Rafa BenÝtez on The Times

01/06/2019Paul Joyce/ The Times


What is Jurgen Klopp’s biggest tactical headache for this game?

It has to be controlling the offensive players. If Christian Eriksen plays well, then Tottenham will be a big threat because he is the one who finds the passes. He is a very good player.

I like Tottenham. It is a team that has very good balance, a team that is strong in the middle and strong in defence regardless of whether it is four at the back or five. They are very quick on the counter attack. It will be a difficult game for Liverpool and I also like Moussa Sissoko. He can manage anyone in the Liverpool side because he can go, he can press, he can follow opponents and win the physical battle.

But Liverpool will not change from the methods that brought them to the final. They will be very aggressive, on top of the other team, pressing as soon as they can. Klopp will not change a style that has been successful.

What is Mauricio Pochettino’s biggest problem?

Everything. Liverpool are very dangerous - all three offensive players can score goals, they have pace, the can run in behind defenders, they can link with Roberto Firmino dropping off and are a threat when they play passes close to the box. Then, at the same time, the two full backs, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, make more assists than anyone. They will be a threat in the wide areas, they will be a threat in behind defenders and also between the lines. And, if that is not enough, you then have set pieces with Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, who are doing well. Pochettino has to be sure that his system is very compact and solid. They must try and keep the ball really well when they are in possession and try and play the best counter attack they can.

Who starts up front for Spurs?

Everyone is waiting to find out whether Harry Kane starts and it is Pochettino’s biggest decision. Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min give you mobility and pace and it could be more difficult for the Liverpool centre-backs to control these players. If Tottenham play with Kane, then there is a reference point which the two centre-backs could manage, allowing the full-backs to push on.

Pochettino knows Kane, he knows how he has been training, he knows what the medical staff and his own coaching staff think and he also knows what Moura and Son have been doing. Why do you have to change something that allowed you to go to the final? Kane is a player who can make a difference, but it could be a risk to play him from the start after a long time out injured. Then, you might have to make a substitution because he is not fully fit.

My position, without knowing everything, is that I would have Kane on the substitutes’ bench. I know he is a key player, but they were winning without him. The others are doing so well that you have to give them confidence.

How do you best set up to stop Liverpool’s full-backs?

One of Liverpool’s strengths is Alexander-Arnold and Robertson and you know they are going to come forward. Firstly, you have to stop the crosses early so the wingers or wing-backs, depending on Tottenham’s system, must track their runs. But you have to be careful not to spend the whole game defending. You have to make sure you are a threat also in attack because if you attack Liverpool in the wide areas then Robertson and Alexander-Arnold cannot go forward as much. That is the best way to guard against them. Either you do it through Trippier or Rose or, in a 4-2-3-1 system, then the wingers have to come against them.Tottenham have to be prepared to defend against Liverpool’s full-backs, but they must also be thinking about attacking them.

Liverpool favourites?

In theory, yes, because they have been really good throughout the season. If they were tried, then they have had three weeks to recover. It is a final and, after last season’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, the motivation will be there. They are a little bit the favourite, but Tottenham is a very good team. I don’t think it will be an easy game. I can see Liverpool pushing and pressing hard and I can see Tottenham defending, and defending well, and trying to play counter-attack. If Pochettino plays with five at the back, then the key area will not be middle but the wide areas.

If you look at the Europa League final this week, then Arsenal was attacking in wide areas and were a threat but made a mistake in the middle and the quality of Chelsea made the difference. As soon as they scored, Arsenal had to go forward and then they became more open and Chelsea had more chances.

The first goal will be important. Tottenham will have been analysing what they did in the two defeats in the league to Liverpool this season and will not want to make the same mistakes again. It will be tough for Liverpool