It is a step into the unknown. Liverpool may have played in seven European Cup finals, winning five of them, but they are relative novices compared to Real Madrid. Back-to-back winners – the first club to do it in the modern era – Real have even more of a unique link to European competition than Liverpool; their experience is great. However, Jurgen Klopp believes that his sides’ bravery, work-rate and desire for a sixth European Cup can compensate for Real’s greater experience.
Liverpool will aim for their sixth whilst Real their fourth in five years – no club has won a hat-trick of European Cups since Bayern Munich in the mid-seventies. It is the manner in which Liverpool have reached their first final in 11 years that excites the fans and the manager. Scoring a competition record of 40 goals en route to Kiev and producing several exhilarating performances – both at home and away – makes the encounter intriguing to say the least.
Real Madrid are favourites but Klopp refused to be drawn on it by saying: “They are more experienced, that is a fact. If there is a market for experience they should sell it because they would be even richer. Experience is very important in life but it is not the only thing. It is important to be more experience but you can level it with desire, attitude, work-rate and that is what I love in football. We made out own experience.”
“We are not as long together as Real Madrid because they play these finals pretty much with the same team so as a group they are very strong. That is all fact, but it is still football and we have a chance and let’s give it a try. Let’s go there and try to perform on a level which maybe people would say is not possible for us but it is possible.”
Klopp added: “We did all the things we need to do plenty of times already in the Champions League campaign and now we need to do it again. Real Madrid is a really good football team but we are a really good football team. We are full of desire and we really work for our dreams.”
The Liverpool manager continued to highlight how he consistently manages to create a team that performs greater than the sum of its parts. Real Madrid are the complete antithesis of how Klopp works. Injuries have mounted, a place in next season’s Champions League was only guaranteed on the last day of the Premier League season but Liverpool remain upbeat. The pressure has built up but so has the bravery and optimism.
“We had a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations in the last few weeks. Each game we drew we wanted to win. I said all that rubbish after West Brom only because I was really angry we didn’t win. I am not a psychologist but if somebody would tell me constantly that everything is different in the next game then I would get nervous.”
“We have to handle it like an opportunity because it is an opportunity. You cannot go into a football match knowing you can lose it. I experienced that plenty of times but I am still a happy person. Life goes on. We will show the players why it makes so much sense to be brave.”
The relaxed mood amongst the Liverpool camp appeared to carry on after their time in Marbella last week. Beneath the Merseyside sunshine – of which every ray must be appreciated – the entire squad, baring long-term absentees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Matip, trained in front of the media. There were smiles aplenty. It was pleasing to see Adam Lallana and Emre Can – whom Saturday’s match will represent his last involvement with the club – on the Anfield turf, significantly boosting Klopp’s midfield options.
“The mood is very good for the club, for us and for the boys because we finished the season in the best way,” Klopp said. “We felt really good and then having time to prepare for the match is really good. We could do a lot of things and didn’t have to compress it into two or three sessions. We feel good and think we deserve to be where we are because the boys showed up in the campaign.”
It was a campaign to remember; too many dramatic and exciting matches to count but to finish it in the right manner in Kiev on Saturday would be special. “It was very exciting,” Klopp remarked about the season, “and now we want to bring it to the best possible end.”