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Similar paths lead Klopp, Pochettino to date with destiny

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MADRID – They hail from Germany and Argentina and are respected and admired across the world mainly because of one thing: they are genuine.

Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are leading the new wave of lovable, charismatic managers and have redefined how to build a strong culture and identity at a Premier League club.

[ MORE: Full UCL Final preview ]

They let their emotions pour out on the sidelines. They speak with passion in press conferences. They love their players unconditionally. They are human and fans understand them. They are relatable. The kind of blokes you would enjoy sitting down the pub with to grab a pint and talk about the game. They come across that way in front of the TV cameras and they are like that behind-the-scenes when journalists speak with them on or off the record. They are just normal guys living their dreams.

The latter cannot really be said about Pep Guardiola, so Klopp and Pochettino are the lovable characters who speak the game in the same language as the fans who adored their players. The names of Pochettino and Klopp were sung loud and proud in the streets of Madrid in the lead up to this final and they will be sung long after Saturday’s grand finale.

The similarities between the way Pochettino and Klopp act is at times startling, and both were cracking jokes and smiling on the eve of their finest moment as a manager. For one of them…

“There are two clubs in the final who have built step-by-step. I respect a lot what Poch and Tottenham have done,” Klopp said when speaking to the media before the final. “They are a very talented group but what they did together, how they improved together, we had to do it a different way, but in a way it is still similar. Two proper teams in this final. It’s a real football final, now both have to deal with that because it makes the game pretty intense… We’re really looking forward to a proper game I’m sure.”

That respect was reciprocated by Pochettino, as he hailed the German coach for reaching a third UCL final in his career and a second-straight trip to European soccer’s biggest game.

“For Jurgen to be here 10 months ago and be here again now is special. I admire Jurgen a lot. He’s a very good example. Maybe he has been a little bit unlucky, but it is the third time he is going to arrive at this final – the most difficult thing is to arrive at the final,” Pochettino said. “Sometimes the universe is with you, sometimes it’s against you. But to arrive in a third champions league final? I admire him a lot. Of course we are in football because we want to win but I think the journey to the final of the Champions League is the most important and the most difficult thing.”

Respect has been earned and they respect one another.

[ MORE: Kane fit? | Klopp positive ]

Their paths to get to this date with destiny have been similar. The way expectations have been altered at their clubs is down to them and the vision they’ve shared with their players and the way it has been carried it. Off the pitch both teams have moved forward in terms of stadium development, while Liverpool’s financial muscle and global appeal still puts them far ahead of Spurs in terms of the resources they have.

Whatever happens on Saturday both clubs have done things the right way.

Pochettino arrived in England in January 2013 and took struggling Southampton to an eighth-place Premier League finish in an 18-month spell before joining Tottenham in the summer of 2014, as he led Spurs to the League Cup final, four-straight top four finishes and now a UCL final. He did this with a young, hungry team with a clear playing style which punched above its weight time and time again.

Klopp arrived in England in October 2015 at Liverpool and his first game as Reds boss was at Tottenham against Pochettino. Since then Klopp has taken Liverpool to four major finals – the Europa League, Champions League and League Cup — but lost three of them, and his side came agonizingly close to winning the PL title ahead of this showdown in Madrid. The have spent big over the last 12 months to get them to the final stage, winning trophies, and now they must deliver.

Both have led their teams on an upward trajectory in impressive fashion, dragging the fans and everyone connected with their clubs along on the journey with them. But one thing evades them…

A trophy.

The debate over whether Klopp or Pochettino’s respective reigns have been ‘successful’ continues to end with, ‘but yeah, what have they won?’ and of course silverware is important.

[ MORE: How will the teams line up?

But the close-knit feeling in the squads they’ve created, the high-press, hard running playing styles they have ushered in as the new norm across the English game and the hope they’ve returned to their fanbases cannot be overlooked. Because of Klopp and Pochettino, fans of both clubs believe anything is possible.

And they’ve done all of that without pissing people off (for the majority of the time) and with smiles on their face.  Respect has followed the long, hard hours on the training ground.

Whichever manager wins the Champions League the wider soccer community will be delighted for them. Whichever manager loses will have their support amid major disappointment.

But, finally, one of them will hush the naysayers as they hoist the European Cup into the humid Madrid sky on Saturday evening.

Whatever happens in Madrid, Klopp and Pochettino won’t change one bit. And that is why they are loved.

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.