Harry Kane

(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Pochettino aims to follow Liverpool lead; no regrets on Kane

Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t need to look too far to see Spurs’ example in overcoming the accompanying grief from losing a UEFA Champions League final.

There, inside the same stadium, was Liverpool celebrating a European Cup win just 12 months removed from falling 3-1 to Real Madrid.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Madrid ] 

“It is about to learn, live the experience and with Liverpool last year were in our position today and now they are in the position that were Real Madrid,” Pochettino said. “The standards are so high, that wasn’t enough today that is a bit of a shame when you live this experience you want to repeat and you want to live again… I hope we can repeat in the future.”

There are steps Tottenham can take to achieve that, and one will certainly be more activity in the transfer market.

That sort of thing would give Pochettino more leeway in multiple competitions, plus maybe more to digest when deciding whether to give Harry Kane his first start in months.

That, by the way, is something Pochettino doesn’t regret, as the statistics led him there. From The London Evening Standard:

“He didn’t score like other players. It’s not a point to talk too much. My decision I promise was about analytics and thinking with all the information. I don’t regret my decision.”

Pochettino’s job is to make the difficult calls, and the Kane call was going to “backfire” in any scenario short of upsetting Liverpool. Had he kept his star on the bench into the second half and Spurs lost, the same columns would’ve been penned. Heavy is the head.

UCL Live: Liverpool, Spurs clash in Champions League final

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The time has come.

We’re officially under the 60-minute mark, counting down the seconds until kick off of the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

[ LIVE: Liverpool v. Spurs, in Madrid ]

Hit the link above, and follow Joe Prince-Wright, PST’s Lead Editor and Writer, on Twitter for live updates on the ground in Madrid and inside the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

The big question has been answered: Harry Kane starts after missing Tottenham’s last nine games with his latest ankle ligament injury. Mauricio Pochettino has opted for Kane in place of Lucas Moura, hat-trick hero from the semifinal second leg in Amsterdam.

[ FOLLOW: JPW on Twitter ]

Should Harry Kane start the Champions League final?

Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Since the moment Lucas Moura sent Tottenham Hotspur through, the idea of Harry Kane returning from his latest ankle ligament injury to start Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool has been the game’s biggest question.

[ MORE: Win or lose UCL final, not much changes for Spurs ]

It will continue to dominate conversation until lineups are released at 2 p.m. ET.

Will Pochettino be tempted to call upon Tottenham’s talisman to start the biggest game in the club’s history, perhaps knowing he’s nowhere near 90-minutes fit? You’d be crazy to think not.

Whether or not he will do so, though, is a whole other (series of) question(s) completely.

[ MORE: Pochettino tight-lipped on Kane status ]

The reason Kane has dominated headlines, after missing Spurs’ last nine games  from the second leg of the quarterfinals to both legs of the semifinals, has much to do with the fact that his inclusion (or exclusion, as it may be) will drastically change the shape of Pochettino’s team and game plan.

If Kane starts, it’ll likely come at the expense of Moura, the hat-trick hero that got them there, while allowing Pochettino to pick an extra midfielder — most likely Harry Winks — and play a midfield diamond behind Kane and Son Heung-min.

If Kane is starts the game on the bench, Pochettino faces a number of difficult decisions: playing a back-three or a back-four; Moura, as a wide attacker, or Fernando Llorente, as a target man up top; pushing one of Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen higher up, or leaving both of them in central midfield; Danny Rose at left back, or nominally as a left winger?

[ MORE: How will Liverpool line up for Champions League final? ]

Predictably, Pochettino has refused to tip his hand for three weeks running — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s difficult, you need to take a decision and tomorrow is another decision. We have all the information. We will use every detail to try to win.

“You can use only 11 players from the beginning — that is the most painful situation.”

It’s impossible to know which way Pochettino will go, because we’ve seen each of the above on a number of occasions this season. Sometimes it was out of necessity, due to injuries, and sometimes it was pure experimentation; both to great success, and terrible failure.

In the end, the risk of having to sub Kane off after eight minutes — as happened with Diego Costa in the 2014 UCL final — or him being wholly ineffective after missing so much time, isn’t worth the upside of having a semi-fit Kane to face the Premier League’s stingiest defense in a game that Spurs might never see again. If Pochettino enters the game knowing in advance that he’ll have to sub Kane off before 90 minutes, let alone the potential for 120 and penalty kicks, he’ll do more harm than good by selecting him.

That isn’t to say he will be able to resist the urge to do so anyway.

Pochettino tight-lipped on Kane status ahead of UCL Final

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino isn’t about to tip his hand when it comes to whether a fit Harry Kane will rejoin Spurs’ Starting XI for the UEFA Champions League Final.

Spurs put the finishing touches on their run to the final without the English striker, but it would be stunning if a truly-fit top striker didn’t find his way back into the mix.

[ MORE: How will Spurs, Reds line up? ]

Pochettino, however, doesn’t have much to add to the story line. At the very least, he’s not detracting from drama when asked whether Kane moved into the XI.

He went as far as to say he hasn’t told the players who will start, and that Friday’s training session will go into his decision.

“I don’t know who will play. We’ll decide after our final training session.”

Pochettino said earlier this week that he was “so, so positive” about Kane, and there haven’t been any setbacks reported in the press ahead of Saturday’s massive match in Madrid.

Here are his follow-up questions on team selection for such a massive match, via Sky Sports:

“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.”

Three key battles in the Champions League Final

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There are only two differences in the Liverpool lineups that beat Spurs 2-1 home and away this season.

Naby Keita and Joe Gomez started the September tilt at Wembley Stadium, while Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip started at Anfield.

[ MORE: Champions League story lines ]

Spurs on the other hand played a back four at Wembley with three center backs in the reverse fixture, wing backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier pushed up high and wide.

Might we see the latter again in Madrid? One of those pieces begins this examination of the three (plus one) factors in Saturday’s Champions League Final.

Kieran Trippier versus Sadio Mane

Mane scored 22 goals this season, but failed to manage one against Spurs whether Trippier was lined up at right back or as more of a right wing back.

All-in-all, the dangerous-crossing Trippier is a better defender than his reputation suggests, but Mane is about as explosive an attacking talent as there is in England.

This battle may be the one that settles the tie.

Roberto Firmino versus Toby Alderweireld

Sure, this also could read Firmino v. Spurs’ defense, but “Bobby’s” two goals against Spurs this season were his first in six matches against the Reds.

Like Harry Kane for Spurs, Firmino is coming off an injury. While still quite good, the Brazilian center forward’s production and effectiveness have both dipped this season.

Perhaps it’s absurd to expect him to be a wrecking ball in consecutive Champions League seasons, but his dip in that competition was especially significant. Firmino arguably was the number one reason Liverpool ran through its forgiving slate last season, scoring 10 goals with 7 assists and drawing a penalty. This year, it’s just four goals with a helper.

Alderweireld, meanwhile, has been fine but not spectacular for Spurs. The big Belgian will hope Firmino is less than 100 percent.

Jurgen Klopp versus himself

There are few men in the world with the self-confidence of Jurgen Klopp, but the Reds’ boss enters his latest final holding the proverbial clipboard for the unabashed favorites.

When a man has lost his last three European finals, there’s reason to question how he may try to out-fox himself in the role of favorite. It’s also worth noting that the virtue of getting to a fourth European final says a lot about a managerial skill set.

Where Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is very much playing with house money, Klopp has yet to lift a piece of silverware as Liverpool boss. Perception of him is unlikely to change too much with a loss, but a win would have him an Anfield all-timer.

The stage can do wild things to a man, even when that man has spent plenty of time on that stage.

BONUS: Harry Kane versus his ankle

Yeah, this is cheating, but the Englishman’s fitness is the X-factor of the UCL Final. Virgil Van Dijk has the goods to deal with a fully fit Kane, but if he’s simply tasked with managing a half-ready decoy? Well, that’s big stuff.

Still, Kane’s 1-4-4 record against Spurs doesn’t have a ton to do with his scoring record, as he’s managed five goals and two assists in those matches. If he’s ready to go, Spurs obviously have a much better chance at glory.