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Liverpool believe European glory can be start of golden generation

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MADRID — Everyone connected with Liverpool believe they deserve to be Champions of Europe. Every season. And they are, once again.

But the message from Jurgen Klopp and his players after they won the UEFA Champions League by beating Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday was clear.

This is only the start.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

With ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ ringing in everyone’s ears over the past 12 months, Liverpool’s fans urged their team towards, as they say, conquering Europe, after being runners up in cruel fashion last season.

This time around Liverpool won their sixth European Cup as they edged to victory in a far from silky display. But who remembers how you won the trophy? They have now won twice as many European Cups as the next English club (bitter rivals Manchester United have three) and Liverpool’s love affair with Europe goes on. And so will that famous song.

From Paris down to Turkey (and now via Madrid), they have, indeed, won the f****** lot. But they want more.

[ MORE: All of the UCL final news ]

Klopp was asked about being in the final in Istanbul next season, the site of Liverpool’s famous European success in 2005, and his message was echoed by his players.

“We will carry on. We will win and we want to win things,” Klopp said. “This is only the start for this group. We still have a wonderful age group and the all have their best times in their careers ahead of them.”

[ MORE: Klopp reacts

Virgil Van Dijk, who was once again a colossus at center back and was named Man of the Match, was asked by Pro Soccer Talk about dominating European soccer for the years to come.

Wearing his winners medal around his neck and swigging on a beer, he smiled when thinking about the glory of nights like this in Madrid.

“We should be hungry anyway but the season with Liverpool ended today. We won the Champions League. Something that we definitely wanted. But I think in July when we start again, everyone starts on nil. Everyone is working towards their goals. We want a chance to win every trophy possible,” van Dijk said. “We have the squad for it. Hopefully we can challenge Man City again next season for the title. They aren’t going anywhere and we aren’t going anywhere either. In the Champions League we just need to be three years in a row the final. It is something we hope to be in every year. We know how difficult it is to reach it. We are all ambitious. We all want to have these kind of nights a couple of times a year. So let’s just go for it. Work hard. Stay humble. Let’s keep moving forward.”

The players wandered through the mixed zone celebrating, with Alisson holding the trophy, Salah chatting with huge groups and Klopp even made an appearance as he celebrated by jogging around his players.

Jubilation was in the air, but so too was a focus about what is to come.

Mohamed Salah, who scored the first goal from the penalty spot early on, was adamant better things are ahead for this Liverpool side under Klopp.

Not just in Europe, but also in the Premier League.

“It is the start for us, honestly it is the start for us,” Salah said. “This is the first competition [we’ve won] and this is the first season we can say we’ve been fighting for the Premier League, while fighting for the Champions League. This year was the first year we fight for the Premier League and we lost it by just one point which was also against Man City, and for them it was well deserved. The average age is 26, 27 and we also have lots of young players. It is a good experience for us to win a trophy now, and also last season how we learned from it. As you can see today we were more calm. We scored a second goal after the 86th minute, so we were calmer in the game.”

Staying calm in the pressure cooker situation in Madrid was not easy. The intense heat in the coupled with the expectation of being the heavy favorites was tough for Liverpool to handle. And an early goal made their task a little tougher as they sat back and soaked up Spurs pressure, then eventually struck the clinched on one of their many counter attacks.

All week long in Madrid Liverpool’s fans have been rolling into the Spanish capital, outnumbering Tottenham comfortably as their global appeal is clear for all to see. Following on from the glory of winning four European Cups in eight seasons from 1977 to 1984, Liverpool’s last win came in 2005 and they’ve now had to wait another 14 years for the next glorious win to arrive.

But that feeling of entitlement that they are supposed to dominate Europe has never left. And now it will carry on.

Now Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Divock Origi and Trent Alexander-Arnold have etched their names into Liverpool history.

A new golden generation has arrived, and the most worrying thing for Liverpool’s rivals is that they, as the song ends, are “never going to stop.”

Saturday night in Madrid has the potential to be the start of a glorious run of trophies and European dominance for Liverpool.

Success in Europe is something which seeps into every pore of the club and a new generation is about to try and replicate previous domination.

“Hopefully that is the first of many trophies this squad can win,” veteran midfielder James Milner said. “It will be nice to go into Melwood and see number six next to the European Cup. The club has got such great history. When I signed for the club I was desperate to add trophies to it. It expects to win trophies. It has an amazing history but we want to create our own history as well. We’ve started that tonight and we’ve put one on the board. I’m delighted for the players and the manager. That is what we all came here for. I think when I was at Man City, when we won the first FA Cup it was massive for us, the belief and that winning mentality and to know that you can do it. Hopefully this will be the same and we can enjoy it as long as we can. But we all know we come back preseason and everything is forgotten and we have to go again.”

With a Champions League trophy with them on their flight back to Liverpool and for the trophy parade, the term “we go again” now means much more.

“Sometimes we carry the burden of history,” Klopp smiled as he was asked about winning back-to-back titles in Istanbul next season.

Now, they are making their own history and they’ve cemented their spot as a legendary Liverpool side.

Liverpool and Tottenham player ratings for Champions League final

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The play on the field was ugly at times, but Liverpool emerged victorious from a highly anticipated, all-Premier League Champions League final with a 2-0 victory.

With the completion of the full 90 minutes comes the beginning of postgame analysis, and with that we bring you our instant reaction. First up is the player ratings, as we run through every player who stepped on the pitch for both sides. Who do you think played well and who didn’t?

Liverpool

Alisson – 8
A Man of the Match candidate for the Reds, Alisson made a whopping eight saves throughout the match, standing strong through the final 15 minutes as Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura both made solid efforts on net. Easily the difference from last year’s final defeat to this year, with ghosts of Loris Karius‘s mistakes officially vanquished.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
His distribution was woeful – finishing a dismal 8-28 passing – but he was a beast at the back, leading the match with 10 ball recoveries and tackling well on the left.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8
Probably the best player on the pitch, van Dijk put his stamp on the game with a blistering recovery to stop a late chance for Son down the left edge of the penalty area. His five headed clearances led anyone on either side in the match. Spurs attack had nothing to offer the game, and van Dijk was a big reason why.

Joel Matip – 8
Doesn’t get the plaudits that van Dijk does, but deserves them for his performance today. Collected a whopping 14 clearances – eight more than anyone else on the field – and assisted Origi’s goal. Was a monster along the back line.

Andrew Robertson – 7.5
Along with Alexander-Arnold, Robertson picked up a game-high 10 ball recoveries, and his distribution was far better at alleviating pressure than his right-back counterpart. Kept Spurs centrally located for the center-backs to do their thing.

Fabinho – 6
The Brazilian barely had a touch of the ball all match, and his distribution was quite mistake-prone, but he was able to funnel the Spurs attackers down the middle and pinch them into tight areas. Overall, did enough to win the game.

Jordan Henderson – 7
The captain deserved to lift the trophy, moving back to tackle strongly – 3-for-4 in the game, including a 3-for-3 mark in the defensive half – and helped carry the ball forward. Ran his tail off.

Georginio Wijnaldum – 5
Hardly influential on the match, Wijnaldum had a 100% passing rate – a rarity in the game – but it came on just 12 attempts. Needed more from the Dutchman for Liverpool to really put its stamp on the match.

Mohamed Salah – 5
Kept his cool on the early goal, but otherwise was completely invisible. He hardly touched the ball outside the Tottenham box, and when he did it often flowed backwards. Was not a factor in the game after his powerful 2nd minute spot-kick.

Sadio Mane – 6
Looked Liverpool’s most dangerous attacker, which isn’t saying much. He was dangerous when he had the ball, but never truly threatened on net. Earned the Liverpool penalty with a smart chip that looked halfway intentional, and came close to creating some innovative chances, but nothing else came to fruition for Mane after the handball 21 seconds in.

Roberto Firmino – 3
Usually a smart player who uses his pace and spacial awareness to trouble back lines, Firmino was utterly invisible. Whether that’s down to a lack of fitness or simply a poor performance, it’s hard to truly say, but he was useless and came off for eventual goalscorer Divock Origi.

Substitutes:

James Milner – 5
Didn’t have much to do but defend, which he did well with three clearances in his half-hour of play.

Divock Origi – 5.5
His goal was spectacular, a perfectly placed effort through the legs of a defender, past the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and tucked into the far corner. Otherwise, he had a heavy touch and struggled to influence the game, but he came up big when it mattered most.

Joe Gomez – n/a

Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris – 5.5
The Frenchman made one key stop, tipping Andy Robertson‘s long-range effort over the bar acrobatically, but that was the only save he would make. Guessed right on Salah’s penalty, but couldn’t get to the strong effort. Organized his back line well.

Danny Rose – 8
Tottenham’s best player in the match. Defended well to keep Mo Salah a non-factor and was powerful going forward. Completed four take-ons down the left and was 35-of-40 passing, quite a number for a match that featured such sloppiness. Created three chances as well in truly a two-way performance.

Jan Vertonghen – 7.5
A gutsy performance from Vertonghen who was injured midway through the match but stayed on through the final whistle. Distributed forward well and defended strongly, blocking two shots as well.

Toby Alderweireld – 6
Struggled with his long balls, but collected six clearances and kept Firmino and Salah locked down. Was nutmegged on Origi’s goal, never a good look for a defender.

Kieran Trippier – 6.5
He struggled down the stretch with a hamstring problem, gutting it out to the final whistle but clearly hampered. Created two chances in the final few minutes, and overall defended quite well, but wasn’t truly able to make the match his own like Rose.

Moussa Sissoko – 4
Penalized for the handball early on, an unlucky and harsh moment with his hand raised looking to organize his teammates behind him. Still, the switched-off moment defined the rest of the game. Passing was decent, but wasn’t truly able to take control of the midfield, and his marauding runs forward were nowhere to be found. Came off with 16 minutes to go struggling with injury.

Harry Winks – 6
Unlucky to be sacrificed for Lucas Moura after 66 minutes, as he put in a good shift coming in after missing nearly two months with an injury. Didn’t look completely fit, but was a controlling factor in the middle of the pitch where the game seemed to otherwise devolve.

Dele Alli – 5
Was all over the field, able to flow freely, but did not have the final product as Spurs struggled mightily in the final third. Seemed to fade as the match went on, and wasn’t ever truly on the same page with his teammates.

Christian Eriksen – 4
If this was his Real Madrid audition, he failed miserably. Spurs’ most important player had nothing to offer the match, and while he was able to contribute a bit in desperation time, it was too little too late. His characteristic creativity was missing entirely, and teammates like Harry Kane suffered greatly as a result.

Heung-Min Son – 5
Gave it his usual 110% effort, but just didn’t have close to his best on the biggest match of the season. Was just 1/5 on one-on-one take-ons, where Son is usually one of the best in the game. He had three of Spurs’ eight shots on target, but none of them truly troubled Alisson until the end of the game when the Liverpool goalkeeper came up big. A forgettable performance from the Spurs attack as a whole.

Harry Kane – 4
Invisible the entire match, many blamed it on a lack of fitness after missing the last two months, but the poor play from Eriksen and Son contributed just as much – if not more – to his inability to find the ball. Kane had just 11 touches in the first half, less than anyone else on the pitch, and nothing changed after the break. Kane finished with just one shot on the match, and Spurs failed to find the back of the net.

Substitutes:

Lucas Moura – 5
Did his best to be the hero again, but his two chances on net were thwarted. Wasn’t able to get on the ball and be a creative influence with Eriksen and Son struggling.

Eric Dier 5
Played the final 16 minutes in place of the injured Sissoko and helped secure the middle of the pitch as Spurs pushed forward in desperation.

Fernando Llorente – n/a
Eight minutes of time wasn’t enough to find any heroics.

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.

Steve Clarke named new Scotland manager

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Steve Clarke has been named the new manager of the Scottish national team, as he hopes to take them to a major tournament for the first time in over 20 years.

Clarke, 55, has left his role as the manager of Kilmarnock after he led Killie to a third-place finish in the Scottish Premiership this season as they qualified for the Europa League.

That feat saw Clarke named both the PFA Scotland and SFWA Manager of the Year, as they finished above Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts thanks to a final day win against Glasgow Rangers.

Speaking about his arrival as the new Scotland manager, Clarke was delighted to be handed the chance to try and lead his country back to a major tournament (the last tournament they played in was the 1998 World Cup in France) with his contract lasting until the end of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

“It is an honor to be appointed Scotland head coach and I will undertake those responsibilities with pride and commitment,” Clarke said. “I firmly believe we have a talented group of players who can achieve success on the international stage. I look forward to working with them and helping them to fulfil those ambitions.

“I appreciate the Scotland supporters have waited a long time for the national team to qualify for a major tournament. Now we have a Women’s World Cup to look forward to in France this summer and it’s my motivation to emulate the success of Shelley Kerr and her squad by leading us to EURO 2020. I believe we can qualify and look forward to that journey with the players and the fans, starting against Cyprus and Belgium next month.”

Scotland are in Group I in EURO 2020 qualifying as they face Belgium, San Marino, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Cyprus, and have three points after their first two games of qualifying. They are assured of at least a playoff to get into EURO 2020 after they won their UEFA Nations League group last year.

Scotland have the likes of Scott McTominay, Andrew Robertson and Ryan Fraser are playing regularly and starring in the Premier League, and Clarke will believe this young core can lead the Tartan Army to the brink of qualifying for a major tournament, especially with 24 teams to compete at EURO 2020.

Clarke certainly has an impressive resume in the game, as he made over 400 appearances as a player for Chelsea and then went on to become a key member of their backroom staff as he was an assistant manager under Jose Mourinho. He also held roles as an assistant manager at Newcastle, West Ham and Liverpool and his experience is undoubted at the top level of the game.

As a head coach he led West Brom to an eighth-place finish in the Premier League (their highest finish since 1981) and since then he has managed Reading in the Championship (taking them to the FA Cup semifinals in 2014-15) and was then hired as Aston Villa’s assistant coach in 2016.

Clarke has rejuvenated his career in Scotland, and he will now get the chance to lead his nation.

Ranking top 10 Premier League players at each position

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There are 25 players in each Premier League squad, but who not only starred for their respective clubs but also elevated themselves to the upper echelons of the league this season?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

We pondered that as we analyzed those who rose to the challenge best over the past nine months.

Below is a look at our complete list of the top 10 players in each position based on their play during the 2018-19 campaign.


Goalkeepers
1. Ederson
2. Alisson
3. David De Gea
4. Kepa
5. Ben Foster
6. Lukasz Fabianski
7. Hugo Lloris
8. Jordan Pickford
9. Rui Patricio
10. Martin Dubravka


Right backs
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold
2. Matt Doherty
3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
4. Cesar Azpilicueta
5. Ricardo Perreira
6. Kyle Walker
7. Seamus Coleman
8. Kiko Femenia
9. Pablo Zabaleta
10. Yan Valery


Left backs
1. Andrew Robertson
2. Lucas Digne
3. Ben Chilwell
4. Luke Shaw
5. Jonny Otto
6. Patrick Van Aanholt
7. Ben Davies
8. Nacho Monreal
9. Jose Holebas
10. Emerson Palmeri


Center backs
1. Virgil Van Dijk
2. Aymeric Laporte
3. Toby Alderweireld
4. Jan Vertonghen
5. Vincent Kompany
6. Sokratis
7. Antonio Rudiger
8. Conor Coady
9. Michael Keane
10. Issa Diop


Central midfielders
1. Fernandinho
2. Joao Moutinho
3. Moussa Sissoko
4. David Silva
5. Jordan Henderson
6. Andre Gomes
7. Abdoulaye Doucoure
8. Fabinho
9. N'Golo Kante
10. Youri Tielemans


Attacking midfielders
1. Eden Hazard
2. Bernardo Silva
3. Kevin De Bruyne
4. Christian Eriksen
5. Gerard Deulofeu
6. Dele Alli
7. James Maddison
8. Gylfi Sigurdsson
9. Paul Pogba
10. Diogo Jota


Wingers
1. Raheem Sterling
2. Bernardo Silva
3. Sadio Mane
4. Mohamed Salah
5. Wilfried Zaha
6. Ryan Fraser
7. Pedro
8. Ryan Babel
9. David Brooks
10. Nathan Redmond


Strikers
1. Sergio Aguero
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
3. Harry Kane
4. Roberto Firmino
5. Alexandre Lacazette
6. Raul Jimenez
7. Heung-Min Son
8. Jamie Vardy
9. Marcus Rashford
10. Salomon Rondon