Two managers who have done more than anything to pioneer the current era of the pressing game in the Premier League go head-to-head in tonight’s Champions League final.
Come 10pm at Madrid’s magnificent Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, either Mauricio Pochettino or Jurgen Klopp will be parading their first trophy since moving to England.
Liverpool are favourites to prevail. In nine meetings between the two managers, Pochettino has emerged triumphant just once. Klopp also got the better of this season’s two duels, both won 2-1 by the Reds.
But Spurs cannot be written off. Five times this season, the north Londoners have come within 10 minutes of going out of the Champions League only to somehow claw their way back.
Add to that the spectacular semi-final recovery jobs that did for Ajax and Barcelona, and it is a brave punter who is willing to lay hard cash on the outcome of a game which is expected to attract a global audience north of 300m.
Central to how events unfold will be the two managers. Both advocate the high press, even though both were schooled very differently.
Pochettino learned at the feet of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds United head coach. Klopp, meanwhile, absorbed the teachings of Wolfgang Frank, his one-time manager at Mainz, who himself had learned much from the legendary Arrigo Sacchi.
What unites the pair is how their own thinking has found the perfect home in England, where power and strength have always been to the fore.
By combining those traditional qualities with an overwhelming desire to swarm all over the opposition, Pochettino and Klopp have proved not only good for their respective clubs but also the England national team.
Where only Ainsley Maitland-Niles of the 22 who started the Europa League final between Chelsea and Arsenal was born in this country, chances are there will be a healthy smattering of Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions involved tonight.
Seven of the 23-man squad heading to Portugal next week for the UEFA Nations League play their club football at either the new White Hart Lane or Anfield.
Spurs duo Kieran Trippier and Harry Winks also just missed out after being named in the initial 27-strong party for Portugal, while Kyle Walker spent three years playing under Pochettino before moving north to Manchester City.
If England do triumph in the Nations League next weekend, the irony is an Argentinian and a German will have played a big part.
First, though, is a showpiece occasion that, in contrast to Wednesday’s Europa League final in Baku, will have the setting it deserves.
Madrid is a football city like few others. Real are the undoubted standard bearers for the continent with a record 13 triumphs in a competition that, for the first 36 years of its being, was known as the European Cup.
The Bernabeu Stadium is also one of Europe’s most impressive arenas and city rivals Atletico have long been resigned to living in their neighbour’s huge shadow.
That said, Atletico boast a proud history of their own. Ten La Liga titles, the most recent coming in 2014, is a tally just Real and Barcelona can beat.
Diego Simeone’s side have also met Real in two of the last five Champions League finals to underline Madrid’s standing in football.
Atletico’s nickname is ‘los colchoneros’ – the ‘Mattressmakers’, due to their shirts resembling a pattern often found on Spanish beds. Just do not expect anyone to be sent to sleep in the club’s home of two years.
These two teams are renowned for taking the game to their opponents and we should be in for a game every bit as dramatic as the only previous meeting between two English clubs in this blue riband event.
That came 11 years ago and Chelsea fans are still rueing the slip from John Terry that handed Manchester United the trophy with the big ears on penalties.
As to which set of supporters will be left pondering the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ after a final that is simply too close to call, chances are it will hinge on a flash of inspiration from the main man in each dugout. Over to you, gentlemen.