lucas moura

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Should Harry Kane start the Champions League final?

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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.

Tearful Pochettino hails Spurs ‘heroes’ after another UCL comeback

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By any conservative estimation, Tottenham Hotspur have been “almost out” of this season’s UEFA Champions League on three occasions… if not more.

[ MORE: Spurs pull off second amazing UCL comeback in two days ]

There was the disastrous start to the group stage which saw them take just one point from their first three games; they needed a result away to Barcelona and for Inter Milan to slip up against PSV Eindhoven on the final day of the group stage just to reach the knockout rounds. They cruised past Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16. They came from behind twice and dodged a stoppage-time bullet to beat Manchester City in the quarterfinals.

Then, on Wednesday, down 3-0 with 45 minutes left to play in Amsterdam, Mauricio Pochettino’s “heroes” did it again.

By the time he reached the first of his players to celebrate after sound of the final whistle rang out, Pochettino was already in tears. He would remain that way, off and on, for at least the next 20 minutes, including when he began the gauntlet of post-game interviews.

Pochettino searched for the right words to convey his joy, his shock and his appreciation for everyone and everything tangentially connected to Tottenham’s improbable run to the June 1 final in Madrid. (WATCH HERE)

“It’s still difficult to talk. The emotion is amazing, thank you to football. My players are heroes — in the last year I was telling everyone this group are heroes. The second half, they were amazing. Thank you, football — this type of emotion without football is not possible. Thank you to everyone who has believed in us. To describe this in words is difficult.

“We were talking before the game that when you work and when you feel the love, it’s not stress, it’s passion of the team. We showed we love the sport and football. Today was amazing. It was a joy to watch this kind of game.

“It’s difficult to compete at this level. I am so grateful to be a coach. To be in football and to live this type of football.

“They are all heroes, but [Lucas Moura] was a superhero. From the first to last one — the tough moment to live in [the last five years of his career].”

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

As for Moura, who scored the heroic second-half hat trick to send Spurs through to the first European final in club history, Christian Eriksen has an idea.

“Today it was non-tactical, more of a fight and a heart performance. Lucas Moura, he’s how we won the game, he deserves it, rollercoaster of a season. For him to get us in the final, I hope he gets a statue in England after this, we are blown away, no real words for it, I feel sorry for Ajax.”

“It was a ridiculous game, we were really far down, we tried to fight back, we were just lucky. I feel sorry for Ajax, they played a very good game against us. Today we mostly created more chances; football, they played better. It is relief, we have been fighting for this, it is a dream to be in the final.

“We felt like we weren’t able to look ourselves in the mirror if we were to go down three or four nil. We had to fight, we scored early to get some momentum, put them under pressure. We are lucky the ball falls in the right direction, Lucas had a wonderful game. We are relieved.”

Man City, Spurs combine for five goals in first 21 minutes (video)

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur quintupled the goal output from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

That in itself was the sign of a good match, but the fact that the first four goals occurred within 11 minutes of kickoff made for pure insanity before the match was one-quarter of the way to its conclusion.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It didn’t take long for City to level the tie, a third minute pass from Kevin De Bruyne finding Sterling. The English winger cut inside as Kieran Trippier gave him room to fire a shot just inside the far post and into the side netting.

Son then demanded City score at least twice with an eighth minute marker to make it 2-1 on aggregate when Aymeric Laporte‘s poor intervention fell to the South Korean. Ederson got the a piece of it, but not enough to stop the ball from heading into the goal.

Then, again! Lucas Moura played Son into the left of the box, and Son curled one side netting to put City in an awful place after less than 10 minutes.

City was unbowed, a long pass finding Bernardo Silva in line for an 11th minute goal to make it 2-2 on the day and 3-2 to Spurs over two legs.

But wait, there’s more: Sterling finished from an acute angle — really, though, it was a tougher task than we’ve made it sound — after De Bruyne swung a delightful cross over the fray.

Stars and duds from Liverpool-Tottenham Hotspur

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There are many talking points from Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

This was a match rife with mistakes and squandered chances, and there was not a man who was perfect.

Andy Robertson was very, very good, but a part of the Spurs equalizer. Danny Rose was a Spurs star, but flubbed a late bid to send in a beautiful cross.

Stars

Andy Robertson — The Liverpool left back not only served up an assist while habitually cooking Kieran Trippier, he blocked a seemingly surefire Christian Eriksen equalizer.

Roberto Firmino — This was about so much more than the opening goal — though what a header! — as the Brazilian striker served as a calm playmaker and a bully on the ball.

Georginio Wijnaldum The least celebrated of a safe midfield, Wijnaldum was the best of the bunch and went 90 minutes in the win

Danny Rose — Has been in fine form for club and country, and was a big part of several promising moves coming from Spurs’ left side. Almost was removed from this list for a horrid 87th minute blunder on a scoring chance, but was just too important over the first 87.

Christian Eriksen — Inventive and undeterred, his spinning assist was a just reward for his day’s work.

Lucas Moura — Struggled for much of the first half, but scored the equalizer and took a very smart tactical yellow with Salah on the break in the 79th minute.

Duds

Hugo Lloris — The match-deciding goal is entirely on him, even if it ends up going over the line via an otherwise steady Toby Alderweireld.

Kieran Trippier — As noted in the Robertson blurb, Trippier was very poor on the flank. His quick pass on the equalizer helped, but

Alisson Becker — A fine parry in the second half, but mostly looked out-of-sorts in a big spot.

Moussa Sissoko — Here for one reason: Sprung for a 2v1 with Heung-Min Son, he dribbled toward the defender until a pass was impossible before blazing an effort nowhere near the goal. Son could’ve helped by running away from goal, but my goodness.

Harry KaneThis was going to be “Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah,” but it felt like kicking a dead horse to put Salah here for struggling when he, along with Lloris, produced Alderweireld’s own goal. Kane was largely absent for a star striker, and working hard doesn’t get you the plaudits when you’re a Golden Boot chaser. So maybe Mohamed Salah should be here, too, having scored just once in nine matches.

Lloris error pushes Liverpool past Spurs (video)

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  • Firmino puts Reds ahead
  • Robertson stars at left back
  • Moura provides equalizer off quick restart
  • Salah forces late Spurs own goal

Pickford/Origi. Now Lloris/Salah. You need a little good fortune to win a title fight.

Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris‘ late mistake and myriad missed chances doomed Tottenham Hotspur and kept Liverpool’s title hopes in order as the Reds won 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday.

Lloris couldn’t hold onto a Mohamed Salah shot and Toby Alderweireld unwittingly put it in the goal.

Lucas Moura‘s second half goal answered Roberto Firmino‘s tally, but Spurs had several big missed chances before Salah prodded the o.g.

Liverpool keeps its two-point advantage on Manchester City, the latter having played one less game, while Spurs remain on 61 points. Tottenham is level with fourth place Manchester United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

High speed was the name of the game, and a Harry Kane flick and Christian Eriksen pass forced Virgil Van Dijk to concede a corner with a fine sliding intervention.

Lucas Moura took an extra touch in the 11th minute as Spurs wasted a chance to test Alisson Becker, who had a shaky first minute.

Liverpool’s first chance came in the 16th, and the Reds punished Spurs through Firmino’s header of a terrific Andy Robertson cross.

Trent Alexander-Arnold swung an effort at goal two minutes later, but it went wide of the frame.

Dele Alli tore into a 33rd chance that just missed the frame, a rare moment of Spurs promise.

Mane curled a shot wide in the 37th as Liverpool reasserted control.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Spurs again controlled the early stages of a half when play resumed, but Liverpool stayed structured and stout at the back. Spurs were also a bit sloppy in the final third.

Alisson parried Kane into the path of Eriksen, whose shot was blocked by Robertson for a corner. Liverpool dealt with that, but quickly gave the ball back to Spurs.

Moura shook the game at the end of a quick restart, as Trippier and Eriksen both moved the ball square for the forward to blast back Alisson.

Alexander-Arnold just missed putting the Reds back in front in the 76th minute with a splendid swirling left-footed effort that Hugo Lloris tipped over the bar.

Moussa Sissoko then led a 2v1 break and dribbled toward Heung-Min Son and his marker before blasting over the goal. Dele Alli would curl a chip just wide of the upper 90 minutes later.

Then, this: