The three week gap between the close of the Premier League season and the Champions League final feels so lengthy, the latter will resemble the beginning of a new season rather than the culmination of the current one.
Nevertheless, with just over a week to go until Liverpool contest the biggest game in club football, speculation is building over Jürgen Klopp’s starting eleven in Madrid to take on Tottenham Hotspur.
Tottenham’s potential line-up does carry an extra layer of mystery and suspense, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side await to see how the likes of Harry Kane, Jan Vertonghen and Harry Winks cope with the final stages of their recovery.
A number of players on Tottenham’s current injured list are first-choice players, therefore the makeup of their team in Madrid could be very different to the final stages of their Premier League campaign.
Stability Key In Liverpool Defence
By contrast, Liverpool’s team is easier to predict, barring any further injury problems or off-the-pitch issues. Alisson will start in goal, as Liverpool’s undisputed number one goalkeeper who has enjoyed a superb debut season at Anfield which has already resulted in the Premier League Golden Glove award.
No doubt he would have swapped the prize with Manchester City’s Ederson, who he pipped by 21 clean sheets to 20, for the Premier League title, but the Brazilian can still help lead his side to the ultimate club trophy with a sixth Champions League crown.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has made the right-back position his own this season and the Reds will want to be on the front foot in Madrid, so Klopp will not opt for a more defensive option in Joe Gomez.
Gomez will likely have to settle for a place on the expanded twelve-man bench, as a berth in the centre of defence is even more unlikely, such has been the form of Joël Matip in 2019 alongside arguably Liverpool’s main man, Virgil van Dijk.
Andrew Robertson is not too bad either, as one of, if not the best left-back currently in world football. With Alberto Moreno the only other recognised left-back at the club and on his way out, as the Spaniard’s contract expires this summer, Robertson’s place is guaranteed.
One Place Available In Midfield?
In midfield, Klopp has choices to make. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson seem likely starters, with Fabinho growing over the course of the season to rediscover his form from Monaco and integrate into Klopp’s system, while Henderson has been excellent since moving into a more advanced role at the start of April.
The midfield spot up for grabs appears to be between Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set to be on the bench having played very little since returning from injury, and Naby Keïta unlikely to even be in the squad after he came off injured against Barcelona in the Nou Camp.
Wijnaldum will be favourite, having been Liverpool’s most consistent midfielder this season and one of the stars of Liverpool’s magical comeback against Barcelona in the semi-finals.
Milner is experienced and a leader on the field, but is normally not quite at the same level as the Dutchman, therefore a midfield of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum looks to be the probable midfield in Madrid.
Firmino or Origi In Madrid?
Everyone knows Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, Liverpool’s star ‘wingers’ and top scorers, will play from the start against Tottenham, but will Roberto Firmino join them? The Brazilian has only just recovered from an adductor problem which ruled him out of the final weeks of the Premier League season and the majority of the semi-final against Barcelona.
Firmino appeared for a few minutes at the Nou Camp and looked off the pace, rushed back too soon from his short spell on the sidelines. Since, the 27-year-old gave up the rest of the season to recover again, and it was the right decision with the Champions League final now in sight.
There will be questions over Firmino’s match fitness, having barely played for over a month, and whether he will be able to discover anything approaching his best level in Madrid.
Furthermore, Firmino’s fitness fears have added to the considerable case that has been built by Divock Origi to start alongside Salah and Mané instead, largely following his heroics against Barcelona at Anfield.
Origi has grown considerably since the turn of the year, completely flipping with Xherdan Shaqiri in squad status and uncertainty surrounding his future at the club.
Origi appeared on the way out in January, despite his last-minute winner a month earlier in the Merseyside Derby, while Shaqiri had made a brilliant start to life at Liverpool, with six goals, including two against Manchester United.
Since then, the Swiss international has rarely featured and Origi has become the primary back-up option to Liverpool’s front three.
As well has Origi has played of late, however, Liverpool’s front three are feared by the opposition and favoured by Klopp because of the power and poise they bring when they are lined up together, linking in tandem and causing devastation to the opposition.
Origi offers a useful alternative option, which is why his contract is likely to be extended this summer and the Belgian will remain an important member of the squad. Yet Tottenham have already suffered from Firmino’s hand this season, scoring goals against them at Wembley and Anfield, let alone Salah and Mané’s.
Liverpool need their best team available, and Firmino makes the team click, not only through what he offers on the ball, but off it as well.
If Harry Kane is fit, he will start for Tottenham – Firmino will be treated the same way by Liverpool, such is his importance to Klopp’s side.