Jürgen Klopp: ‘I have never been part of a final with a better team than this’
‘I think every team that loses a final thinks they will put it right.'
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp speaks during a press conference at the Melwood training ground ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images
Jürgen Klopp has described Liverpool as the best team he has taken to a cup final and believes defeat in Kiev last May focused their mindset on winning this season’s Champions League.
Liverpool are aiming to become champions of Europe for a sixth time – and their manager to break a sequence of six consecutive final defeats – when they face Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday.
Klopp insists his team are completely different to the one that endured painful defeat in the Champions League final against Real Madrid last season, when he claimed Liverpool were happy to surpass expectations and reach Kiev.
Now, Klopp maintains, Liverpool will only be satisfied with lifting the first trophy of his Anfield reign. And he has the best opportunity to end that wait on Saturday given the quality and character at his disposal.
The manager said: “I have never been part of a final with a better team than this. Our boys mixed our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant, exceptional, and it brought us where we are.
“It is a sensational situation. We didn’t expect it, we wanted it really desperately, but it looked like it slipped through our fingers in the group stage when we struggled in the away games. But we did it in the most mature way.”
Klopp noticed a determination to avenge the defeat against Real among his players as soon as they resumed pre-season training last summer.
“It had a big influence on us,” he said of the 3-1 defeat. “When we stood in the queue in the airport in Kiev on the way home, all in tracksuits, heads down, disappointed, there was a lot of different emotions. But the plan was, we come again. Now we are there, that is just incredible.
“I think every team that loses a final thinks they will put it right. They don’t all have the chance. We do. It was the kickstart for the development of this team. From the first day of pre-season when we were all together, it was a big step for the boys. This team is not even to be compared with the team of last year. Last year we wanted to be in Kiev. This year we wanted to win it wherever the final is. There’s a big difference just in our mindset.”
Klopp confirmed Naby Keïta will miss the final on Saturday with the groin injury he sustained at Barcelona while Roberto Firmino, who missed Liverpool’s past three matches because of a muscle problem, is on course to play. Firmino trained alone at Melwood on Tuesday but is expected to rejoin the group sessions on Wednesday.
The manager also admitted that a Champions League triumph would rank as the highlight of his career. “The biggest moment of my career was getting promoted with Mainz in 2004. But winning the Champions League with Liverpool? That would make me think of something new.”
Georginio Wijnaldum, whose two goals in the sensational semi-final victory against Barcelona played a crucial role in Liverpool’s passage to Madrid, is equally excited about the match on Saturday but has described it as “50-50” contest.
“Spurs are a good team, and anything can happen over 90 minutes,” Wijnaldum said. “We might have finished higher in the league but a final is 50-50. I don’t really think about being favourites because both teams can win this game.
“Anything can happen but we are relaxed and training well. I wouldn’t say we are a team under pressure. This is just another opportunity for us.”
The game on Saturday provides Wijnaldum with another chance to face his former Newcastle team-mate Moussa Sissoko. The pair remain friends. “Moussa looked after me when I first came to England,” Wijnaldum said. “ He helped me settle in, he even brought me something to eat. We’ve come a long way but we still have memories of Newcastle.” – Guardian