Tottenham vs Liverpool: Mauricio Pochettino makes Spurs stars walk on hot coals and break arrows with throats

31 May

Mauricio Pochettino has put his Tottenham players through a series of death-defying challenges to get them emotionally prepared for the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Players and staff have walked over burning hot coals and snapped sharp arrows with their throats, as the spiritual Spurs boss attempts to strengthen their minds.

Pochettino has a habit of putting his players through their mental paces
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Tottenham finished 26 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League and lost to the Reds twice earlier this season – but Pochettino wants his players to believe anything is possible ahead of the showdown in Madrid.

He flew motivation guru Xesco Espar in from Spain last week – and put the players’ mentality to the ultimate test with a string of terrifying tasks.

“All of them were unbelievably involved. They enjoyed it a lot,” Pochettino said.

“They were all very brave. And the staff who did it too.

“Your mind is powerful and only you set your limits.

“If you are going to run, of course you need big legs, muscle and everything but if your mind says, ‘No. I cannot run, you’re going to be tired.’ Then you cannot move. And that is why, before everything, your mind must be ready and focused and your emotions need to be in a good place.

“So our strategy from day one after the Everton game at the end of the league season was to make the priority this area. And then all the areas around it.

“We designed our strategy. Of the activities that we proposed with the players was to walk across hot coals but before that, during two or three hours, we were preparing, doing team bonding.”

Tottenham training has been a little different ahead of the Champions League final
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The challenge with the arrows sounds genuinely life-threatening.

An instructor holds the arrow, placing the tip just below the player’s Adam’s apple, before they walk towards it, forcing the stem to snap.

Pochettino said: “When you see the arrows, you think it’s impossible.

“Breaking the arrow against my throat? You say ‘No, come on, I am going to kill myself’.

“Then you put them here, with the sharp tip against your throat and then bang, you break the arrow.

Pochettino explains that his spiritual belief system stretches back to his childhood – and it’s shaped his methods as a manager.

The Argentine walks across hot coals during his time at Southampton
YouTube | Southampton FC

When he arrived at Southampton back in 2013, he put the Saints stars through the same feet-hopping and throat-popping challenges.

He said: “All my life I’ve felt it.

“When I was a kid, one night, I said: ‘Tomorrow I want to score three goals.’

“And I was thinking that 15 minutes before I went to sleep. Then, the day after, I scored three goals.

“It’s a small thing. But the biggest dreams are the same. It’s difficult to explain but I’ve always felt that that energy was with me. I don’t know who taught me about it.

The Wanda Metropolitano awaits Tottenham and Liverpool
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“It’s just inside me. It’s not a thing that I got from my dad or my mum or my brothers or some friends. It was with me, inside, in my mind, in my heart and it’s grown with me.

“And of course when I started to grow up, I started to think, I said: ‘What is going on?’ It was natural, no? But it’s a thing that worked always for me.

“I think it’s helped my career a lot, my belief, my faith, to have these principles with me.”

Tottenham can lift the famous trophy for the first time in their history
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Neither Tottenham nor Liverpool have played a competitive game since the final day of the Premier League season, three weeks ago, and there are concerns over match fitness.

But Pochettino suggests the team with the greater mental strength could be victorious on the biggest night in Spurs’ history.

“The most important thing is to learn how you can prepare your mind, to be focused, to be proactive. This is the key in football.”

Listen to talkSPORT for commentary of the Champions League final live from Madrid.

 

Tottenham vs Liverpool LIVE: Champions League final commentary stream, confirmed teams

31 May

Tottenham and Liverpool face off in Madrid on tonight as both strive to win the Champion League – and the showpiece final is live on talkSPORT.

Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium plays host to the final after both Premier League sides came through incredible semi-final ties.

Tottenham and Liverpool go head-to-head for Champions League glory in Madrid
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Liverpool stunned Barcelona in the final four, coming from three goals behind to win 4-3 on aggregate and go through.

Tottenham were 3-0 down to Ajax but produced an amazing comeback of their own to win on away goals and join their top-flight rivals in the final.

Now Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are one step away from glory with England set to have a new champion of Europe’s elite competition.

Liverpool won both their Premier League meetings this season 2-1 with Roberto Firmino netting home and away.

talkSPORT will have full, comprehensive live coverage of the blockbuster game and here’s how you can tune in.

Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano will host the 2019 Champions League final with Liverpool and Tottenham fans sharing 33,226 tickets

Tottenham vs Liverpool: How to listen

We’ll be building up to the big game all day on talkSPORT, before our full coverage from Madrid gets under way from 6pm.

Mark Saggers will host all the build-up and Jim Proudfoot and Stuart Pearce will be on commentary duty.

To tune into all the action, just click here for the live stream or click the radio player below.

You can also listen through the talkSPORT App, on DAB Digital Radio or on MW 1053 or 1089.

For more information about how to listen LIVE on talkSPORT click here.

Tottenham vs Liverpool: Kick-off time

The Europa League final will get under way at 8pm on Wednesday, May 29.

Liverpool and Tottenham go head-to-head in the Champions League final this weekend
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Tottenham vs Liverpool: Team news and predicted line-ups

Harry Kane is named in Tottenham’s starting XI after recovering from an ankle injury which has kept him out since April.

The England captain replaces hat-trick hero from Amsterdam Lucas Moura in the team.

Harry Winks, who joined the club as a five-year-old, also makes his comeback following groin surgery.

Forward Roberto Firmino is named in Liverpool’s starting line-up after missing the last three matches with a thigh problem.

With the Brazil international fit the only selection dilemma manager Jurgen Klopp had was who to pick in his midfield three.

He has gone with Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and semi-final hero Georginio Wijnaldum, meaning James Milner misses out.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Alli, Eriksen, Son, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Sanchez, Lamela, Wanyama, Dier, Walker-Peters, Llorente, Foyth, Aurier, Lucas Moura, Davies, Gazzaniga.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane. Subs: Mignolet, Lovren, Milner, Gomez, Sturridge, Moreno, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Brewster, Origi, Kelleher.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

Tottenham and Liverpool face off in Madrid as both strive to win the Champion League
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What the managers say

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino

“We have worked hard, preparing for the final and at the same time, enjoying it because it’s a period we don’t get together very often.

“It’s so important in the way we prepare and apply the different work to different players at different levels.

“Of course, we are so happy in the way it’s going, always with the idea to win. It’s not about playing, it’s about winning.

“The players are so excited, so motivated but at the same time very calm and relaxed with the confidence we’re doing the right things to arrive in the best way.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

“It will be very tight, no doubt. The quality of Tottenham and us is pretty similar.

“The difference between us in the league was consistency. We won both games against Tottenham but both 2-1. We had brilliant periods in the games where I think we deserved to win, but especially the home game was an absolutely tight game with a lucky goal in pretty much the last minute.

“So that’s what we expect, there’s no doubt about that.

“We know a lot about Tottenham, of course. We played against them, so we know it’s difficult, Tottenham know it’s difficult. Let’s play a difficult game and let’s win it.”

MATCH STATS AND FACTS

  • This is Jurgen Klopp’s third major European final with Liverpool – only Bob Paisley (four) has ever reached more with the club.
  • Klopp is the first manager to take an English club to a trio of European finals in his first three seasons of European competition.
  • Sadio Mane could become the first player to score in back-to-back European Cup finals since Franz Roth with Bayern Munich in 1975 and 1976.
  • Victory in Madrid would give Liverpool their sixth European Cup success, putting them outright third on the all-time winners list behind only AC Milan (seven) and Real Madrid (13). 
  • This will be Tottenham’s fifth European final (Cup Winners’ Cup 1963, UEFA Cup 1972, 1974, 1984) but first in the Champions League.
  • This will be Tottenham’s first European final since the 1984 Uefa Cup. They are looking to become just the third English side to win all three major Uefa tournaments, including the old Cup Winners’ Cup.

Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr: British fans sing ‘you fat b****rd’ as Ruiz weighs in for AJ challenge

31 May

Andy Ruiz Jr was taunted by Anthony Joshua’s travelling fans at their weigh-in on Friday in New York.

The British contingent chanted ‘Who are ya?’ and ‘You fat b****rd’ as the challenger walked to the stage before his final face-off with the champion before their fight.

Ruiz weighed in at 268lbs (19st 2lbs) while AJ registered 247.8lbs (17st 9lbs 13oz) for his US debut at MSG in New York.

After the weigh-in AJ told Sky: “I just wanna say thank you for coming out and supporting.

“It’s all about getting in the ring and doing the job, so I’m looking forward to it.”

When asked for his final prediction, the champion sent a message to fans watching back home in England: “I won’t keep you up too long.”

Never say never again: Nibali looks for another late turnaround at Giro d’Italia

31 May

An omen of sorts for Vincenzo Nibali? In 2016, when he won his second Giro d'Italia with a long-range attack on the road to Sant'Anna di Vinadio on the penultimate stage, the first embrace of congratulations came from the parents of the man he had just divested of the maglia rosa, Esteban Chaves.

Small wonder, perhaps, that Nibali's face creased into a smile at the finish in San Martino di Castrozza on Friday when he learned that Chaves had won stage 19 of this year's Giro by attacking from the day's early break. "I'm happy to hear that. He's a guy who really deserves it," said Nibali. "His parents are here again too? I'm even happier, then."

Nibali finished safely alongside race leader Richard Carapaz (Movistar), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) on the stage, 6:29 down on Chaves. As anticipated, the category 2 ascent to the finish did not provoke many gaps in the pink jersey group, though Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) snatched 44 seconds with a stinging attack.

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In the final kilometre or so, Nibali moved carefully to mark a late effort from Roglic, but one had the impression that the podium contenders were largely content to leave their swords in their scabbards ahead of the more sustained skirmishes expected in Saturday's Dolomite tappone to Croce d'Aune.

"There weren't long climbs on the route today. The finale was hard because it was fast, but it wasn't a place where you could make much of a difference," Nibali said afterwards. "Landa is riding very well. If he had attacked, then I would have followed, but he was riding for Carapaz. But tomorrow, I'm sure he'll want to play his hand for a spot on the podium."

Manghen

Nibali, like Landa, knows that he is fast running out of tomorrows. The hypothetical has weighed heavily over this lopsided Giro, where the mountain stages were crammed into the second half, but stage 20 to Monte Avena constitutes the final roll of the dice for Nibali, who begins the day some 1:54 off the maglia rosa of Carapaz.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Tottenham vs Liverpool: Mauricio Pochettino remains tight-lipped on whether Harry Kane will start Champions League final

31 May

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino remained coy over whether Harry Kane would start the Champions League final.

Kane has been absent since the quarter-final first leg against Manchester City in early April when he suffered a ‘significant’ ankle ligament injury.

Pochettino is yet to decide whether his star striker will start in Madrid
Getty Images - Getty

The England captain insists he is fit for the showpiece clash with Liverpool and trained without problem at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on Friday night.

Kane would likely replace Lucas Moura – the hat-trick hero of Amsterdam – if he was to start and Pochettino is preparing himself for a ‘painful’ decision.

“We have one training session now and then we’re going to decide,” Pochettino said.

“It’s normal that you are asking me, it’s not easy, it is not going to be easy to make that decision tomorrow.

“But it was difficult the last game that we played, the semi-finals, the quarter-finals, the last 16.

“Every single game we need to take a decision. Tomorrow is going to be another decision, a decision when we have all the information and we know every single detail, we are going to take the best decision to win.”

Kane could start the biggest night of his career on the bench
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Pochettino believes it is a team game and has even insisted with UEFA that his entire 23-man matchday squad will go on to the pitch before kick-off to have their photo taken.

“It is so painful when this type of game arrives and you can only use 11 players from the beginning,” he added. “That is the most painful situation.

“I proposed a few weeks ago to try and get the whole squad to take a picture together – I think UEFA has listened.

“Tomorrow both teams are going to have the possibility for the whole squad to be on the game to take a picture.”

Carapaz: Landa will ride for me to win the Giro d’Italia

31 May

The Giro d’Italia has seen its share of internecine strife over the years, but if any tensions exist between Richard Carapaz and Mikel Landa, they have yet to register any tremors, far less produce the kind of fault-lines that cleaved open between Roche and Visentini in 1987 or Cunego and Simoni in 2004.

Even so, the possibility of a tradimento is a favoured trope in any Giro narrative, and so when Carapaz took his seat in the press room in San Martino di Castrozza on Friday afternoon, he faced an array of questions that circled around a familiar theme: can Carapaz rely on the fealty of his Movistar teammate Landa on Saturday’s arduous stage 20 to Monte Avena?

Landa currently lies 4th overall, 3:03 behind Carapaz and 47 seconds off a podium place. The Basque’s calling card, at Astana, Sky and now at Movistar, has been his desire for freedom from the constraints of team duties, but Carapaz dismissed the idea that Landa would abandon his post by joining rivals like Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) – second overall at 1:47 – on the offensive on Saturday.

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“We know they are going to come for us, and that’s one way of testing us,” Carapaz said. “Since the beginning of the race the team has been very good, and they’ve worked for both of us. Mikel told me to my face that he’s at my service tomorrow. I have confidence the team is backing me.”

On stage 19, Landa performed his duties impeccably, serving as the pacemaker in the pink jersey group when Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) attacked on the final climb. He came home alongside his teammate Carapaz, as well as Nibali and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), 6:29 down on stage winner Esteban Chaves.

Carapaz was later asked what he feared the most from the 194km stage from Felte to Monte Avena between the following checklist of potential setbacks: a crash, a mechanical problem, a long-range attack from his rivals or an act of betrayal from Landa. Unfazed in a press conference as he is on the road, Carapaz responded without missing a beat.

Nibali

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Giro d’Italia: Roglic shows sign of comeback ahead of final mountain stage

31 May

Primoz Roglic attacked twice in the finale of the climb to San Martino di Castrozza on Friday afternoon, showing he still ready to fight for a place on the podium at the Giro d'Italia despite pain in his ribs after his crash on Sunday and a growing feeling he trying to limit his losses on the climbs and so fight for a place on the final podium in Sunday Verona time trial.

Roglic was keen to pull on a cape and descend quickly to the Jumbo-Visma hotel at the foot of the 14km climb but his bike was again tagged for a UCI X-ray check for mechanical doping and so he had to ride into the anti-doping area behind the podium for the check. Vincenzo Nibali's and Mikel Landa's bikes were also selected for X-rays controls, while other riders selected for anti-doping controls.

Roglic spoke briefly about his two attacks as he waited for his bike. He was quickly chased down Nibali, race leader Richard Carapaz and Landa, with other riders joining them but it was a clear sign of a comeback and of defiance. He is not dead yet.

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Only Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana got away in the final kilometres of the fast climb to the foot of the spectacular Dolomites. On a good day for Colombian cycling, he gained 44 seconds on his overall rivals. Carapaz still leads Nibali by 1:54, with Roglic third at 2:16. Landa is fourth at 3:03, Mollema fifth at 5:07 and Lopez is sixth, now at 5:33.

"I didn't drop anybody but we have to see if some guys had some problems to follow," Roglic said of his attack, clearing hoping for more and confirming that the pain in his ribs is still hindering his performance in some way. "It was okay. I still have some pain in my chest after the crash, so that's a little annoying."

Roglic was keen to descend to his hotel as soon as possible to rest up and recover for Saturday's final mountain stage.

Fear of the final mountain stage

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Eddie Hearn signs Joseph Parker to add to heavyweight stable; next fight June 29

31 May

Joseph Parker has signed a three-fight promotional deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom USA and announced his next fight.

The 27-year-old heavyweight, who has only lost to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, will likely return against Eric Molina on the undercard of Demetrius Andrade vs Maciej Sulecki, June 29 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Eddie Hearn and Joseph Parker previously worked together for his fight with Anthony Joshua
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He joins an extensive stable of heavyweights Hearn works with including Joshua, Whyte, Oleksandr Usyk, Murat Gassiev, Michael Hunter, Filip Hrgovic, Zhilei Zhang, Sergey Kuzmin, David Price and Dave Allen.

Parker said: “My six-year promotional contract with Duco Events ended on March 26. It was a wonderfully successful partnership – so much so that David Higgins will always be part of my team, advocating in my best interests in a management capacity.

“Since my contract with Duco ended I have been a free agent, with my team and I spending several months assessing how to best achieve my goal of not only becoming a world champion again, but unifying all of the belts to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Hearn and Parker also collaborated for the Dillian Whyte bout
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“Ultimately we decided that the best option was to partner with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing. We believe the three-fight deal that we are announcing today will be the start of a long and successful partnership.”

Hearn added: “If Joseph Parker performs the way we all know he can over these next three fights then he will have a strong case for another shot at Anthony Joshua.

“And, I must say, I am also looking forward to sparring again with my old mate David Higgins as we haggle over the terms of each deal for Joseph.

“David unquestionably has Joseph’s best interests at heart and he is a tough negotiator, so there are going to be some interesting discussions ahead.”

Giro d’Italia stage 19 highlights – Video

31 May

Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) took his first win in nearly a year at stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia. The Colombian formed part of a large early breakaway but attacked several times on the final climb until he cleared his rivals and raced ahead to secure a solo win ahead of Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli) and Amaro Antunes (CCC Team).

Chaves won a stage of last year's Giro d'Italia on Mount Etna, and went on to experience a turbulent season that saw him suffer from an illness that wasn't diagnosed until months later.

He did not race again for the remainder of 2018, but came into this season hoping to turn things around. At the top of the climb and the finish in San Martino di Castrozza, Chaves was greeted by his parents after what was an emotional win.

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In the race for the GC, Richard Carapaz (Movistar) held his overall lead despite attacks from Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). Carapaz leads the race into the penultimate stage on Saturday with 1:54 over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 2:16 over Roglic.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Tottenham vs Liverpool: Roberto Firmino passed fit for Champions League final, Jurgen Klopp confirms

31 May

Liverpool have been given a huge boost ahead of their Champions League final against Tottenham – with Roberto Firmino returning to fitness.

The Brazilian has missed the last three matches, including the semi-final victory over Barcelona, with a thigh problem.

Firmino has returned to fitness just in time for the Madrid showdown
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Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has confirmed the striker is fit, although he would not go as far as saying he would start.

“Yes, he’s ready. If he will start… if Poch afterwards says his exact line-up then call me and I will tell you our line-up as well,” he said.

“If not, then I thought I’d keep at least a few question marks open.

“He’s fit, he’s trained, he’s here and if nothing happened from the moment he left the plane until now – I didn’t see him since then – he’ll be fine.”

Klopp laughed off his appalling record in finals by rebranding himself a “world record-holder in winning semi-finals” and insisting he is not the problem.

The German has lost the last six showpiece events he has contested since winning the German Cup in 2012.

He has finished a Champions League runner-up twice (with Borussia Dortmund and then Liverpool last season) as well as losing two more German Cups with Dortmund and League Cup and Europa League finals with Liverpool.

It is a stick which Klopp has long been accustomed to being beaten with but ahead of their meeting with Spurs in Madrid, the 51-year-old joked about his record when asked whether he believed in fate or bad luck.

“Do you think I have an unlucky career? All my career was not unlucky,” he said.

“My missus always asks me before the season when is the final game of the season, because we are often in it, so I’m not unlucky.

Klopp is feeling relaxed ahead of his third Champions League final
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“Since 2012, apart from 2017, I was every year with my team in a final. We came there sometimes with luck.

“I am the world record-holder in the last seven years in winning semi-finals. But if I were to write a book about it probably no-one would buy it.

“If I were to sit in the room and think it is all about me, I am the reason, if I saw myself as a loser, then we would have a problem but I don’t see myself as this.

“If I were to be the reason for losing six years in a row, then everyone needs to worry.

“But we go in a situation where we learn – not from last season’s final as there were three strange goals – a lot from our time together.

“We want to win with all we have and with things that happened in the past I can take confidence from.”