The Workmanlike Performers: 2019 Champions League Final Review

It’s all over. After a dull affair in Madrid, Liverpool emerged as 2-0 winners against Tottenham in an all-English final. The Reds now have six Champions League titles to their name, and the success doesn’t look to stop here. But can the same be said for Spurs?

Matt Hein: I don’t want to do this.

Sam Cicci: But we have to. For the readers.


That’s a wrap for another season of European football. The Premier League dominated headlines for both the Champions and Europa league, but Liverpool eventually emerged as the cream of the crop. So to start: were they worthy winners?

MH: Of course they were worthy winners. They first survived a tough group stage that included PSG and Napoli, then took care of business against Bayern Munich and Porto, and wrapped up the run with one of the most dramatic comebacks ever in the sport against Barcelona while missing two of their best players. The Reds often made it hard on themselves, but they always looked up for the challenge. What were your main takeaways from Madrid? I seemed to have blacked out after Mane chipped the ball into Sissoko’s outstretched arm and made the game …. “Cagey”.

SC: All I can say is that Real Madrid would never deign to bore us with such an insipid finals display! But since my royals weren’t there this year….It was apparent from the first whistle that Liverpool just have the stronger squad. That’s what happens when you back your coach with investment (looking at you, Daniel Levy).

The early penalty really did change the game. It put the onus on Spurs to press forward and be aggressive, while Liverpool and Virgil Van Dijk just retreated into their half and comfortably dealt with anything Tottenham threw their way. And I have to say, Spurs did not prepared. Son was a willing runner but couldn’t get anything to come off. And what were Eriksen and Alli doing? If this is how the Dane performs in big games,he shouldn’t be holding his breath for a lucrative contract from abroad. You look to your main men to stand up when it counts, but a lot of them didn’t for Spurs.

One of Mauricio Pochettino’s biggest decisions was whether to start his pair of Harry’s. Was that the right call? Should they have started a game of this caliber without having played for months?

MH: It’s hard to say that’s where the game was lost, after the goal two minutes in changed the tactics and dynamics of the game. While they appeared fit, neither really made much of an impact on the game. And in both cases Spurs simply didn’t have similar players to put in the lineup. With the form Lucas has been in recently, Kane was probably more replaceable because Dier and Wanyama are not quite “Champions League Final material.” Kane likely would have slit Pochettino’s throat if he had been left on the bench, too. If there is one thing Poch is consistently criticized for from the Spurs faithful, it’s an unwillingness to make early substitutions. Bringing on Lucas even at half-time may have injected some spark into a squad that seemed bereft of ideas.

SC: I think Poch got it wrong. Especially considering that Alli and Eriksen didn’t contribute against Ajax, how could you leave out the man who single-handedly dragged your team to the final? Just because a player is physically fit does not mean he is match fit. Frankly, it was an unenviable position for Pochettino to be in. For me, Lucas had to start.

MH: It’s hard when Lucas and Son are such similar players stylistically and criticising a coach for the way a game turned on a 1st minute penalty seemed a tad unfair. Did this game change the way you think about either team going forward?

SC: I never mentioned the penalty. To clarify, I’m criticizing starting a player who wasn’t ready for a final and leaving out the players who got you there in the first place. But, again, it was a nigh-impossible choice to make. My opinion of either team hasn’t changed much, however. Liverpool were always the favorites, especially considering Tottenham have been blighted by injuries this year. It’s impressive that the lilywhites made it this far at all, and that’s an immense credit to Pochettino and the organization. I had the feeling they were punching above their weight this season, and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered if they want to get back to another final.

Liverpool, on the other hand, are no surprise. You already knew from last season that they’d be back. With Mane, Salah, and Firmino in their prime, and Van Dijk probably an immortal deity of defense, they’ll probably be here again!

I’m not concerned with Liverpool’s future (they’ll be fine), but what issues do Tottenham need to sort out for next season?

MH: Whew. Let’s start with the bad news. Trippier will leave (although that won’t upset too many fans after his poor season), andt he will need to be replaced as Aurier and Walker-Peters have not shown the capability to consistently play at this level. Alderweireld is more than likely gone as well. As good as Davidson Sanchez already is, it will hurt to lose Alderweireld’s mind meld with his countryman Vertonghen. No one would be surprised if Christian Eriksen left either, with only one year remaining on his deal and alleged interest from Real Madrid. Llorente’s contract is up so Spurs will once again lack a backup striker. It would be foolish to expect Sissoko to continue to perform at this level as well.

The good news is that Spurs will actually buy players this transfer window, a novel concept! It is impossible to sort out transfer rumors this time of year, but they appear to have put in a substantial bid for Argentinian Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso. Levy also might have his eye on Lyon midfielder Ndombele. If they can break even on selling Eriksen and getting those two, Spurs would lose a world class player but become more well-rounded in the midfield.

SC: Real Madrid said they would become a better overall unit after selling Ronaldo but THEY LIED TO ME.

MH: I think Eriksen and Ronaldo may be a little different. I also think Eriksen had an overrated season where he was very good but not world class. Not naming names, but some news outlets calling him Spurs player of the season may want to watch more of the games.

SC: Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.

— Matt Hein and Sam Cicci

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