Tottenham v Liverpool Champions League Final Preview
Mauricio Pochettino claimed yesterday he was still undecided about his starting line-up for tonight’s Champions League final – and whether Harry Kane will feature.
The Tottenham boss cut a very relaxed figure on the eve of leading his team out for the very first time in the biggest club game there is, even though he said he had not yet made his mind up about the composition of his side for the clash with Liverpool in Madrid, and would leave it until the last moment.
It has been a race against time for their talismanic striker, since he turned an ankle in the quarter-final first leg tie against Man City.
But although the England striker has resumed training, Pochettino said he wanted to give himself the final training session at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium before finalising his first XI for the biggest game in the club’s history.
“They [the players] don’t know. We have one training session now, and then we will decide,” he said ahead of last night’s final session at the stadium on a sweltering evening in the Spanish capital.
“It’s not going to be easy to take a decision tomorrow. It was difficult in the last game that we played too, in the semi-final – and tomorrow’s going to be another decision.
“We want to have all the information and every single detail and we are going to take a decision before the game. It’s always so painful when this type of game arrives and you can use only in the beginning 11 players. It’s the most painful situation.
“It’s why I proposed a few weeks ago to try to have the whole squad make a picture together and Uefa listened and the whole squad will be on the pitch before the game. Tomorrow we want to show togetherness and that football is a collective sport and that all the players will be important.”
The Argentine is mindful that it will be impossible to treat the final as ‘just another game’ when a billion people will be watching around he globe, and also knows the smallest details could settle the outcome.
But he is hoping the same spirit and determination to defy the odds will prevail.
He has already had plenty of evidence of that in a crazy run to the final when logic and expectation has gone out of the window in the face of willpower, unshakeable belief and dollops of good fortune.
““We are focused, we trust in ourselves, we are ready to compete,” he said, “although we respect our opponent because Liverpool is a great team and I think [along] with Manchester City they are the best team in England. Full credit to Jurgen Klopp, a fantastic manager.
“Tomorrow we want to write the history. We want to win. But it’s the Champions League. The most important thing is to set your standard – to be ready. The players are going to express themselves.
"You want to play like when you were young a child. The key is not to think you have a billion people watching you but to go there and enjoy playing together.”
Pochettino’s theme of togetherness and a desire to make history was echoed by his skipper Hugo Lloris, who can become the first player since the great Franz Beckenbauer of Germany as the back-to-back winner of a world Cup and Champions League title
“It’s going to be a fantastic game to play – to enjoy,” said the French stopper.
“Every player is going to be important at this stage of the competition because it’s going to be about details and anything can be decisive in the game.
“The most difficult is ahead of us – the game of tomorrow - to make everything possible to win it and make a stamp in Champions League history. The team that will want it the most will be the closest to success. We will try to bring the right energy, the desire to win.
“The difference is about small details and everything can turn the game your way. We had three weeks to prepare for this game and I think we are ready mentally to do the best.”