Tottenham v Liverpool Champions League final will be a test – Southgate

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Liverpool beat Tottenham in both league meetings this season

England manager Gareth Southgate admits uniting Tottenham and Liverpool players after the Champions League final will be a “test of our management skills”.

Spurs and Liverpool contest European football’s top prize on 1 June, five days before England’s Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands.

“We have got to make a quick but accurate assessment on where they are over those few days,” Southgate said.

“It will be a very individual thing having played in such a big game.”

Southgate selected six Tottenham players on Thursday for his initial 27-man squad for the inaugural Nations League finals in Portugal, with three Liverpool players also chosen.

That squad must be reduced to 23 players by 27 May and should England beat the Netherlands, they will face Portugal or Switzerland in the final on 9 June in Porto.

Liverpool duo Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson played in last year’s final when they were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid, before linking up with England for the World Cup in Russia, but Southgate conceded an all-English final would present a new scenario.

“That will be the first time we have experienced that,” the coach told BBC Radio 5 Live. “We had Jordan and Trent come into camp last year on the back of a big disappointment and that wasn’t straightforward for them.

“So somebody is going to come in in that frame of mind unfortunately. It is a unique situation. I guess the Spanish manager would have had that over a period of time in the past [two of the last five finals have been all-Spanish] and there will be others that have had to deal with it.

“That’s a test of our management skills and our collective spirit as a team. It’s the biggest challenge of all to compete against each other, then leave that at the door and remember with England we are a team, we support each other.

“That’s been a massive strength for us over the last 18 months.”

Both Kane and Delph were injured as a result of this tussle at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last month

Neither Harry Kane nor Fabian Delph have played since they were injured in a tackle during Tottenham’s Champions league first leg with Manchester City on 9 April.

Both were chosen in Southgate’s squad and the manager insists there will be no ramifications from their collision at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“I think they are fine,” he said. “I think both of them came out of that tackle worse off, so it was not one I enjoyed watching, but our guys are close and I think they both know there was no intent in the tackle to cause harm.

“So I don’t foresee that being a problem.”

England’s last match in March was a 5-1 win in Montenegro, but that European Championship qualifying match was overshadowed by racist chanting from some home fans directed at several England players, including Danny Rose.

Reflecting on the incidents, the Tottenham defender said he “can’t wait to see the back of football” and was frustrated at the lack of action taken against racism from supporters.

The 28-year-old admitted he was “lost for words” by the leniency of Montenegro’s punishment from Uefa – playing their next home match behind closed doors and a fine of 20,000 euros (£17,253).

Asked about the sanctions, Southgate said: “My priority was, ‘how do my players feel?’

“Were we supporting them well enough and were we able to get messages out that might make a difference to how people view racism generally? And can we affect things not only in other countries, but most importantly in our own country.

“So the sanctions would always divide opinion and it’s difficult to know where you pitch that, because what is a big fine to one nation and federation is not a big fine to others.

“I think the punishment of a behind-closed-doors game hits any football team and has an effect on their ability to win and is also another financial hit as well. But I think it’s for others to decide on punishments. You know, my priority as the manager is to protect my players, to make sure they are well looked after. And to try to use the position I’m in to help educate other people.”



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