Jürgen Klopp believes Liverpool’s progression to the Europa League final is vindication of his decision to persist with the players that received fierce criticism under his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers.
One of them, Divock Origi, has a good chance of featuring on the substitutes’ bench having recovered from the ankle injury that was expected to rule him out for the rest of the season two weeks quicker than expected.
“When I came here there was big doubt about these players,” he said “Now they have the opportunity to achieve something great. Let’s try it.
“I’m happy about the difficult moments we’ve had in this competition. We have found solutions. This team has developed really well.
“It’s a very important step tomorrow. I came here because I was really convinced about the quality of these players. I was the only person.”
Klopp insists he does not feel any burden of expectation as he attempts to beat Sevilla who have featured in the competition’s final on four occasions over the last decade, winning each time.
“I don’t feel pressure, I feel opportunity,” he added. “The pressure is developing these players day after day, week after week.
Liverpool’s greatest comebacks
Liverpool 3 Everton 1, FA Cup final, 10 May 1986
Not everyone’s automatic choice, given the relatively comfortable scoreline, but when a Gary Lineker goal put Liverpool on the back foot in a Wembley final against their city rivals, a response was needed. It came after half-time through Ian Rush, before Craig Johnston gave the red half of Merseyside the lead. Rush rounded things off seven minutes from time.
Liverpool 3 West Ham United 3 (Liverpool win 3-1 on penalties), FA Cup final, May 13 2006
They said that, just as 1953 was ‘The Matthews Final’, 2006 would be ‘The Gerrard Final’. It has not quite turned out that way but that should not detract from the then-Liverpool captain’s performance, particularly that superb last-minute equaliser – probably, on balance, the best goal of his Anfield career.
Liverpool 3 St Etienne 1, European Cup, 16 March 1977
Needing one against the French champions more to take the tie on aggregate and avoid elimination at the quarter-final stage on away goals, perennial substitute David Fairclough scored the most important goal of his career. Folklore says the noise from Anfield could be heard from three miles away when ‘Super Sub’ sent Bob Paisley’s team on their way to a first European Cup.
Liverpool 4 Newcastle United 3, Premier League, 3 April 1996
Thanks to ‘Collymore closing in…’ and Sky Sports penchant for self-promotion, this game has become the default answer when people ask for the best there’s ever been since the Premier League’s inception. Has there been better since? Maybe, but Martin Tyler’s famous line and that image of Kevin Keegan draping himself over an advertising hoarding like a wet bedsheet on a washing line have rightly become iconic.
Liverpool 3 Olympiakos 1, Champions League, 8 December 2004
Rivaldo’s splendid free-kick just before half-time left Rafael Benitez’s men needing three goals to qualify from the group stage. Two came from unlikely sources – Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama-Pongolle – before the outstanding individual moment of Steven Gerrard’s career made Anfield (and Andy Gray) erupt. Limbs all over the shop.
Liverpool 3 Milan 3 (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties), Champions League final, 25 May 2005
The greatest night in the club’s storied history. Benitez’s squad could not hold a candle to their 1970s and ‘80s equivalents but led by Steven Gerrard, inspired by Jamie Carragher, held together by Sami Hyypia, strung together by Xabi Alonso and, ultimately, saved by Jerzy Dudek, they emerged victorious from an incredible final. 3-0 at half-time, 3-3 by full-time and you know the rest.
“Tomorrow is a very important step, though. I am pretty sure if we don’t win the title nobody will think the season is a success. For me a lot of things are in these seven months. But if you look back in 100 years nobody would say ‘that was cool’ but this isn’t the moment to judge. Winning tomorrow will make it much easier for you to say this season has been a success. I will try to help.”
Klopp was clear about what he expects from the Liverpool team he selects.
“Being organised, being brave, being patient enough to get the opportunity to earn the last pass; being ready to make mistakes when the whole world is watching and being able to react: these are the things we must do,” he concluded. “Sevilla will try to do these things as well, of course, but if we do them better we have a real chance.”
Jordan Henderson, the captain, who returned from injury in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, is expected to feature in the squad. He credited Klopp with turning Liverpool’s fortunes around.
“Since the manager has come in, he’s put a spirit, a belief and a mentality through not only the players but the fans and the whole club. I think that’s built across the seven months he’s been here. Every single player has gone up a couple of levels. Now we are here in a European final: on a big stage.”