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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.

How will Spurs, Liverpool line up for Champions League final?

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There are major selection decisions for both Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp ahead of the UEFA Champions League final, as key players for Tottenham and Liverpool have returned to fitness ahead of this game.

Pochettino and Klopp will have a restless night…

The showpiece event in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday sees two familiar Premier League foes collide as Liverpool beat Spurs 2-1 on both occasions in the PL this season.

Given those tactical battles, the second game closer than the first, it will be intriguing to see what formation and personnel both managers go with.

Here’s a look at the latest team news and projected lineups for the mammoth clash in the Spanish capital.


TOTTENHAM

—– Lloris —–

—- Trippier —- Alderweireld —- Vertonghen —- Rose —-

—– Winks —- Sissoko —–

—- Eriksen —- Alli —- Son —-

—– Kane —–


LIVERPOOL

—– Alisson —–

—- Alexander-Arnold —- Gomez —- Van Dijk —- Robertson —-

—– Henderson —- Fabinho —- Wijnaldum —–

—- Salah —- Firmino —- Mane —-


Analysis of team news, starting lineups

There is one name which has dominated the team news ahead of this game: Harry Kane. Will he start? Is he fit enough to only be on the bench? Do Tottenham risk the balance of their team if their leading goalscorer cannot drop deep and drag defenders into awkward pockets if he isn’t fully fit? Pochettino will have had sleepless nights figuring out if his star striker, who has been out since early April, should. Come straight back into the team for the biggest game in Spurs’ history. Tottenham’s manager knows it is a decision which will make or break not only the final but perhaps his entire career as a boss. This is massive.

The rest of Spurs’ lineup hardly picks itself as injuries have mounted up over the final months of the season. But Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will be at right back and at both center back spots respectively. The latter has recovered from injury, while Danny Rose has stepped in well for the injured Ben Davies at left back. Rose’s pace going forward may well force both Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold to be more defensive.

In midfield Moussa Sissoko will start alongside one of Eric Dier, Harry Winks or Victor Wanyama, and that is a huge call. Wanyama is a true destroyer and has shielded Spurs’ defense well against Liverpool in the past, while Dier is handy to have coming off the bench with his poise on the ball and flexibility to play as a center back, at full back or in midfield. Winks has the skill on the ball to dictate the tempo of the game, but he has been out with a recent injury. Up top Eriksen, Alli and Son will support either Moura and Kane, and at this point it would seem harsh for Moura to lose his spot in the starting lineup after his heroic second half hat trick at Ajax in the semifinal to get Spurs to Madrid. Pochettino’s decision to go with Kane or Moura up top from the start will render all of his other decisions as minor.

Liverpool’s potential starting lineup decisions are very easy for Klopp.

He really has only one dilemma: who starts alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center back?

Joe Gomez has shaken off the rust since returning from injury, but Joel Matip has been steady enough for most of the season and will likely get the nod, while Dejan Lovren has been the odd man out. Gomez would be my pick, but it would be harsh on Matip to leave him out. With Naby Keita out injured, it is between Fabinho and Milner for a spot alongside Henderson and Wijnaldum in midfield. With Roberto Firmino’s return to fitness, that means the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri will have to be content with making a contribution off the bench if needed.

Best signings of Premier League season

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The 2018-19 season saw plenty of new signings play starring roles across the Premier League.

But which transfers turned out to be the best bits of business?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below we take a look at the top new arrivals from the entire campaign.


Permanent deals

Raul Jimenez: Top goalscorer for Wolves as the Mexican striker made his loan move permanent and was a revelation in the Premier League. Proper target forward.

Alisson: Helped improve Liverpool defensively and is set to be their number one for a long time. A few dodgy moments with his feet, but Jurgen Klopp wants him to take risks.

David Brooks: Bournemouth’s Welsh winger was simply superb in his debut PL campaign. Not much was expected when he arrived from Sheffield United but he added goals and assists and his pace is scary.

Sokratis: The Greek defender has been a rock for Arsenal and even though they have still had defensive issues, Sokratis has tried to hold things together as best as he can.

Lukasz Fabianski: Under the radar signing last summer, but Fabianski has excelled at West Ham with a string of fine displays. Solid, reliable goalkeeper.

Lucas Digne: Emerged as one of the best left backs in the Premier League, the Frenchman has got better and better since his move from Barcelona. Very dangerous going forward.

James Maddison: Fantastic young talent who is fearless on the ball and created the most chances in the league. Will be key to Leicester’s hopes of European qualification in the coming years.

Lucas Torreira: A fans favorite at Arsenal already, he and Matteo Guendouzi have added extra bite to their engine room. The Uruguayan midfielder has class on the ball and wins it back so quickly. Exactly what the Gunners needed.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Gerard Deulofeu: His loan move from Barca was made permanent last summer and Deulofeu has scored some stunning goals. He drifts off the left wing with ease and is so tough to mark. He’s form was vital in Watford’s impressive season.

Richarlison: Started and ended the season really well. Had a dip in the middle, but the Brazilian is still extremely young. At his best playing off the flank and is already being linked with a big move after a really good first season at Everton.

Joao Moutinho: One of a host of new names at Wolves who excelled in their first season in England, Moutinho was calm on the ball and his set piece deliveries set up so many chances. Oozed class all season.

Ryan Babel: Arrived at Fulham in January and is set to leave in the summer, the Dutch winger was a real bright spot for the Cottagers but couldn’t help them stay in the Premier League. Can be a key contributor elsewhere in the Premier League.

Ricardo Periera: The Portuguese right back has been a revelation for Leicester and adds a real attacking threat down the flank. Good business, once again, from the Foxes.

Fabinho: Took him a while to get going, but once the penny dropped he was a key player in Liverpool’s midfielder. Defensively sound and comfortable on the ball, he is now loved by Klopp.

Fabian Schar: Very solid first season in England for the Swiss defender, who also scored a stunning goal. Newcastle got themselves a bargain.

Ben Foster: One of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. Watford snagged him from West Brom last season and Foster produced so many crucial stops.

Felipe Anderson: Arrived from Lazio for big money but proved his quality at various stages of the season. A bit up and down, but has the potential to be one of the best wingers in Europe.

Rui Patricio: The Portuguese national team goalkeeper look at home in the PL and used all of his experience in their fine season.


Loan deals

(Chris Radburn/PA via AP)

Youri Tielemans: Arrived in January from Monaco and has been sublime in central midfield. Leicester may struggle to sign him permanently after his fine displays.

Andre Gomes: See above. Arrived from Barcelona on loan and Gomes’ quality on the ball and surprising strength mean he is a perfect fit for the PL. Huge clubs are lining up to sign him, but the Toffees are trying their best to keep him at Goodison.

Victor Camarasa: One of Cardiff’s best players, the Spaniard scored some great goals and was a driving force from midfield. Has quality and not afraid to roll up his sleeves. If Real Betis do not want him back, plenty of PL clubs will look to sign him this summer.

Kurt Zouma: In the second half of the season he really kicked on and the Chelsea defender has finally put his horrible luck with injuries behind him. Everton are keen to sign him permanently, but with Chelsea’s transfer ban they may not let him go.

Salomon Rondon: What a signing he has proven to be. Arrived on loan from West Brom last summer and the Venezuelan striker knits Newcastle’s attack together. Such a handful for opposition defenses. Newcastle may not have the cash to splash on Rondon this summer.

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