Both Tottenham and Liverpool were on the brink of exiting the Champions League at the group stages and beyond, but a combination of team spirit and clear philosophies imposed by their respective managers sees two English sides set to face off in the Champions League final.
Neither Jurgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino have won a trophy with an English club, but now have the opportunity to win the greatest prize in European football.
A first piece of silverware for Klopp
This is Klopp’s third major European final with Liverpool – only Bob Paisley (four) has ever reached more with the club. The German’s record in finals is well known and remains the stick with which he is beaten.
Since winning the 2012 German Cup with Borussia Dortmund, the German has lost the last six finals he has contested, three of which were with Liverpool (Champions League, Europa League and League Cup).
In his previous two Champions League finals, Klopp was on the losing side with the Reds last season and with Dortmund in 2013.
The only manager to lose three successive final appearances in the European Cup/Champions League is Marcello Lippi (1997, 1998 and 2003 with Juventus).
For all the plaudits his side have received for the way they play, and despite Klopp’s insistence to the contrary, they do need to start picking up trophies.
The fitness of Harry Kane is the headline selection headache for Pochettino with the England captain still recovering from an ankle injury picked up in the quarter-final first leg win over Manchester City.
The man himself says he’s “ready to go” but it’ll be down to his manager to make the final call. Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose should all be fit after working through knocks.
For the Reds, midfielder Naby Keita will miss the game with a muscle strain with Roberto Firmino the only touch and go member of the squad.
Left-back Andrew Robertson, who felt a calf strain against Wolves, will be good to go.
If Kane starts, who drops out?
Kane is expected to be available for Tottenham after two months on the sidelines with ligament damage, while Winks has also been declared fit for the showdown in Madrid.
Pochettino faces a welcomed selection headache in attack if Kane starts, with quarter-final hero Fernando Llorente and semi-final hat-trick winner Lucas Moura vying for a place – in addition to in-form Son Heung-Min.
Kane has deemed himself fit to start the final – but Tottenham’s talisman has not played a competitive fixture since facing Man City in the Champions League semi-final first leg on April 9 – and played no part in Spurs’ memorable Champions League semi-final games against Ajax.
Whether he can slot straight back into the lineup for a Champions League final after a lengthy injury is up for debate and also begs the question; who would be on the bench as a result?
Lucas Moura led the line against Ajax and scored a hat-trick as part of an attacking quartet featuring Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen. Should Pochettino elect to start Kane, one of the semi-final heroes will surely be dropped.
Kane is ‘probably’ for taking a preliminary spot on the bench:
Firmino is fit to start in UCL final:
Liverpool would go third on their own on the all-time European Cup honours’ board should they beat Spurs to lift the trophy for a sixth time.
In total, Tottenham and Liverpool have met 170 times in all competitions, the Reds winning 79 to Spurs’ 48; there have been 43 draws.
Spurs are the 40th club to reach the European Cup final, and the first newcomers since Chelsea in 2008. They could become the 23rd side to win the European Cup.
Having got Liverpool’s goal against Real Madrid in Kyiv last year, Mané could become the eighth player to score in more than one UEFA Champions League final.
There have been six previous UEFA Champions League finals between teams from the same country.