Champions League Final Preview

The match everyone waits for all season long is finally here as Liverpool are back for revenge after losing to Real Madrid last season and will face Tottenham who are here for the first time in their history. I’m going to go over what each team has going for them as well as what they don’t have going for them and of course a bet for the match. Let’s rock and roll.

This Season: 212-169-48 (+15.8 Units)
FA Cup Final: 1-1 (-0.1 Units)
(
+15.8 units = $100 bettor has won $1,580 this season)

As I said earlier, Liverpool will look to avenge their loss from last season where Real Madrid beat them 3-1 in Kiev. Luckily for them they won’t be playing the 13-time winners and are instead playing Final debutants, Tottenham. Yeah Spurs aren’t Madrid from the last few seasons but they’re still someone Liverpool should be genuinely worries about. Spurs are a team who they play at least twice a year and they haven’t necessarily comfortably beaten them as of late. Over the last 9 meetings between the two, Liverpool have only won four and only one was by more than 1 goal. Each of the meetings this past season were tight as Liverpool won both 2-1, but needed a late own goal to beat Spurs at Anfield in March. So what does Liverpool have going for them on Saturday?

Obviously Liverpool are known for their front three (Mane, Firmino and Salah), who have been outstanding this season, but it isn’t that far and away better than Spurs’ front three (Lucas, Kane and Son). Instead I’m going to focus on the impact that their outside backs have had this season. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson combined for 30 assists this season with TAA earning 12 in the Premier League and Robertson 11, good enough for third and fourth in the league respectively. If Spurs press too much, which they likely will, and don’t have the proper protection on the wings to prevent those outside backs from moving forward, they will be in serious trouble. Liverpool love to move the ball through the midfield then push the ball wide so the outside backs can whip balls into the box or attack the endline with pace.

Another thing that Liverpool have going for them is their defense, specifically with Virgil Van Dijk, which ranked first in the Premier League in goals conceded. Van Dijk will be key in stopping that Spurs front three which will likely be returning Harry Kane for the first time in almost two months. Since Spurs will likely play Son and Lucas on the wings to prevent the outside backs from having space, it should make VVD’s job a bit easier in marking Kane. If Spurs spread themselves too wide and don’t offer the proper help for Kane, it could leave him stranded which would be a dream scenario for VVD and Liverpool. But expect VVD to be shadowing Kane or whoever starts up top on Saturday.

So what are some negatives for Liverpool? Well they will likely be without Firmino, or at least a not 100% Firmino, and Keita has been officially ruled out. That is not good news especially if Firmino can’t start as there isn’t a like for like replacement for the Brazilian. They’ll also be facing a Spurs team who will be returning one of the better strikers in the world in Harry Kane, someone who they got to this stage without. Adding that threat might make this team even stronger and gives that already potent offense more weapons. In games with Harry Kane this season Spurs were 24-3-12 (W-D-L) while without him they went 9-2-7 with an average of 0.7 goals per game. That doesn’t mean he will come back and score goals, but it does mean that he has the ability to provide a spark to the offense or at least make the defense focus more attention on himself and less on Son and Lucas.

For Spurs, things are much more simple than people believe. If they can play their game; press and cause turnovers, then they should cause Liverpool issues. When Spurs press effectively it allows their front three who are doing the pressing to gain possession in key areas with enough space to create quick chances. If they can do that effectively and provide Kane, Son or Lucas with chances inside the 18, they can surely nab a goal.

Another thing that Spurs really have going for them is they seem like the team of destiny in this tournament (trust me that matters). They had to get through Man City in the Quarterfinal in dramatic fashion and then they had to score three second half goals including a 96th minute winner to beat Ajax in Amsterdam in the Semifinal. They won’t have as much pressure as Liverpool since this is their first ever Final and they owe almost nothing to their fans in that respect. Liverpool meanwhile are looking to avoid back to back defeats in Champions League Finals. Adding to that, Spurs have been great in matches away from home in this competition when their backs are against the wall. Bottom line; they’ve gone through the gauntlet and won’t be scared of this Liverpool team.

What are some of the negatives for Spurs? They have also been hit by the injury bug as Sanchez, Rose and Winks are all doubtful. Even Kane might not start because he may not be able to go a full 90 minutes let alone 120 if it goes to extra time. We don’t know what their starting XI will be on Saturday and that should worry Spurs fans. The only thing that we know for sure about Spurs is the midfield trio of Eriksen, Alli and Sissoko. Good luck to Pochettino in picking that starting XI.

How do I think the game will go? Well usually in Finals it takes about 15 minutes for both teams to settle and get the wheels moving because nobody wants to make an early mistake. I don’t think that will happen in this match. Both teams know each other very well, they both press and play a fast-paced style and they both have a few potent goal-scorers. I love the over 2.5 in this match both due to the points I just made (expected back and forth style, goal-scorers and familiarity) and because of the history. Both matches between these two teams went 2-1 this season, 5 of the last 6 matches they’ve played have had at least 3 goals and 6 of the last 8 Champions League Finals have had at least three goals. Outside of the total, I can’t get a read on this match with Liverpool as favorites. I think that’s a fair line for both teams and there isn’t much to exploit from it. Take the over and enjoy what should be a crazy match. Over 2.5 goals (-110) 3 UNITS.

I’d like to thank everyone for following along this year. A year and a half ago I started this for fun and it’s turned into something that became fun for everyone else as well. I recorded a podcast last night for the first time with Gos (@oh_my_gos on twitter) to recap the Europa League Final, this past Premier League season and to preview Saturday’s Champions League Final. We honestly just pressed record and talked for an hour so take it with a grain of salt, but I think it’ not half bad. Take a listen and let us know what you think!

https://soundcloud.com/nicolas-pelaez-86089003/can-i-kick-it-europa-league-recap-and-champions-league-final-preview

Thanks again for another amazing season! I will be providing a few updates shortly after the Final that I’m sure will intrige you all (*eye emojis*).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Matchweek 32 Preview

The international break FINALLY ends as we return to club footy for the final stretch of the season. The two title races are heating up as the Premier League will come down to City and Liverpool (Liverpool with a 2 point advantage but City has a game in hand) and in the Bundesliga between Dortmund and Bayern who are tied on points. It’s been a while so let’s see where I stand and how I did the last time out.

This Season’s Record: 168-144-39 (+2.9 Units)
Matchweek 31/FA Cup: 5-2-1 (+2.9 Units)

Due to the fact that we’ll be coming off of an international break and there may be some players resting, some injuries, rust from two weeks off and more, I’m only going to find a few lines across Europe that I like/pop out to me. Let’s see if we can find some value.

Saturday, March 30th
German Bundesliga
10:30 am EST

Wolfsburg @ Borussia Dortmund – Earlier this week I wrote a piece on Dortmund’s chances of the Bundesliga title (LINK HERE) and mentioned how this match could be a trap game for them. Historically at home they have beaten Wolfsburg but not by comfortable margins. They’re also not the only ones fighting for something in this match as Wolfsburg have their sights on their first European birth since ’15-16. Adding to that, Wolfsburg have been more than comfortable away from home, going 7-2-4 and ranking 4th in away points this season. I think that a goal is too big of a spread for this match and I can’t resist taking the underdog. Wolfsburg (+1, +105).

Borussia Mochengaldbach @ Fortuna Dusseldorf – Two egregiously long-named clubs will face off on Saturday morning with a pickem as the spread. Although it’s heavily juiced towards ‘Gladbach, I can’t fade them since their only chance of losing the bet is if they lose outright to a 12th place Dusseldorf team who has been way too inconsistent at home. This Dusseldorf team has had two home wins in this calendar year, both against relegation squads, and they’re coming off of two bad losses before the international break. I don’t see them beating a ‘Gladbach team who hasn’t lost an away match since Dortmund in December. In fact, ‘Gladbach haven’t lost away from home to a team outside of the top four since October. ‘Gladbach (Pick, -130).

English Premier League
11:00 am EST

Bournemouth @ Leicester City – Leicester are starting to play some really good ball right now under new manager Brendan Rodgers. Yes their last two wins came against Fulham and Burnley, but prior to his arrival they went winless in seven with six of those being losses. Also, their win against Burnley came from being a man down for 86 minutes and away from home, showing that they can get it done facing adversity. They’re getting more and more productivity going forward from Vardy, Tielemans and Maddison which is exactly what this team needs if they want to succeed. They’ll face a Bournemouth team who has one win in their last seven (against Huddersfield) and one win away from home in their last nine away league matches (against Huddersfield). I like Leicester at home where they have thrived under Rodgers so far in his tenure. Leicester City (-0.5, -115).

Wolves @ Burnley – I’m shocked they have this one as a pickem considering how Wolves were playing prior to the international break with a draw at Chelsea in the league and a win against United in the FA Cup. Outside of their shocking loss at Huddersfield and their expected loss at City, they’ve been brilliant since the turn of the new year. Burnley meanwhile have lost their last four matches before the break (A. Newcastle, H. Crystal Palace, A. Liverpool, H. Leicester) and have the 17th best home record this season. They even lost to Leicester last matchweek with an extra man for 86 minutes. Wolves are far and away the better team and I’ll never shy away from them on a pickem line especially against a team like Burnley who will have serious trouble against this Wolves team especially in the midfield. Wolves (Pick, -135).

Sunday, March 31st
Spanish La Liga
8:00 am EST

Real Betis @ Rayo Vallecano (beIN Sports) – Rayo Vallecano are in big big trouble as they sit six points below the relegation zone and have lost their last seven matches. They’ll face a Betis team who are not only better than them quality-wise but they’re also coming off of two away wins before the international break. Although they did lose the match before the break to Barcelona, they haven’t lost back-to-back La Liga matches since October and it’s another match where I can’t fade the better team on the pickem line. Real Betis (Pick, -120).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Napoli @ Roma (ESPNEWS) – The second best match of the weekend brings us to Rome where the city’s namesakes will be taking on second-place Napoli. Roma have had an up and down season and recently have been poor against good opposition. In their last eleven matches against similar-quality opposition (similar on points in the league or Champions League matches), they’ve gone 0-5-6. They’ll be facing a Napoli team who sit in second in Serie A and have been great away from home, going undefeated in their last four in the league away from the Estadio San Paolo. Napoli have also won their last two matches at Roma and I love the value on their Moneyline and pickem here to do it a third time in a row. Napoli (+135), Pick (-130).

English Premier League
11:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Liverpool (NBCSN) – The second best match of the weekend leads us into the best match of the weekend as Spurs travel north to face league leaders Liverpool. This match can really set the tempo for Liverpool’s title chase as this is one of their two matches against top six sides that they will likely need to win if they want to raise their first Premier League trophy in almost three decades. Spurs came into the international break in bad shape with only one win from their last five matches while Liverpool have gone 4-1-0 in that same span. But Liverpool haven’t covered in their last three Premier League matches, showing that their last few wins have come in a tighter margin than expected. With the spread being a goal and since I can’t get a great read on this one due to Liverpool’s recent non-convincing wins and Spurs’ bad form/inconsistency, I’ve decided to make a play on the total. Liverpool’s last three league home matches have averaged 4.6 total goals while Spurs’ last three away matches have averaged 2.7 (a combined average of 3.65). Another reason why I like the over is that often after international breaks, top six clubs who have a lot of players on international duty need some time to get their chemistry back especially in a match that occurs so quickly after they get back to camp. I think this will be a high-scoring match and I’ll take the over at 3 goals even with the likelihood of a push. Over 3 goals (+110).

That’s all for this weekend’s preview! I hope you can get back in the swing of things with club soccer returning and maybe throw some coin on some matches before the Elite Eight starts on Saturday and Sunday.

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE at the bottom of the page and follow on Twitter!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

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