t they heavier favorites? They also beat Spurs twice this year already. Is it the familiarity of the teams? We’ll keep an eye out if public money starts hitting Liverpool hard and those odds adjust.
NARRATIVE ALERT #5: Redemption for Liverpool!
This one is tired, but you’ll surely hear about Liverpool redeeming themselves for last year’s loss to Real Madrid.
The loss was somewhat fluky. Sergio Ramos thugged out, tried to rip Mo Salah’s arm out of its socket, then cheap-shotted Loris Karius, giving him a concussion that led to two howlers.
This isn’t quite “2014 San Antonio Spurs” climbing back atop the mountain after a crushing finals defeat–but it is impressive nonetheless.
NARRATIVE ALERT BONUS: Is this Liverpool one of the best teams ever?
This one is only applicable if Liverpool somehow manage to pull out a Premier League title on Sunday (odds are against them, DraftKings Sportsbook NJ has City at -1000, Liverpool at +600).
But if they do…
Liverpool will have won the Premier League with the third highest point total ever. They’ll do so by toppling the reigning champs and greatest team in Premier League history, Man City.
They’ll have defeated the Bundesliga champs (Bayern Munich),
Primeira Liga champs/runner-ups (Porto), and La Liga winners (Barcelona) en route to the UCL crown. That’s after coming out of the “Group of Death” with Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli.
Maybe there have been better teams–but there hasn’t been a squad with a more challenging road towards winning titles.
In erasing a 3-0 deficit, Liverpool not only shocked Barcelona and the soccer world, but also asserted themselves as the clear favorite to win the EPL. The Reds’ futures at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ were last priced at -230 before Wednesday’s other semifinal between Ajax and Spurs.
Ajax appeared to be on its way to the UCL final, but lost in unforgettable fashion as Lucas Moura’s astonishing third (!) goal, in the 96th (!), gave Spurs the 3-2 win. Tottenham advanced on an aggregate score of 3-3 thanks to their away goal advantage.
Plenty has already been – and will be – said about what happened at Anfield Tuesday night, but here’s a quick look ahead at how they match up with Tottenham, which was left for dead at halftime Wednesday but pulled off a miraculous comeback.
Anyone who’s paid attention to the UCL knows how dangerous Tottenham are despite being shorthanded, but we’re talking about a Liverpool team as good as any we’ve seen in a while. A year after nearly winning the UCL, the Reds added PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk and Premier League clean sheet-leading Alisson at two of the only positions where they needed upgrades. If not for a historic run by Manchester City, Liverpool would be closing in on a historic EPL-UCL double.
But can they do what nemesis City, among others, could not: turn away a Spurs team running on fumes but finding a way, one game after another?
Will Liverpool be able to overpower Tottenham?
Having gotten through City, the one team that is arguably more talented than Liverpool, in the quarters, Spurs are the last group likely to be intimidated by what Jurgen Klopp’s team pulled off Tuesday. Spurs can’t possibly be afraid of anything after what they pulled off Wednesday.
But they’re meeting a Liverpool squad that just outran and outmuscled Barcelona in unforgettable fashion.
It’s no secret that Barcelona’s a seasoned club. It was still staggering, however, to see the issues Barcelona’s thirty-somethings besides Lionel Messi — who struggled to play up to his own impossible standard – had against Liverpool’s collective athleticism. Luis Suárez was largely anonymous, Sergio Busquets looked completely overwhelmed and Jordi Alba had multiple awful turnovers. And those were by no means the only Blaugrana players who could not keep up.
A lack of footspeed will not be a major problem for a team as familiar with Liverpool as Tottenham. The question is whether an injury-depleted Spurs lineup will finally falter against the physical challenges they’re going to face from VVD, Jordan Henderson and the rest of a Liverpool squad that bullied Barcelona from the start yesterday. While I certainly don’t see Spurs responding by wilting the way Barcelona did, it will be fascinating to see how Mauricio Pochettino’s men react to the pressure of both the UCL final atmosphere at Wanda Metropolitano and their opponent.
Make no mistake, these teams deserve to be here
One thing is for certain: both of these teams are absolutely deserving of their spots in the finals.
Liverpool are en route to the third-highest point total in Premier League history. To get to the finals, they’ve beaten the Bundesliga champs (Bayern Munich), the potential Primeira Liga champs (Porto, though they’ll likely end up second), and La Liga champs Barcelona. A win against Ajax and they’ll have slayed the likely Eredivisie winners as well.
Tottenham made it out of a difficult group that included Barcelona, Inter Milan, and PSV Eindhoven. From there they conquered an in-form Borussia Dortmund that many expected to make some noise this Champions League campaign. After that, they only beat Man City and overcame a strong Ajax team on the road — DESPITE BEING DOWN 3-0 AGGREGATE AT HALFTIME — all with their best player, Harry Kane, injured.
No seriously, watch this–this actually happened:
In the meantime, keep an eye out for our 2019 UEFA Champions League Final predictions and combined starting XI next week.
Ajax will will host Tottenham on Wednesday in Amsterdam with a 1-0 lead and a crucial away goal in its pocket. Below are three questions worth considering as the Dutch club seeks a trip to the 2019 UEFA Champions League final at Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano on June 1.
Here’s how oddsmakers see the Leg 2 match-up:
|Ajax +110||Draw +260||Tottenham +230|
Will Son Heung-Min’s return make the difference for Tottenham?
Though Spurs were dominated for nearly 45 minutes in Leg 1, they arguably – I say “arguably” because it never felt like Ajax was truly against the ropes – had the upper hand after halftime.
One reason for this was Moussa Sissoko. He had a massive impact on the game after coming on to replace Jan Vertonghen in the 39th minute. Tottenham went from completely overmatched in the midfield before Sissoko took the field to essentially Ajax’s equal in that area for the rest of the match.
A case could be made that Mauricio Pochettino’s men just needed time to adjust to an opponent as cohesive and skilled as Ajax.
But by far the biggest reason Tottenham should like its chances is that it lost just 1-0 without one of its best players in Son in Leg 1. Son has had a knack for scoring huge goals all season, and his team never would have made it past Manchester City without him. All eyes would be on Spurs’ Korean star regardless of the score and circumstances, but with Harry Kane out of the picture and his team in need of at least two goals, Son will be counted on more than ever on Wednesday afternoon.
The short answer: Not quite.
How will Ajax perform as the hunted?
They have been so assertive and freewheeling that it’s hard to imagine them tightening up and/or sitting back now. Many teams in this position – effectively nursing a two-goal lead — would take a conservative approach, if not fully commit to packing it in. But I don’t see Ajax playing not to lose, in terms of either temperament or tactics.
This is, however, new territory for the Dutch club in the UCL. It entered Leg 2 of the round of 16 against Real Madrid down 2-1 and was tied 1-1 with Juve going into Leg 2 of the quarters. For better or worse, I don’t see Ajax taking a cautious approach.
Spurs have an interesting decision to make as they plan their comeback bid. The temptation to sell out for a goal will be strong, but leaving Ajax open space is playing with fire. Ajax will have a decided advantage against Tottenham’s injury-riddled midfield if the field opens up. Pochettino worked some serious tactical magic to get his team this far. He will need to draw up another brilliant scheme to put his players in position to tie this game up while limiting the risk of giving up a goal on the counter.
The short answer: We’re going to see the same fearless approach that has gotten Ajax this far.
Will Ajax’s defense get some love?
Keeper André Onana is one of the few Ajax players still flying under the radar at this point, even after a busy afternoon in Leg 1. Though Tottenham never quite put him under siege, he was impressive because a) a shutout is a shutout, especially at this point in the UCL and b) he showed off impressive timing and guts as he snuffed out several crosses – even if they all left something to be desired. This team’s keeper seems about as afraid of the spotlight as his teammates, which is to say not at all.
Matthijs de Ligt has gotten plenty of publicity, but the backline as a collective and Onana deserve more credit. Since giving up two goals in Leg 1 of the Round of 16 versus Real Madrid, Ajax has strung together four consecutive Champions League games in which they’ve allowed one goal or less. In their last three UCL matches, this team has allowed just five shots on goal, as de Ligt, Daley Blind, Nicolás Tagliafico and the rest of the Dutch team’s defense have been stout.
The short answer: Yes! In a game where keeping Spurs off the board will be the primary goal, these guys will get their due.
Well, that was interesting.
Ajax traveled to North London for their 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinal Leg 1 match against Tottenham Hotspur.
After a shaky first couple of minutes, Ajax started steamrolling Spurs, just as we predicted. At the 15th minute, Donny van de Beek was barely on-side for a perfect through-ball from Hakim Ziyech, delay his shot with a veteran savvy beyond his years causing Hugo Lloris to go to ground early, and buried the shot to put Ajax up 1-0.
After 35 minutes, Ajax (and their fans) were feeling confident, and for good reason.
35 minutes in:— blahblah (@is_footbal) April 30, 2019
Spurs v Ajax
Ball possession 33%\67%
Accurate passes 84/193
I think that we can tell who’s the better team. #TOTAJA
A nasty head injury, a sub, and a totally different game
In the 31st minute, Jan Vertonghen went for an aerial and busted his face open. He was bleeding profusely. After a 4-minute delay, Vertonghen attempted to re-enter play, but couldn’t stay up on his feet and left the game with concussion-like symptoms. It was tough to watch. Moussa Sissoko came on the pitch for him…and almost instantly the tone of the game changed.
Spurs went on the attack, flipping the advantage of possession, passes, and shots on goal.
For 35 minutes, Ajax was the better team in every way. With the injury, Mauricio Pochettino did Mauricio Pochettino tactical things, changing the formation to a 4-4-2 diamond. The fullbacks (Kieran Trippier in particular) got more involved and they overloaded the midfield.
Dele Alli, Lucus Moura and Christian Eriksen in particular were superb in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. While possession FLIPPED to Tottenham 51-49% by the end of the game, and Spurs ended up with more shots on goal (12/1 to 10/2), Ajax white-knuckled to the 1-0 victory.
Ajax now heavy favorites to advance
With an away goal, 1-0 shutout, Ajax find themselves in uncharted territory: they’re heavy favorites.
At one time Ajax was 200-to-1 underdogs to win the Champions League.
Today, they’re +210 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ (tied with Liverpool for second favorite!), taking significant in-game action. Tottenham drop to +1200.
Think about that though for a minute though–about four months ago Ajax was 200/1. They’re now, essentially, 2/1. Wow.
While Ajax is by no means a lock to advance, the away goal is huge, especially with Spurs missing Harry Kane.
They’ll have fresher, younger legs, they’ll be home, and for the first time this Champions League, they’ll be favorites.
Ahead of the Tottenham–Ajax 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinal first leg Tuesday, here’s a look at what both teams need to do to win, as well as the key players to watch.
Ajax will win if …
The Dutch club continues to play at the level it has throughout the Champions League. We knew before their quarterfinal win over Juventus that Ajax had a roster full of talented young players. They showed us in Turin in Leg 2 that they can be as physical as they are flashy, an impressive feat against such a seasoned group of gritty players.
Against a Tottenham team without either Harry Kane or Son Heung-min on Tuesday (Son will be back for Leg 2), Ajax will have a pronounced talent advantage, in our opinion. Recent results and form also make it hard to understand why Ajax is not the clear favorite: the Eredivisie outfit has not lost in its last eight games, while Spurs were shut out by West Ham in their most recent game and have scored just once in their last three EPL matches.
Everyone knows about both Barcelona summer transferee Frenkie de Jong and (likely Barcelona summer transferee) Matthijs de Ligt at this point, but Ajax are by no means a two-man squad. From top to bottom, this team was clearly superior to Real Madrid and Juventus in the round of 16 and quarters, respectively, and especially so in the second legs.
I also expect Manager Erik ten Hag’s side to benefit from playing the second leg of the semifinals in front of its home fans after having to finish off both Los Blancos and Juve on the road. As long as Ajax do not fall into a hole amid the raucous atmosphere at Tottenham’s new home, I believe they will move on without a ton of drama. And I expect the party before, during and after Leg 2 in Amsterdam to be outrageous.
Spurs will win if …
The homefield advantage in Leg 1 changes the fact that they’re significantly undermanned? I should probably have much more faith in Mauricio Pochettino’s men after they stunned Manchester City, but I just don’t like their chances here.
Though Spurs have played well without Kane, I don’t see a club missing its best player (Kane) and arguably its second-best player (Son) coming out of Leg 1 in a position to advance to the UCL final. It’s not just the losses of Kane and Son, either, as Harry Winks is out of the picture due to injury, while Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko and Jan Vertonghen are all doubtful, per WhoScored.
But this is supposed to be the section where I make the case why they will win, so let’s (try to) change course. A big reason Spurs were up 1-0 going into the second leg of the quarterfinals was Pep Guardiola’s head-scratching decision to keep Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane on the bench until the 89th minute. Both teams played somewhat conservatively for the first 90 minutes of their match-up – especially in comparison to their shootout in Leg 2 – as Spurs had four shots on goal, while Manchester City had just two. Could we see another first leg in which both teams appear more determined to protect their goal than attack the opposition? Not if everything I’ve seen from Ajax is anything to go by. It’s also doubtful we’ll see any Ajax stars on the bench for 80-plus minutes.
One other possible advantage for Tottenham is their quartet of players who previously played for Ajax: Christian Eriksen, Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sánchez. Those four may be able to help Pochettino come up with a better scheme to combat Ajax’s pressure than RM or Juventus was able to.
Ajax’s most important player and secret weapon are Frenkie de Jong and Dusan Tadic, respectively.
De Jong has starred throughout his team’s UCL run, and I expect him to remain at that level against Spurs. Eriksen and Dele Alli will have their work cut out for them trying to battle the 21-year-old future Barcelona midfielder.
De Ligt can’t be considered a “secret” anything at this point, so I’ll go with Tadic. Though his team’s balance – along with its swagger – is its calling card, I’d argue that Tadic is the most important piece of the Ajax attack. He has a chance to carve up Spurs’ injury-depleted midfield and back line.
Spurs’ most important player and secret weapon are Eriksen and Hugo Lloris, respectively.
Eriksen will be his team’s best player on the field in the first leg, and he’ll be counted on to step up with Kane and Son unavailable. If he can outplay, or at least equal, de Jong and generate offense for his teammates — no pressure! — Spurs’ chances improve drastically.
No matter how many opportunities Ajax create, Spurs can stay level if Lloris is making stops like the one he made on Sergio Aguero’s PK in leg 1 of the quarters. I don’t see Tottenham going through with anything short of a spectacular effort by Lloris, but if he can keep it low-scoring, anything could happen late in a 1-1 or 0-0 game.
This match-up is essentially a coin-flip if Son and Kane were available, but they’re not. That is for the first time being reflected in betting odds too. Ajax is actually favored. That hasn’t happened in any of their Champions League rounds, and wasn’t the case when betting opened.
All listed odds from FanDuel Sportsbook NJ. Leg 1 is listed first.
|Tottenham +120||Draw +210||Ajax +240|
|Ajax +110||Draw +240||Tottenham +250|
FanDuel Sportsbook NJ has Ajax now at -126 to advance to Spurs -102.
All right, it’s time for the 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinals.
Tottenham hosts Ajax at 3pm on Tuesday. Barcelona hosts Liverpool at 3pm on Wednesday.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the match-ups and content to date.
Updated Champions League Semifinals Odds
All listed odds from FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Tottenham +130||Draw +230||Ajax +210|
|Barcelona -120||Draw +200||Liverpool +300|
Tottenham opened at +120 / Ajax +220, so the public money is coming slightly on the boys from Amsterdam, who at one point were 200-to-1.
Interestingly, Barcelona has gone from -135 to -120–so the public is leaning them, right? Welp, Liverpool has gone from +340 to +300 for Leg 1. That adjustment is closer to what we think is a truer line of around +250 for Liverpool on Wednesday.
Champions League Semifinal Content Round-Up
Some game day analysis coming on Tuesday and Wednesday. For now, catch up on our key information and analysis:
The 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinals are set.
One half of the bracket features the most complete player in the world vs the most complete team in the world.
The other half showcases a young team on the rise taking their one shot at glory before their best players are sold off to global behemoths playing against a team that literally never buys anyone and no one expected to make it this far.
- Chops (3 out of 4) — Would’ve had 4 of 4 but wimped out with a “Heart says Ajax, mind says Juventus” call. Accurately described the Tottenham win as something they’d “white-knuckle” at the Etihad after winning the home game.
- Tyler Everett (3 out of 4) — Waffled on the Tottenham upset. Finally stood his ground and picked Ajax. Right call.
- Katya Gokhman (2 out of 4) — Picked Manchester United in an upset (KATYA!!!) and went with CR7 carrying Juve through.
- Carl Cort (2 out of 4) — Wanted to get there, but just couldn’t get there with Ajax either. And couldn’t fortune-tell VAR carrying Tottenham through to the semis.
On with the predictions!
|Barcelona vs Liverpool||Not to state the obvious, but this match-up almost entirely comes down to two things: 1) Can Liverpool leave Camp Nou in Leg 1 even or only down by a goal, and 2) Can Klopp come up with a plan to stop Messi? |
Liverpool are easily the most battle-tested team remaining. Just to get here they survived a “Group of Death” that included PSG and Napoli. They handled Bayern Munich. They’re in a Premier League title race for the ages. They’re peaking at the right time. I’m going with Liverpool.
|I’m going with Barcelona in this one. They are not quite as proven and battle-tested as Liverpool this year, but I think they’ll find a way. The fact the Catalans’ best players can focus all their energy on the UCL, as La Liga is decided, is huge. Liverpool, on the other hand, is under a ton of pressure both domestically and in Europe, and the burden on the Reds and/or Messi is going to be too much for them.||Although we have talked about Barcelona and Messi having a fantastic season, we tend to overlook the fact that, maybe, La Liga isn’t what it used to be. And, maybe, Manchester United made Barcelona look better than they really are. |
Liverpool seem to have found their “groove” and Klopp seems to be on a roll. Just like Chops mentioned, they’ve been tested over and over again and have gone through the rings of fire; I can’t say the same about Barcelona. I’m going with Liverpool – let’s give the lads another chance at glory.
|When you look at this match up it’s really hard to look past Messi, Suarez, Camp Nou and that dynamic firepower. But I think Liverpool are more equipped all round and can give Barcelona just as many problems as Barca will give them at the back. It’s going to be a fantastic game of football ending with Liverpool getting a another chance to redeem themselves in the CL final.|
|Tottenham vs Ajax||First and foremost, Ajax absolutely deserve to be here. They’ve been criminally undervalued by oddsmakers and experts (me included) during this journey. They’re no Cinderella team. They’re legit.|
Second and actually more foremost–SPURS BEAT CITY! TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR BEAT MANCHESTER FREAKING CITY. 😂😂😂😂
Where was I? Oh yeah, Spurs. Tottenham don’t get the respect they deserve either, playing second fiddle this year to the Man City and Liverpool rocket ship.
|Tottenham’s win over Man City was incredible, in so many ways. Unfortunately for Spurs, though, it took a toll. They’re going to miss Son in the first leg and Kane in both, and Ajax’s run will continue. The Dutch club seemingly gets more and more comfortable as the stakes are raised. The best story of the tournament will not be over until June 1 at Wanda Metropolitano.||One word – wow. What a turn of events. I’m 0 for 2 with these teams and I’m ashamed to say it. They have both proven themselves – especially Ajax who showed us that beating Real Madrid in the last stage and tying Juventus at home were no fluke. |
With Spurs, I have to give it to the coach and players (especially Son) for tactically outplaying the mastermind Pep.
With all this being said, I’m going to go with my heart instead of my brain (this has proven to fail me in the past but oh well) and go with Ajax for the win. The boys are on a roll and I have a gut feeling that there’s more coming.
|I’m very surprised that I’m even mentioning Tottenham at this stage of the CL. |
Now they are up against an Ajax team who have shocked the football world with their dynamic and attractive way of play. I believe the momentum Ajax have created is just too strong and they’ll see their way past Spurs to meet Liverpool in the final.
Our predictions team consist of former Russian national team member Katya Gokhman. Joining her are site-runner Chops, contributing writer and La Liga expert Tyler Everett, and former Premier League striker Carl Cort. After a stint in the US with the NASL, Carl now conducts Las Vegas private soccer training and clinics.
We’re taking a different approach for the 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinals combined starting XI this go around.
Today, we examine the Tottenham vs. Ajax combined XI. Check out our combined XI for Barcelona-Liverpool here.
We mostly were in agreement on this group, which required substantially less back-and-forth than the other semifinal.
Tottenham– Ajax Champions League Odds and Probabilities
Just like with the Barcelona-Liverpool semifinal pairing, oddsmakers and analytics don’t line up on this match-up.
Although not to the same degree as with Barcelona in the other half of the bracket, Tottenham are seen as the favorite to advance on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ. They are +380 on UCL futures on
FanDuel Sportsbook NJ to Ajax’s +410.
However their individual match odds interestingly don’t reflect that favored status. Leg 1 is listed first. Leg 2 at Ajax underneath. The odds show Ajax as a heavy home favorite and more likely to draw or upset Spurs on the road.
|Tottenham +130||Draw +230||Ajax +210|
|Ajax +110||Draw +240||Tottenham +250|
Over on FiveThirtyEight, like with Barcelona-Liverpool, the match-up is essentially a coin-flip.
Tottenham – Ajax Combined Starting XI
We went with a change in formation to a 3-4-3 instead of the standard 4-3-3 we’ve been using. Why? In part because it accommodates the talent better. But it also is a FUN AF line-up that would be an absolute joy to watch against any squad in the world.
Seriously, how fun would that XI be to watch?
Chops: If you asked me which goalie I’d rather have over the next 3-4 years, I’d go with the 23 year-old André Onana. But a goalie for the semifinals of the 2019 Champions League? I’m going with Lloris by a hair. He’s got a high save percentage in the UCL and has been an underrated performer for Tottenham in the Premier League, where he has 11 clean sheets in this season’s best overall domestic league (including two Man of the Matches). The difference is razor-thin, but Lloris has been tested against bigger competition more frequently this season which gives him the edge.
Everett: I’ve been impressed with Onana, who did not make a ton of saves against Juventus in the UCL quarters — the Italians tallied just four shots on goal over the two games — but stood tall when he had to. He was not one of the first names mentioned as his team knocked off Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. But he should have gotten more love than he did after allowing the Serie A champs to score just twice over 180 minutes, with no second-half goals in either game. His quarterfinal performance followed a solid effort in leg 2 of the round of 16 against Real Madrid, when he did not allow Los Blancos on the board until the 70th minute, when his team was up 3-0.
FWIW, WhoScored has rated Lloris 6.9 in the EPL and 6.71 in the UCL, compared to Onana’s 6.84 (Eredivisie) and 6.76 (UCL).
Chops: All of Tyler’s points are valid here. Flip a coin.
Everett: It landed on the Lloris side.
Chops: On to the backline, which is unsurprisingly Ajax-heavy.
Everett: Matthijs de Ligt is world-class. This is more evident than ever in the wake of what he did against Juve, when his game-winner off a corner in leg 2 wrapped up a memorable performance.
He has to be joined by Nicolás Tagliafico as the other center back. A scary thought for Spurs fans: Ajax stifled Juventus, on the road, without arguably its second-best defender in Tagliafico, who missed leg 2 of the quarters due to a suspension. In addition to his defensive work, Tagliafico has scored three goals in eight UCL appearances this year. We made it an all-Ajax back line, with Noussair Mazraoui completing the trio.
Everett: Choosing this midfield required less discussion than any other position group in either semifinal XI. De Jong, like de Ligt, needs no explanation. It was also easy to pick Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, which account for most of Spurs’ star power with Harry Kane on the shelf.
Chops: I’m a heavy Premier League watcher and I want Liverpool to buy Eriksen and Alli (to be fair, I want them to buy everyone good on any other team, earlier this season I was trying to make a case for buying Richarlison, soooo…). But there’s a reason why Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester United are coming hard after Eriksen. He’s a great assist man, tallying 12 so far in the Premier League this season. But he can come up huge when his team needs him to find the net, like he did with Brighton this week.
Dele Alli is sometimes overlooked as one of the top young players in England, but there’s a reason why he’s one of the top six valued midfielders in the Premier League. At 23, Alli actually feels more like an Ajax player than a Spurs one. A silent assassin, he’s so confident on ball, willing to take chances, create opportunities. Liverpool should buy him.
Everett: Up top, Son Heung-min and Dusan Tadic represent two more easy choices. We all saw the work Son did in both legs against Manchester City, carrying the load after Kane’s injury. Spurs are not here without their Korean star, which makes his unavailability for leg 1 due to suspension a major problem.
Tadic is not yet a huge name, but for long stretches of Ajax’s last four games, he’s been arguably the best — and certainly the flashiest/most entertaining — player on the pitch. He was spectacular in leg 2 of the round of 16 as his team ransacked RM. While he was not quite at that highlight-reel level against Juve, he was still impressive. The numbers back up the notion that he’s been among the best players in the UCL, as he has totaled a ridiculous 30 goals to go with 15 assists in Champions League and Eredivisie play this year.
Chops: I actually debated the inclusion of Son since he’s only playing the Leg 2 game, but as criminally underrated as Son has been this year, it would only underrate him more feloniously to leave him out. He’s in an elite group of goal scorers who don’t require teammates creating “big chances” for him — he creates them himself (2:50 mark).
Tadic and Ziyech are not the names of the aliens from the Simpsons, but two of the three top-rated offensive players in the Eredivisie this year. Tadic, who at 30 could be the father to half of Ajax’s team, has been the more productive goal scorer of the two, but Ziyech creates chances. He’s generating an absurd 5.3 shots on goal per game in the UCL (and 5.4 in the Eredivisie). If Harry Kane were healthy, he’d surely get one of the forward spots — but not until after some legit debate on whether it would be Tadic or Ziyech getting left off.
Everett: One place where I’ll give Tottenham the advantage is on the bench, where Mauricio Pochettino deserves all the credit in the world. His team just knocked off what looked like the best squad in the world (please forgive me for saying that, Chops!). And that was while missing Kane down the stretch of leg 1 and without him at all in the second leg. At this point, it’s well-documented that Spurs are in the midst of an incredible run despite no offseason signings last summer, but it’s hard to say enough about the job Pochettino’s done, especially in the round of 16.