Spurs and Liverpool matadors ready for Madrid showdown

Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham and Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool will lock horns in Madrid. Pictures: Getty Images
Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham and Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool will lock horns in Madrid. Pictures: Getty Images
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Jurgen Klopp flashed that expensive set of teeth, over and over again. He cracked jokes and challenged 
questions.

Mauricio Pochettino was more sincere and emotional. There was one moment when he was asked by a journalist if he had lost weight and his eyes widened, his eyebrows shot up his forehead, he rose to his feet and put his hands on his hips. He does look leaner around the gills, in truth, but said: “I am the same.” Then it was back to his seat, and the sombre mask was back on.

Two managers with monkeys on their backs approaching their biggest match of the season in their own style. Two very different beasts weighing them down: Klopp on a run of six consecutive cup final defeats, three with Liverpool and three back at Borussia Dortmund; Pochettino having never won a trophy at all, and never allowed to forget it.

Ahead of tonight’s Champions League final at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid Klopp was asked if he believed that some managers were simply unluckier than others in their career? That expensive smile flashed again. He knew what this question was referring to. “Since 2012, apart from 2017, I was with my team in a final,” Klopp said. “Sometimes by luck, but in the last seven years I am world record holder in winning semi-finals! I’m a normal human being.

“There can be moments that are unlucky and lucky, but I cannot change that. I understand luck as if you work for it then you get it from time to time.”

Klopp fielded questions like a stand-up comedian dealing with hecklers. What had he learnt from last year’s final? “A bicycle kick from 18 metres can be a goal as well,” he said, referring to Gareth Bale’s phenomenal strike.

In these situations when the world’s media descends on one packed auditorium some questions can be lost in translation. One such questioner referred to Klopp as “shiny” twice. Klopp looked confused. “Shiny?” It transpired that the journalist meant “brilliant”. He looked chuffed. “People don’t often compliment me,” he said.

Both managers were equally cagey about revealing the injury status of their strikers. Pochettino has a huge dilemma: does he return Kane, scorer of 27 goals this season, to the starting line-up despite missing the last two months after injuring his ankle in the quarter-final against Manchester City or stick with Brazilian Lucas Moura, who scored the stunning second-half hat-trick to beat Ajax in the semi-finals?

“It’s not easy, it’s not going to be easy to make a decision on Saturday,” the Argentine said. “The last game we played, the semi-finals, the quarter-final, the last 16, in every single game we needed to make a decision. Saturday is going to be another decision. We will have all the information and know every single detail to try to win. When this game arrived from the beginning you can use only 11 players, it’s the most painful situation.”

The biggest injury concern for Liverpool is the groin problem that has prevented forward Roberto Firmino from playing more than 11 minutes of their last five games of the season. But Klopp, while cagey about his starting line-up, confirmed that the Brazilian was available. “He’s fit and he’s trained,” Klopp said. “He should be fine.”