Greetings from France! The Anfield Wrap are on their way to Madrid in a minibus.
The same minibus we travelled to Kiev in, but this time the air conditioning works, so it’s markedly better.
It’s still a long way to Madrid by road, but compared to Kiev and the nightmares of the Ukrainian border, this feels like getting the bus to town. At the moment anyway…
It is hard to believe we are all off to see Liverpool compete in their second Champions League final in a row, having barely qualified for the tournament since 2010.
Last year came out of nowhere somewhat, yet this year the team have proved it was no fluke.
You shouldn’t take it for granted, as recent history has proven, but no one will want to draw Liverpool in next year’s competition. Jurgen Klopp hasn’t lost a two-legged European tie since he took over.
It’s finals where Liverpool have stumbled, but they’ll be more confident than ever this time. The squad is much stronger than last season, with Klopp spending the summer after Kiev adding quality options to ensure it won’t be a half-fit Adam Lallana who replaces Mo Salah should the worst happen again.
If anything, Jurgen Klopp has something of a selection dilemma ahead of the final.
While Kiev was a case of putting every fit decent player on the pitch, now some excellent players, who have contributed to Liverpool reaching the final will have to make do with a place on the bench.
Alisson, the major upgrade from last year’s final, will of course start, and he’ll have the PFA Player of the Year in front of him. There might be some debate on the best long term partner for Virgil Van Djik, but in the short term, it would be a shock if Joel Matip doesn’t start alongside him.
He might have got his opportunity through injuries, but Matip has grabbed it with both hands with a run of impressive performances many didn’t think he had in him. Klopp likes both Lovren and Gomez a lot, but he’s highly likely to continue to back the Cameroon defender rather than change a settled defence for the sake of it.
Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold will complete the back four, the latter was dropped for the trip to Barcelona, but surely won’t again after coming back into the side to turn the tie around so spectacularly at Anfield. There is unlikely to be a shock in attack either, with Firmino returning from injury to complete the most feared front three in world football.
It’s midfield where the tough decisions are for the manager.
Even with Naby Keita injured and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri more likely to feature from the bench, there are still four top-class midfielders for just three places. Someone is going to miss out.
It is hard to look for clues in what Jurgen Klopp might do. Fabinho has become the first midfielder on the team sheet for many supporters since breaking into the team, yet Klopp left him out in Munich.
Gini Wijnaldum has probably been our most consistent midfielder this season, yet he was left out of the Barcelona home game. Even Jordan Henderson has found that being the captain is no guarantee of a starting place this season.
But, I actually think it will be James Milner who misses out.
It’s really harsh and he’s a trusted lieutenant for Klopp on the pitch, but he can’t play all of them and I reckon Jurgen might look at what Milner can offer from the bench in multiple positions.
He’s our best penalty taker too. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but it might!
So, that’s my starting eleven to beat Spurs. Let me know what you think!
John Gibbons’ starting XI: