Dubai: Something has to give on Saturday in Madrid as one of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino will finally get their hands on a piece of silverware.
Neither coach have celebrated a title of any sort during their time with their respective English giants but, with Anfield’s Reds going up against their Premier League rivals Spurs in the Champions League final on Saturday night, at least one of them will rid themselves of that albatross.
So much hangs in the balance as it will be a career-defining moment for either Klopp or Pochettino.
In the German corner, Klopp could truly take his place among the game’s great coaches if he gets his hands on the finest prize in European football, having missed out in agonising fashion last season in the showpiece finale against Real Madrid.
Years of near-misses would be forgotten — and a silver lining would be placed on a deflated campaign where they missed out on the Premier League title by the narrowest of margins to Manchester City a couple of weeks back.
For Pochettino, triumph would raise the Argentine’s stock through the roof as one of the most coveted managers in the business.
He missed out on the job at Manchester United through a series of unfortunate incidents and a false-hope honeymoon period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford following Jose Mourinho’s departure.
But jobs across Europe are going to be available soon, with Juventus and AC Milan hunting for new leaders in Italy and — believe it or not — both positions at Real Madrid and Barcelona could be available very soon if Zinedine Zidane and Ernesto Valverde do not right their respective ships sharpish.
There would be no better way for either coach to truly cement their place among the big boys of football coaching than to lift the European Cup in Madrid, the home of Real, the champions for the past three years. The only shame is that one of them will miss out once again.
Should Liverpool fail to win, Klopp will continue to have a bridesmaid tag, losing 3-1 to Real in the Champions League final last term and then coming up one point short against Pep Guardiola’s City in the thrilling just-concluded Premier League campaign.
Pochettino will just be desperate to finally get a winner’s medal, having punched above his weight for so many years.
With so much at stake, 90 minutes will make and — possibly — break a man in the hot seat.
There will also be heartache beside the managers on the touchline, as many of the players who took Spurs and Liverpool to the final will miss out on the action.
Lucas Moura and Divock Origi have been the unlikely heroes for their sides in the Champions League this season.
They kept alive their team’s hopes of winning the European title with crucial goals and decisive performances. Without them, the English sides probably wouldn’t have made it to Saturday’s final in the Spanish capital.
But despite helping their teams reach the final at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, both may miss out on playing in the match because of the return from injuries of Harry Kane and Mohammad Salah.
Pochettino will have to choose between the in-form Moura and the recently injured Kane, while will have to sit Origi or rearrange his attack to leave him in the line-up along with Salah.
Moura has been starting since Kane hurt an ankle ligament in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals. The Brazilian scored the hat-trick that allowed Tottenham to come from behind and beat Ajax 3-2 in the second leg of the semi-finals, helping the English club overcome a 1-0 home loss in the first match. The hat-trick included a stoppage-time goal that sealed the comeback and the team’s first-ever final appearance.
Origi replaced Salah after the Egyptian had a concussion in a game against Newcastle in the Premier League just before the second leg against Barcelona in the semi-finals. Origi scored a late winner against Newcastle after replacing Salah in the second half, then was crucial in the return match against Barcelona, scoring twice in the 4-0 win that put the team in the final for the second straight season.
Kane has been a mainstay in the Tottenham attack, but even before his injury some had been calling for Moura to get more minutes in the squad. The versatile 26-year-old Brazilian can play in different attacking positions, including as an attacking midfielder, and could even play alongside Kane if Pochettino wanted to.
Salah is fully recovered from his concussion and is certain to make his Champions League return on Saturday. It remains to be seen if Origi will join him when the action begins.
Catch the Match: Liverpool v Tottenham
Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid
Game broadcast on BeIN Sports