Un­likely heroes may miss fi­nal as Kane, Salah set to re­turn

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID — Lu­cas Moura and Divock Origi have been the un­likely heroes for Tot­ten­ham and Liv­er­pool 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 Mohamed Salah.

Tot­ten­ham man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino will have to choose be­tween the in-form Moura and the re­cently in­jured Kane, while Liv­er­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp will have to sit Origi or re­ar­range his at­tack to leave him in the lineup along with Salah.

Moura has been start­ing since Kane hurt an an­kle lig­a­ment in the first leg of the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nals. The Brazil­ian scored the hat trick that al­lowed Tot­ten­ham to come from be­hind and beat Ajax 3-2 in the sec­ond leg of the semi­fi­nals, 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.

Moura, who joined from Paris Saint-Ger­main in Jan­uary 2018, also scored a cru­cial late equal­izer against Barcelona in the team’s fi­nal group game in De­cem­ber, se­cur­ing the English club a spot in the knock­out stage.

“All of this is a dream and now I have the op­por­tu­nity to play in the fi­nal and to win the com­pe­ti­tion I have al­ways dreamt about,” Moura told UEFA.com. “With­out a doubt it’s the best mo­ment of my ca­reer.”

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 Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals. 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.

Kane has been back to full train­ing and de­clared him­self avail­able for Satur­day’s fi­nal, though Po­chet­tino re­mained cau­tious about whether he would start, say­ing “we will wait and see how he is pro­gress­ing.”

For Moura, the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal could give him an­other op­por­tu­nity to show Brazil coach Tite he made a mis­take by leav­ing him out of next month’s Copa Amer­ica squad. Tite an­nounced the team shortly af­ter Moura’s su­perb dis­play in the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals, but they weren’t enough to per­suade the coach.

Salah fully re­cov­ered from his con­cus­sion and is more cer­tain to make his Cham­pi­ons League re­turn on Satur­day. He played only about 30 min­utes in last year’s fi­nal be­cause of a shoul­der injury sus­tained in the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid.

Origi also is ver­sa­tile in at­tack and may get to start along­side Salah and Sadio Mane. The 24-year-old Bel­gian will have added com­pe­ti­tion from Roberto Firmino, though, who also had been out in­jured but has a chance of be­ing back for the fi­nal.

Po­chet­tino and Klopp will have about a day to make their fi­nal de­ci­sions on Moura and Origi.

Martin Meiss­ner / As­so­ci­ated Press

Tot­ten­ham’s Lu­cas Moura plays the ball dur­ing a Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nal sec­ond-leg match against Ajax on May 9.

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