Mauricio Pochettino has led Tottenham Hotspur to a Champions League final, their first in Europe since 1984’s UEFA Cup win against Anderlecht. Despite all the excitement, the boss certainly has a selection headache ahead of the clash in Madrid with the pair of Harry’s – Winks and Kane – expected to be fit for the tie and Lucas Moura showing his best form in recent weeks.
Spurs’ season was on a knife edge against Ajax.
When at 2-2, (3-2 on aggregate) the campaign was looking like withering into another trophyless venture.
On 90+6 minutes though, Brazilian magician Lucas completed his hat-trick to send the North Londoners into the final to face Premier League runners up Liverpool.
The likes of Fernando Llorente and Dele Alli were vital to finding that winning goal, but it was the instinct and run of Lucas before his wonderful left-footed finish that clinched the side their place in Madrid on 1 June.
Tottenham have traditionally favoured a particular attacking approach under Pochettino. The use of a dynamic front four in Christian Eriksen, Alli, Kane and Heung-Min Son has given Spurs a brilliant dynamism and flexibility going forward. In recent weeks though, Lucas Moura has stepped up in the absence of key personnel, giving Pochettino a serious selection headache ahead of the final.
The Merseysiders have been better than Spurs this season, but that doesn’t mean the North Londoners can’t pose Liverpool serious problems if set up tactically well. An immediate adjustment that could work wonders is an alternating from the typical 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-3-3, ensuring both Son and Lucas start; this will do two things.
Firstly, the Reds’ midfield will be coming up against a rigid trio who can look to match the energy and drive of Klopp’s men. But the second and most important change in this system is that the wingers will challenge Liverpool’s marauding and creative full-backs to show intelligence and caution when getting forward to attack, and the wide-men can do this whilst ensuring they don’t leave their own midfielders overly exposed either.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have been key figures in attacking areas for their club, registering 12 and 11 assists each respectively. There’s no doubt they’ll be far more conscious of the space they’re leaving exposed if Son and Lucas are starting high and wide up the pitch. It can’t be underestimated how important it is that Spurs discourage the Liverpool press. The Reds have been far more pragmatic than in recent seasons, but they’ll still want to take the game to their opponents and look to assert their dominance.
If Kane and co. can weather the storm when it comes, they’ll find plenty of space in behind to threaten. The beauty of this is that even if Liverpool recognise the threat, the only way to null it is by encouraging their full-backs to be less expressive and sit deeper, which really eats into Klopp’s main attacking threat.
Adopting this tactic will mean Pochettino going against some of his typical footballing principles, but it could reap huge rewards.