For the first time since 2012, an English club will be crowned champions of Europe on Saturday night.
Ahead of Tottenham and Liverpool’s meeting at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, we’ve picked out a combined XI using players from both teams. Now where’s our tin hat?
Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in the Premier League this season, down from 38 last term. Moreover, their final game of 2017/18 – the Champions League final against Real Madrid – featured two costly errors by goalkeeper Loris Karius, who may have been suffering from concussion but nevertheless proved throughout the campaign that he wasn’t of sufficient quality for a club chasing European glory.
Alisson isn’t the only reason for the Reds’ vast improvement at the back this time around, but his sharp reflexes and accurate distribution have been prominent since his debut in August. Hugo Lloris has shown signs of decline in the last couple of years, so he misses out to Liverpool’s Brazilian custodian.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
One of the revelations of the European season, Alexander-Arnold has gone from promising youngster to one of the continent’s best full-backs in the last nine months. The Liverpool academy product broke the Premier League assists record for a defender by setting up 12 goals this term, when he proved himself to be one of the best crossers of the ball in the division.
He’s also impressed in Europe, not least with a quickly-taken corner against Barcelona to lay on Divock Origi’s winning goal in the semi-final. Kieran Trippier has been hugely disappointing in 2018/19, making this one a straightforward decision.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Defending may be a collective endeavour, but Van Dijk has proved this season how much difference a top-quality centre-back can make. The Dutchman has everything a manager would want from a player in his position: speed, strength, intelligence, composure in possession and an ability to bring out the best in those around him.
The former Southampton man was a deserving recipient of the PFA Player of the Year award, and he’ll now be desperate to add a Champions League winner’s medal to his collection – particularly as he’s yet to win a trophy outside Scotland.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Vertonghen turned in one of the best individual performances of Tottenham’s season in the 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 – and all while playing out of position at left-wing-back. The Belgium international may be versatile but he does his best work at the heart of defence, where he’s once again been consistently excellent in 2018/19.
Comfortable defending the channels in one-versus-one situations, Vertonghen is also a skilled penalty-box operator whose precise, punchy balls between the lines regularly kick-start Tottenham attacks.
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool raided relegated Hull for Robertson in summer 2017, and his stay at Anfield looked like it could be short when he struggled to break into the team early on. However, the Scot is now one of the first names on Jurgen Klopp’s team sheet, with his driving runs and wicked deliveries a key part of Liverpool’s attacking strategy.
Danny Rose has wrestled back the left-back spot from Ben Davies in the last few months of the season, but neither Tottenham man is a match for the dynamic, inexhaustible Robertson.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Eriksen’s form has been up and down this season, but there’s a reason why he’s reportedly on Real Madrid’s wishlist this summer. The Denmark international is the perfect playmaker for Mauricio Pochettino’s side; 12 Premier League assists in 2018/19 is testament to his creativity, but his energy and industriousness are also important qualities.
Georginio Wijnaldum is a touch unfortunate to miss out after an excellent campaign – he was arguably Liverpool’s standout performer before Christmas – but Eriksen’s superior all-round quality means he gets the nod.
Fabinho took a while to get up to speed with Jurgen Klopp’s demands, but he soon became one of Liverpool’s most important players after nailing down a starting spot in December. The Brazilian expertly anchors the Reds’ midfield, with his combination of tough tackling and accurate passing clear for all to see in the Reds’ astonishing 4-0 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.
Neither Victor Wanyama nor Eric Dier come close to matching Fabinho, whose tremendous showings in recent months have freed up Jordan Henderson to fulfil his favoured box-to-box functions.
Dele Alli (Tottenham)
By the standards he set previously, Alli has had a rather quiet season. Injuries have restricted the England midfielder to only 34 appearances in all competitions, but he’s still one of the players Tottenham will look to to make the difference on Saturday – just as he did in setting up Lucas Moura’s late winner in the 3-2 defeat of Ajax.
Intelligent, dynamic and technically gifted, Alli has recorded three assists in the Champions League this campaign.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
It was always going to be difficult for Salah to match his achievements of 2017/18, when a haul of 44 goals in 52 games helped Liverpool secure a top-four finish and reach the Champions League final. And after being forced off in the first half against Real Madrid, the Egypt international will be desperate to make his mark on the biggest game in club football this weekend.
The former Roma forward has still enjoyed a productive campaign, scoring 22 goals in the Premier League – no player managed more – and another four in Europe. He’s the obvious choice for the right-wing berth in our combined XI.
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Kane may not be fit enough to start Saturday’s Champions League final, but it would take a brave person to bet against him making an impact one way or another. The England international once again broke the 20-goal barrier in all competitions this season, with 17 strikes in the Premier League and five in eight continental outings.
Roberto Firmino is the perfect foil for Salah and Mane, but Kane’s link-up play is equally excellent and he provides much more of a threat inside the penalty area too. How Spurs supporters must wish he was 100 per cent fit for this weekend’s showdown.
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
If Virgil van Dijk has been Liverpool’s key man in defence this season, Mane has been their leading light in attack. The Senegal international has enjoyed his best campaign yet on Merseyside, scoring 22 goals in the Premier League to earn a share of the Golden Boot, and also finding the net four times in the Champions League.
Son Heung-min has also been magnificent for much of 2018/19, but Mane is the man who completes our attacking trident.
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