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UEFA Champions League final preview: Tottenham v. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool aim to win 6th UCL trophy
  • Spurs’ first UCL final in club history
  • Klopp, Pochettino yet to win trophy at their clubs
  • First all-English final since 2008, only 2nd in UCL history

MADRID – And then there were two.

Two teams from the Premier League. Two finalists for the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid, Spain. Two hugely likeable managers aiming to win their first trophy with their respective clubs. Two sets of largely likeable players who have worked for this moment for the past four seasons and have defied the odds to get to the showpiece event in world club soccer.

[ MORE: How will teams line up?

Both could have gone out in the group stage but rallied to make the knockout rounds. Both trailed 3-0 in their semifinals against but overturned those deficits with incredible victories to dump Barcelona and Ajax out of the competition. These two teams aren’t really meant to be here. But they are. And everyone connected with the clubs is making the most of being in Madrid.

Tottenham Hotspur versus Liverpool. White versus red. London versus northern England. This is all very familiar, but this time the streets of the Spanish club are overrun with the English as an estimated 80,000 fans have flocked to Madrid for the final at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which holds 67,000.

The two teams trained at the site of Saturday’s final (kick off, 3 p.m. ET) on Friday evening, one after another going through their final preparations in the scorching Spanish sun.

[ MORE: Kane fit? | Klopp positive ]

In the 90 degree-plus heat, 90 minutes will define not only their playing careers but also those of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino, neither of whom have won trophies at their respective clubs.

Sure, they’ll get other chances to win trophies and reach finals, but the Champions League? No, no. Moments, and games, like this only come around a few times in a lifetime if you’re lucky. With fans assembled in Madrid, packed into Plazas and lining bars as far as the eye can see, the party atmosphere is strong. This is exactly the kind of occasion players, managers and fans all dream about.

Locals are laughing and dancing in the streets with fans, while everywhere you go people ask “so, who will win?” Spain’s capital city is also a soccer mad city and everything has been lined up perfectly for the Premier League clubs to give this competition a fitting finale.

But, that pressure wasn’t exactly palpable when both Klopp and Pochettino spoke to the hordes of assembled media on Friday.

Klopp has lost six of his seven major finals as a manager, including all three of his finals at Liverpool, but was relaxed and cracked several jokes. Pochettino smiled often, but kept his cards close to his chest when it came to the one piece of team news which dominated the build-up to this game.

Tottenham’s leading goalscorer Harry Kane has been out since Apr. 9 with yet another ankle injury. But he’s declared himself fit. Does Pochettino risk playing Kane from the start and upset the balance of his team? Would it be a greater risk to save Kane for a late cameo, but then be out of the game by the time he would come on? Pochettino gave nothing away about Kane, just as Klopp refused to talk about Roberto Firmino‘s fitness.

These teams know one another so well that this final may not be as much of a blood and thunder affair as we hope it will be. Liverpool edged by Spurs 2-1 in both of their Premier League encounters this season, but the second game in particular could have swung in Tottenham’s favor late on.

The margins are so fine. The teams so closely matched. The managers so similar in their ideologies. The recent trajectory of both clubs so alike.

Two great English teams do battle for the biggest title in the club game.

One will enter the history books as truly great European champions.


What they’re saying

Klopp on his poor record in major finals: “If I would be the reason for losing six times in a row, then everyone should be really worried. If that’s not the case, then we always have a chance. That is how we see it actually.”

Pochettino on the importance of a decision on Kane: “It’s not easy to make decisions for tomorrow. We have all the information, we know every single detail and we’ll make the right decision to win. It’s so painful when this kind of game arrives and you can only use 11 players, it’s the most painful situation. I asked UEFA to have the whole squad together, and tomorrow the whole squad will take a photo on the pitch together.”

Andrew Robertson on Tottenham being called the underdogs in the final: “I don’t think they’re underdogs. When we’ve played in the Premier League it’s been the toughest games we’ve played. We know we can cause them problems. Both have very good squads, it is who shows up better on the day. For me it’s very even.”

Harry Winks on what reaching the final means to Tottenham: “The occasion is massive. It shows just how far Tottenham has come as a club. It will be a special and emotional night.”


Prediction

Liverpool are the overwhelming favorites and rightly so. They won 97 points in the Premier League but finished second behind Man City for a reason. Klopp’s side lost in the final last season and do not appear to have a weakness. As for Spurs, they have upset all of the odds to be in this final. Kane’s fitness is their main concern, but they know the majority of the pressure is on Liverpool. Expect an upset to end what has been a season of upsets in the Champions League. Tottenham to win, 2-1.

Chelsea’s Willian eager to stay in Premier League

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Chelsea and Brazil star Willian has revealed he is eager to stay in the Premier League, even if that’s not with Chelsea.

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Willian, 31, has revealed that contract talks have stopped for now during the suspension for the coronavirus pandemic, and his future is uncertain as his current deal at Chelsea expires this summer.

The likes of Tottenham and Arsenal have been linked with a move for Willian, who almost joined Spurs in 2013 but instead joined Chelsea in a last-second change of heart.

Willian told ESPN Brazil  that he wants to stay in the Premier League and he feels he is now at his peak.

“My wish is to stay in the Premier League, but I’m not ruling out playing in other leagues,” Willian said. “I’m going to play until the end of the season and then see what happens. I’m very used to life in England. I’m not thinking about going back to Corinthians at the moment. My aim is to stay in Europe. I feel that I’m at my peak at the moment. Players improve throughout their careers and I think I’m currently at my peak.”

It is not secret that Mourinho and Willian get on very well, which will intrigue Tottenham’s fans…

“I got on very well with Mourinho, learnt a lot under him and we’ve remained friends,” Willian said. “We still message each other a lot, but I don’t see him often. I haven’t managed to meet up with him since he came back to London.”

His form for Chelsea has been a little erratic this season but Frank Lampard has spoken fondly about Willian time and time again and it is quite clear Chelsea would like to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge for at least another season.

With so many young wingers around (Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount to name a few), Willian can help ease them into the first team but there’s no doubting plenty of Premier League clubs will be eager to snap him up on a free transfer this summer, or whenever the transfer window reopens.

Tottenham would seem like a particularly good fit for Willian. He would link up with Jose Mourinho, the manage who bought him to Chelsea, and his experience would be vital at Spurs as they aim to finally secure some silverware. Tottenham need to prioritize buying new defenders but if Willian is available for free, you can’t turn that deal down, even if he turned Spurs and Daniel Levy down in 2013…

Arsenal would make sense too but you’d have to say Tottenham are the frontrunners given the connection between Willian and Mourinho. Of course, he could stay at Chelsea, but with Pedro also out of contract it does feel like a changing of the guard as Lampard will put his faith totally in new signing Hakim Ziyech, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi next season.

With $2.7 billion reserves, FIFA has ‘duty’ to aid virus-hit soccer

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FIFA says it has a “duty” to use its vast financial reserves to assist a football industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic wiping out games and creating unexpected economic hardship in the world’s biggest sport.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the wealthiest clubs, with Barcelona and Juventus players taking wage cuts; those in smaller countries, with Slovakian champion Zilina entering bankruptcy; and national football federations, with Uruguay furloughing hundreds of staff.

Having amassed reserves it last reported at $2.745 billion, FIFA has the resources to give much-needed financial help to the game at many levels. Now the organization has provided more details around the need agreed two weeks ago by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his vice presidents to explore a “support fund” for the sport.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” world football’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

FIFA is exploring the mechanism to provide the financial lifeline to the football industry with the six regional confederations and member associations to ensure there is an announcement “in the near future.”

“The football community around the world is experiencing, to a greater or lesser extent, serious financial problems on account of the coronavirus outbreak,” FIFA said. “This threatens to disrupt and impair the ability of FIFA’s member associations and other football organizations such as leagues and clubs to develop, finance and run football activities at all levels of the game, including professional, non-professional, youth and grassroots.

“It is foreseen that in many parts of the world a considerable number of persons involved in football including both men and women players will be left in extremely difficult economic conditions.”

FIFA already operates a “Forward” development program to redistribute its wealth to member associations. In the 2015-18 cycle, investment dedicated to the scheme was $1.079 billion, of which $832 million had been approved and committed to member associations, confederations or regions, according to the last published financial results.

Premier League TV schedule: April 4-5

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We have 16 hours of Premier League programming coming your way this weekend and here is your TV schedule for April 4-5

This Saturday and Sunday we will have eight hours of programming coming your way each morning from 6 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN on your TV.

With the current 2019-20 Premier League season suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have a lot of programming treats planned for you in the coming weeks and will keep up fully updated with a TV schedule posted every single week.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

Remember, during the season you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Below is your full Premier League TV schedule and stream links for Saturday and Sunday as we have classic matches, Goal of the Season, Behind the Badge, a focus on Liverpool v. Man City and much more coming up.


FULL TV SCHEDULE FOR NBCSN

Saturday, April 4
6-6:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Matt Le Tissier [STREAM]
6:30-7 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – John Barnes [STREAM]
7-7:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Sol Campbell [STREAM]
7:30-8 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Ryan Giggs [STREAM]
8-9 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2001-02 [STREAM]
9-10 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2002-03 [STREAM]
10-10:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Liverpool v. Tottenham, Feb. 2015 [STREAM]
10:30-11 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Chelsea v. Man United, Feb. 2012 [STREAM]
11-11:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Jan.  2015 [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Classic Match: Man United v. Arsenal, Aug., 2011 [STREAM]
12-12:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 1 [STREAM]
12:30-  p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 2 [STREAM]
1-1:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 3 [STREAM]
1:30-2 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 4 [STREAM]

Sunday, April 5
6-7 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1998-99 [STREAM]
7-8 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1999-00 [STREAM]
8-10 a.m. ET: Match of the Week, Man City v. QPR, May 2012 [STREAM]
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Everton v. Liverpool, Nov. 2013 [STREAM]
12 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Chelsea v. Arsenal, Oct. 2014 [STREAM]

VIDEO: Top 25 moments in Premier League history

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It’s time to take a trip down memory lane and countdown the top 25 moments in Premier League history.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

There have been so many memorable goals, incidents, performances and players throughout the league’s history and back in 2017 we celebrated its 25th anniversary by counting down our top 25 moments.

From Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick, the arrival of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, Leicester’s title win and Man City’s dramatic last-gasp success, there are so many wild moments packed into this video.

In truth, it was so tough to narrow down the best moments in PL history to just 25 moments.

Click play on the video above to replay some of the greatest moments in history.