Former Liverpool star Michael Owen believes “all the pressure” will be on the Reds when they face Spurs in Saturday’s all-Premier League Champions League Final in Madrid.
Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Mauricio Pochettino’s side home and away in the league this season and finished 26 points ahead of them in the table, just one point behind the champions Manchester City.
Klopp will also be trying to avoid losing a seventh straight final, after losing his last three with Borussia Dortmund and first three with Liverpool, who are the bookmakers’ favourite to claim a sixth Champions League/European Cup win.
For Owen, this makes it Liverpool’s match to lose.
Speaking to Press Association Sport, the BetVictor brand ambassador said: “All the pressure is on Liverpool because they know they need to win a trophy after the season they’ve had.
“You don’t get a team together like that often and you have to make hay while the sun is shining. If they don’t win on Saturday it will be like a dagger through the heart of every Liverpool player and fan.
“Spurs are under far less pressure and have surpassed expectations already by reaching this final.
“If they lose, I still think they’ll be able to look at themselves and say they’ve had a brilliant season. I’m not sure Liverpool would if they lose.”
One of the keys to the match will be England captain Harry Kane’s fitness after his ankle injury seven weeks ago. The Spurs talisman missed the end of the season but has declared himself fit and Owen expects him to start.
“If Kane is fit, he has to start – it’s that simple,” said Owen, who scored 158 goals for Liverpool in eight seasons at Anfield before stints at Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke.
“Lucas Moura scored a hat-trick in the semi-final but he’s been Spurs’ main man a couple of times, Kane has done it a hundred times.
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk attached to him playing.
“I remember breaking my foot for Newcastle and working hard to be fit for the World Cup in 2006 only to snap my cruciate in the first minute, and we’ve seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come back from his knee injury only to do his hamstring in his first game back.
“But it’s the Champions League Final. Of course Kane has to play.”
Owen, 39, will be on pundit duty for BT Sport on Saturday and he believes there are four crucial battles that will decide the contest.
“Spurs have to come up with a plan to deal with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold,” he said.
“Liverpool’s full-backs have provided so many assists this season by crossing the ball early and with pace. They have been superb.”
The second major contest will be between Kane and Virgil van Dijk.
“I would expect the Liverpool defender to get the better of it but Kane could lose that contest for 89 minutes and still be the hero,” said Owen.
The same, however, can be said at the other end of the field.
“Liverpool’s midfield is pretty functional – they are good but they are not going to give a defence sleepless nights,” he explained.
“Liverpool’s front three, on the other hand, are terrifying. Who Spurs play at the back, and in what formation, will be very interesting, but I can’t see them keeping Salah, Mane and Firmino out.”
But Spurs are far from being a one-man team and Owen believes they have their own terrifying weapon.
“Kane is very effective because he does everything well,” he said.
“He gets eight or nine out of 10 for every part of his game but there is nothing you would point to – pace, a trick, his shot – that you would say is outstanding.
“That is why I think Son Heung-min could be Spurs’ best hope because he does have that X factor. He is not as consistent as Kane but he is a tremendous player who does frighten defenders.”
– Michael Owen is an ambassador for www.betvictor.com and Saturday’s game kicks off at 8pm