The 2019 Champions League final is less than a week away. On June 1st in Madrid, Liverpool and Tottenham will square off for the title of best club in Europe and, by extension, the world.
Spain’s Dominance Comes to an End
This will be the first time since Man United beat Chelsea in 2008 that the final has featured two Premier League teams. It will also be the first time since Bayern Munich won in 2013 that the trophy doesn’t go home with a Spanish side.
Any Spaniards who bought tickets early, expecting to see at least one La Liga team in the final, can be forgiven for their confidence: not only has a Spanish team won five straight, seven of the last ten finalists were from La Liga.
Liverpool Heavily Favored
Liverpool is strongly favoured to lift the trophy on Saturday. According to My Top Sportsbooks, the Reds are 1/2 favourites, while the Totties are 8/5.
Tottenham has never won the Champions League before and is making its first appearance in the finals. By contrast, Liverpool has won five Champions League titles to date, the most among English sides. However, it’s been nearly 15 years since their last title (2005) and the other four came from 1977-84.
The Reds aren’t favoured because of ancient history. They are favoured because they have been historically good this year. Their +67 goal difference is the fourth-best in the history of the Prem. The only teams that have ever finished with a better goal differential are Man City this year (+72) and last year (+79), plus Chelsea in 2009-10 (+71).
By that measure, this is the best team ever assembled at Anfield.
While Tottenham finished a solid fourth in the table with a +28 goal difference, they limped to the finish line, both literally and figuratively, losing three of their last five and seven of twelve amid a rash of key injuries.
It’s still not clear which of their labouring stars – Harry Kane, Danny Rose, and Jan Vertonghen — will be fully fit for the final. While it’s more likely than not that they feature in the game, they will not be 100%, and that could be a massive problem against a team as fleet-footed as Liverpool.
A Relatively Low-Scoring Game Is Expected
The over/under for the final has been set at 2.5 goals, with both the over and under around 10/11.
Looking at the trends for the Champions League, as a whole, and these individual teams, 2.5 is a surprisingly low total.
To start, five of the last six CL finals have seen at least three goals scored, including extra time. The average number of goals over that span is 3.83.
Obviously, every match needs to be assessed in its own context.
Liverpool and Tottenham played twice in the Premier League this year and both games resulted in 2-1 Liverpool wins. More broadly, Liverpool matches averaged 2.92 goals per game during the EPL season, while Tottenham matches averaged 2.79.
The two teams have played 12 away matches in the Champions League (combined), and eight of those saw at least three goals, as well.
The Odds Say There’s A Good Chance of a 90-Minute Draw
The three-way odds – i.e. the result at the end of 90 minutes – have a draw at 5/2, which implies a 28.5% chance of the teams being level at the end of 90 minutes.
Again, based on what these teams have done this year, that seems a bit off.
Tottenham only played to two draws in 38 Premier League matches. Add in another two in the CL, and 4/50 matches (8%) ended all square.
Liverpool played to more draws than Tottenham, but not a ton. They drew seven in the Prem and one in the Champions League, which amounts to 8/50 matches (16%).
Based on the odds for the game total and the draw, it seems apparent that oddsmakers expect the teams to play tight, passive football.
While Tottenham can and does do that from time to time, it’s certainly not Liverpool’s style. For the sake of excitement, let’s hope Jurgen Klopp’s boys don’t start now.