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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 05 - 2019

English teams Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur had a great run as they fought for a spot in the final of the European Champions League. Both teams came up short in the domestic league and cups, so are now ready to win it all by securing the European cup.
The Egyptian king Mohamed Salah is set to make his second Champions League final appearance. Salah, who suffered a shoulder injury during the first half of the final in Kiev against Real Madrid last season, will try to bring an end to Liverpool's drought of European titles, the last of which was in 2005.
Winning this final will definitely help Salah to bag more major individual trophies. Salah could be a strong candidate for the 2019 Ballon d'Or after another astonishing season.
Despite losing the Premier League, Salah was one of the best players this year. He was able to secure joint Golden Boot honors for top scorer in the Premier League for the second season in a row. Also, being part of the Egyptian national team in the Africa Cup of Nations, to start in Egypt next month, could help bring the trophy back to Egypt which will have a major impact on his chances of winning the world's best player award.
Back to the final, Liverpool and Tottenham are an open book for each other as they compete in the same league. They have faced each other a total of 172 matches. Liverpool have won 82, Spurs 48 with 42 games drawn.
In European competitions, they only had two matches between them in season 1973.
Liverpool secured a win at Anfield 1-0 and Spurs won the other game at White Hart Lane 2-1.
The final match will be played on small details. Whoever will have the better tactical awareness and patience to score will celebrate winning the European trophy.
Spurs have been handed a double boost with the news that their top scorer Harry Kane and Harry Winks are confident of being fit.
However, Tottenham's Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino will probably not take the risk and start with a player who has been off the pitch for more than six weeks. Kane has not played since suffering a ligament injury to his left ankle against Manchester City in the quarter-final first leg on 9 April. Spurs feared his season was over, but the striker is on course to make a quicker recovery than was first expected.
Probably, Spurs starting lineup will be Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Wanyama, Sissoko, Dele, Eriksen, Son and Lucas Moura.
In Liverpool, the club have confirmed that Roberto Firmino will be ready for the final. The Reds' No 9 missed their last three outings -- a famous comeback over Barcelona and two league victories against Newcastle United and Wolves -- with a groin injury. Naby Keita suffered a serious muscle injury and is hoping for a return before the upcoming pre-season.
Coach Jurgen Klopp is set to start the match with his favourite formation 4-3-3. The Reds could lineup with Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Milner, Wijnaldum, Mane and Salah.
Both managers thoroughly deserve to win the title. Klopp, who was appointed Liverpool's head coach in 2015-2016, was able to build a whole new squad from scratch. Klopp fought for both European and domestic competitions but his team have come up short in all competitions.
On the other hand, Pochettino must be the first to praise when talking about Tottenham's development. Pochettino was able to bring a winning mentality to the Spurs when he secured a place in the top four in the Premier League. He proved once again that football is not only about spending millions of euros every transfer market to bring in top players but is also about having an identity and the spirit of winning.
Pochettino is now one step away from winning the greatest trophy in the club's history. Then he will look for another challenge in a different country. He has said that this final might be his last game as Spurs' manager.
It is thus difficult to accept that there will be a losing manager on 1 June as they both truly deserve to win this competition. It is strongly believed that Klopp and Pochettino are right now the best football managers in the world.
Tottenham started their Champions League journey facing tough opponents in the group stage. Spurs came second in a group which had Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV. The London team were able to secure eight points from six games.
Then they secured an easy qualification when they took on the German side Borussia Dortmund in the 16th round. Spurs eliminated Dortmund with a score of 4-0 on aggregate.
After that, Pochettino and his players had to face the English team Manchester City. At that time, the vast majority of football analysts and journalists predicted an easy qualification for Pep Guardiola and the Citizens.
Contrary to all expectations, Tottenham once again proved that they were more than ready to take their game to the next level.
The first match was held at Spurs' new stadium New White Hart Lane. Heung-Min Son's late strike gave Tottenham a 1-0 win over Manchester City in their Champions League quarter-final first leg, after Sergio Aguero had missed a decisive penalty in the first half.
Tottenham overcame Manchester City in a classic encounter at Etihad Stadium to reach the last four of the Champions League for the first time in the club's history. Fernando Llorente's goal, bundled in from a corner and confirmed by VAR 17 minutes from time, gave Pochettino's side victory on away goals on a night of tension.
In a game of relentless drama, City thought they had won it in injury time only for Raheem Sterling's goal to be ruled out for offside by VAR.
In the final four, trailing 1-0 from the first leg in London, Spurs made the worst possible start in the second leg against the up and coming Ajax of Amsterdam, going behind 3-0 on aggregate. Yet in another pulsating semi-final, Pochettino's side scored twice within five minutes in the second half.
Lucas Moura scored a dramatic 96th-minute winner in Johan Cruyff arena to cap an astonishing Tottenham fightback against Ajax and set up an all-English Champions League final against Liverpool.
Liverpool's route to the final was just as difficult. Liverpool finished second in a very competitive group with PSG, Napoli and FK Crvena Zvezda. Liverpool were able to secure nine points from three wins. The Reds qualified to the knockout stage in the last match of the group when Salah scored the winner against the Italian side Napoli.
In the knockout stage, Liverpool faced Bayern Munich, FC Porto and Barcelona in the 16th round, eighth round and semifinals respectively.
Liverpool were able to secure an easy qualification against Bayern Munich and FC Porto. They beat Munich 3-1 on aggregate and eliminated Porto with a score of 6-1 on aggregate.
Then Liverpool had to face the number one contender for the title, FC Barcelona. Barcelona had the home advantage in the semifinal stage and drubbed Liverpool 3-0 at Camp Nou Stadium on a historic night for Lionel Messi who scored a brace.
Roared on relentlessly by their fans, the Reds produced an incredible all-action display to claw back and then ultimately overturn their 3-0 deficit with an unanswered four-goal salvo in thrilling style.
The final whistle brought magical celebrations on the pitch and in the stands where the Reds supporters had played their part on an unforgettable night.
Liverpool have managed famous European comebacks before, notably when they won this competition for the fifth time in Istanbul in 2005, coming back from 3-0 against AC Milan in the second half, but against Barcelona this was arguably the greatest upset in their glittering history.
The 2019 UEFA Champions League final will be the final match of the 2018–19 UEFA Champions League, the 64th season of Europe's premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 27th season since it was rebranded the UEFA Champions League. It will be the seventh Champions League final to feature two teams from the same country, the second all-English final after 2008, between Chelsea and Manchester United, and the first final since 2013 to not feature at least one Spanish team, with Barcelona and Real Madrid having shared the previous five titles between them, four for Madrid in seasons 2013-2014, 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, and one for Barcelona in season 2014-2015.
The final game will be held in the capital of Spain. Madrid will host the final event of the competition for the fifth time in history.
Santiago Bernabéu, one of the world's most famous football stadiums, hosted the final game in season 1956-1957 between Real Madrid and Fiorentina, 1968-1969 between AC Milan and Ajax, 1979-1980 between Nottingham Forest and Hamburg and 2009-2010 between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich.
This time the match will take place at Wanda Metropolitano. Metropolitano has been the home stadium for Atlético Madrid since the 2017-18 season. It is located in the Rosas neighbourhood in the San Blas-Canillejas district in Madrid. It accommodates 68,000 spectators, with all spectator seats covered by a new roof, including 7,000 VIP seats and 79 VIP suites known as Neptuno Premium.

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