A great deal will be said and written about Tottenham’s unlikely bid in the Champions League final against Liverpool on June 1st.
It’s unreal that Tottenham has qualified without its best player, Harry Kane. Spurs made it past Manchester City in the quarterfinal round through sheer force of will, then was believed to have drawn a lucky lot against Ajax in the semifinal only to have the Dutch upstart take the lead, forcing the celebrated Premier League club to battle its way back once again.
No Harry Kane? No problem. Lucas, normally a wing, took the Lancers by the sword and scored an incredible hat trick from the front of the Spurs formation.
But despite their status as underdogs, the Lilywhites of Tottenham are not the more unlikely of the 2 finalists at Wanda Metropolitano.
Liverpool has a miracle of its own to build on. The Reds looked beaten halfway through a 2nd semifinal leg against Barcelona at Anfield on Tuesday. The Spanish side had crushed the Premiership 3-0 in the maiden leg and held a 3-1 aggregate lead as yet another Liverpool standout (Andrew Robertson) fell injured. Salah was missing. Firmino was out. It looked like a losing cause and a dreary finish.
Then came a deluge of goals and celebrations that supporters will never forget.
There will be lots of anxious football played in domestic leagues and tournaments to come, not to mention high-pressure national-team appearances over the summer and fall.
But if you’re searching for a couple of elite football clubs who are ready to hang loose and take chances in a big event, look no further.
Liverpool and Tottenham simply weren’t supposed to be in the final.
Nevertheless, here they are.
UEFA Champions League Final: Comparing the Sportsbook Odds
As is often the case, the betting sites in our soccer blog’s purview are taking different approaches to a very big event that is weeks away as of this post.
Bovada Sportsbook is keeping it simple with an (EVEN) line on favored Liverpool to win in 90+ or 120+ minutes. Spurs is a (+285) bet in the market.
Bovada’s O/U total is a cautious (2 ½) goals with the sportsbook taking 20% from the low-side market and nothing from 3+ goal speculators.
Sportsbetting.ag is taking just a little bit more from Liverpool ML gamblers (-107) and from the Over (2 ½) market (-103). MyBookie is taking a simple 10% from both markets on the same (2 ½) line.
GTBets.eu often waits until the week beforehand to offer odds on a marquee event overseas. But the upstart betting book is jumping into the Champions League final right away.
The site has a nice fat (+290) moneyline on Tottenham to-win and 1st-half prop markets of Spurs (+350) to lead after 45+ minutes, and (+175) for 2+ goals scored in the 1st half to beat an Over/Under betting line of (1 ½).
Those are all intriguing markets in one way or another. I think there could easily be 2+ goals scored in the 1st half, and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see Spurs take a 1-0 lead.
In fact I’m keen on BetOnline’s market “Tottenham – to Lift the Trophy” at (+160) as well as the (+290) regulation + extra time wager on the underdogs at GTBets.eu.
However, there might not be a more solid gamble on any board than the O/U line of (2 ½) (EVEN) at Bovada.
A Tale of 2 Seasons
Of course the Champions League final is not the foremost thing on the minds of footballers from Liverpool and Tottenham. They’ve still got the Premier League to worry about.
The Reds face a grim task on Matchday 38. They go into a challenging contest with visiting Wolves at Anfield, knowing that Man City is likely to prevail in its simultaneous kickoff with Brighton & Hove Albion.
But that’s still no reason not to play with desperation and resolve. Supporters wouldn’t accept anything less from a club with a remaining chance to win the English league crown.
Don’t quote me on this – Tottenham appears to be vulnerable to losing out on a top-4 position on the final weekend, should Spurs lose to Toffees while Arsenal claims 3 points against Burnley. I’ve never handicapped a Premiership tiebreaker before, and all of the Tottenham-Arsenal rivalry blog posts that are actually in English (read: in American) are so busy trying to imitate the float-on-air United Kingdom style of soccer journalism that they don’t even mention the tiebreaker rules.
Arsenal is still just 3 points shy of Tottenham and has a better goals-for vs goals-against ratio. That would seem to keep Gunners in play for at least a ceremonial spot in the 4, even as Tottenham and Arsenal have advanced so far in UEFA competition in 2018-19 that whole new sets of intra-organizational placement rules may apply. However the 2 clubs shake out, Arsenal and Tottenham fans dislike each other so much that whatever happens will be controversial.
At any rate, there will be a lot of raw emotion and intrigue in the Premiership this week. I’m thinking the momentum of “one big match after another” will benefit Spurs more than Reds.
Salah’s Wound Causes Headaches
The media will be preoccupied, and rightfully so, with Mohamed Salah. Until and after and if and when the Egyptian returns to the pitch or at least becomes a little more vociferous.
Salah’s scary head injury led to lots of optimistic headlines, with images of the superstar smiling pleasantly and a quote that didn’t even amount to a full “I’m okay.” You never know how head trauma of any severity will play out, especially when it comes to getting the athlete back on the pitch. Front offices will not be any more forthcoming than they have to be.
There are rumblings that Salah will play on Sunday, including from the skipper himself. If he does, even the absence of Firmino won’t keep a fine supporting cast from getting excited. Sadio Mané has been lights-out all season, with a career-high 20 goals in his 3rd campaign with the Reds. Jordan Henderson is an emotional leader who has been impeccable at times that the team most needed it. Midfielder James Milner has been steady and dynamic in 30 appearances.
But the concussion mega-story and hushed quiets at Anfield on Tuesday are each symptoms of a larger problem. English football is above all a test of stamina, and the Champions League final has become something of an extension to the EPL battle this year.
Alas, despite the miracle comeback against one of the best clubs in Europe, Liverpool is feeling the effects of injury and fatigue and is destined to fall again. Virgil van Dijk is ailing, Robertson may or may not struggle back to 100% and Salah is a big fat question mark.
Is 2 full weeks enough of a break to muster an A-list Liverpool lineup against Tottenham?
Of course the kicker (excuse the pun) is that while the Reds may be missing key pieces for the time being, so are the Lilywhites, and Salah’s injury – however spooky – will not keep Liverpool’s star sidelined as long as striker Harry Kane of Spurs.
However there is speculation that Kane could return for the UEFA Champions League final.
Son Heung-min will be there too, despite a red card that should keep him out of the final Premiership match of the season. So will Jordan Pickford and an underrated backline.
And I’m sure they’ll find a place for Lucas at Wanda Metropolitano, even if Kane is there.
My Thoughts and Early Prediction on June 1st
Swinging back to the odds, my first temptation is to pick out the fattest underdog moneyline available and pick Tottenham to win. GTBets.eu’s (+290) line would be the ticket.
But the safest wager at this point is the Over (2 ½) at Bovada Sportsbook, given that the injuries to both sides and the credentials of keepers Allison and Pickford are holding the line and the action down at this early stage just as Liverpool’s miracle finish in the semifinal has helped the Reds to slimmer odds.
There will be a lot of healing and recharging by June 1st. There are likely to be 3 or more goals in the match.