Jürgen Klopp believes he leads a 'completely different side' into the Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday night.
A year after the Reds were beaten by Real Madrid in the showpiece in Kiev, they have a shot at redemption against their fellow Premier League team at Estadio Metropolitano.
Shortly after the squad touched down in Spain on Friday afternoon, the manager took questions from the world’s media at a press conference inside the stadium.
And you can read or watch everything he had to say in addition to an update on Roberto Firmino’s fitness below…
On what he’s learned from last year’s final and the previous finals in his managerial career…
From last year that a bicycle kick from 18 metres can be a goal as well. And from all the other finals, nothing really. The finals were always different; I’ve always come there with a different team, the circumstances are different, the opponent is different. If I would be the reason for losing six finals in a row then everybody needs to worry really. If that’s not the case, then we always have the chance – and that’s how we see it actually. That we go here, go in a situation where we learned – not from the final because [there were] three strange goals, a world-class Goal of the Year and two more strange goals, which you usually don’t concede but we conceded.
Apart from that it was a good game, so we have to accept it and go home. But we learned a lot in that time since we are together. A lot of players have been together for three years, some players have been together for a year. This year we learned a lot again, we are a completely different side to last year. So the final was not too important for our improvement, the final was like a starting point again for the next steps. That’s how we saw it, that’s how we wanted to use it and that’s what we did. But from the game we couldn’t learn a lot, to be honest.
On how his team has grown in the last year…
[We are] much more mature. It’s a different side. The good thing with getting older, from all points of view actually, is we are a year older. We have players like Trent who has around 50 games more in his legs, more experience in football and was in different situations more often. We were in the situation last year and the boys performed in that final, it was not that we had no chance in that final against a clear favourite. That was OK, that helped us as well. Last year we were surprised by ourselves a little bit that we were in the final.
Like so many good teams, we had to play the qualifier and then we go through. Yes, with brilliant games but we were always like flying at home, against City, but really under pressure at City; flying at home against Roma but really under pressure in Rome. So we couldn’t be as consistent as we are now. That was the main thing we had to develop and improve. There are a few things you can do in your approach and yes, with tactics as well, how you want to behave as a group in different situations. On the other hand, you don’t want to kill your obvious strengths – our speed, our technical skills are all still there.
We had a part in the season when [the media] spoke a lot about us not playing the same football anymore but we got the points. It took a bit of time that people got used to it. But we still had fantastic football games. We just had to make the step and the boys made the step, that’s the reason for 97 points [in the Premier League], nothing else, because the boys were really consistent. That led us here as well and now we should be, tomorrow again, very consistent.
On whether either team has an advantage in mentality…
It’s a very interesting thing to think about but probably not for me or Pochettino. If I think Tottenham had an advantage I would be mad. And if he would say the advantage is on the Liverpool side he would be mad as well. We don’t really think about it, it’s not about having an advantage now, it’s about working for an advantage tomorrow. I know people say probably this year we are the favourites because we had many more points in the league but if you saw the games against Tottenham, it was 2-1 both times. Especially the home game, we won with a very strange goal. We were always really good, in both games we were really good and anyway it was only 2-1. So there is no advantage before the game. You can work for advantages and work for spaces, like you can work for opportunities, in this game tomorrow – but you have to do it in the game, not in the moment, it’s not possible.
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On if he believes in luck or fate and whether a manager can have a lucky or unlucky career…
My career for sure so far was not unlucky. Since 2012, apart from 2017 I was every year with my team in a final. We came there sometimes with luck in some moments but most of the time we had to go there. I’m probably in the moment the world-record holder in the last seven years in winning semi-finals. If I would write a book about it, probably nobody would buy it. I’m a normal human being, if I would now sit in the room and think it’s all about me, I’m the reason, if I would see myself as a loser or whatever then we all would have a problem. But I don’t see it like this.
I see all the other things. The rest is only for the outside world, that you think afterwards I’m a winner. But that’s not interesting to me. It’s the obvious thing, the silverware is why we’re here and we want to win it with all we have. But the things that didn’t happen in the past, I could still take confidence out of that. Before I went to the finals, I won pretty much all these little things, promotions with Mainz and all that stuff. We won these games, we won a lot of games, we won games for the Champions League.
I think there can be moments that are lucky and unlucky. In finals I was part of, we were never on the lucky side but I cannot change that. How I understand luck, if you work for it you have it from time to time, not always, and that’s why we try again and work for it. But apart from that, no, it was not an unlucky career. And it’s not over, I still have a few years. It’s OK, could have been better, could have been worse – so I’m fine.
On whether he feels additional support from his home country, Germany…
I would be disappointed if a lot of German people would be [rooting] for Tottenham because there are no German players or coaches in the team. Son was a Bundesliga player, but he is South Korean, he is proud of that. He speaks perfect German, so is like a German, that’s true. Apart from that, I feel the power but especially from family and friends because wherever I go, they are always for the team I am part of. So, it is then my responsibility to make a party possible this time after the game because they’ve waited already for a couple of years!
On whether this final matchup shows what ‘courage and determination’ can do…
[There are] two proper football teams in the final, I would say. Not that the others are not proper football teams, but it is like build step-by-step [for] both. I respect a lot what Poch has done. He is only a little bit longer at Tottenham; he had a very talented group when he came there, but what they’ve done together, how they’ve improved together, is really impressive. We had to do it in a different way, but in the end the way is still similar from a specific point of view.
I like that, but, to be honest, if Ajax would have been in the final it would have been deserved as well because it is a similar story. For Barcelona it is slightly different, they are used to situations like this pretty much and other teams maybe build for that. [With] these things, it’s a real football final – and now both have to deal with that because that makes the game pretty intense and, as I just felt now, it will be warm as well. There will be so many English people in the stadium and they are not used to that, the people in the stand and on the pitch! But all good, we are really looking forward to it. It will be a proper game, I’m sure.
On whether being ‘a shiny person’ is the ‘way to face life’…
What? I’m a ‘shiny person’? Brilliant! Thank you! That’s nice. You have to tell that to Poch as well because he is a nice fella. Am I a happy person, was the question? I think have a lucky career, to be honest, and on the other side, yes, it’s a big club, a wonderful club. It is a while ago we fell in love with each other and that’s now how it is. We’ve worked together for a while and we will work together for a couple more years and everything is fine.
We sit here before a Champions League final and that’s – as I understand it – the biggest game in world football for clubs, so I think it’s normal that I am in a good shape and a good mood. Even when I was unlucky, I am maybe silly enough to try it again and again and again and I don’t waste time before a game being in a bad mood. As I’ve learned, I have enough time for that after a game! We will be there and we will try to play a very positive game.
On whether he would like to see any changes made to the set-up of the Champions League tournament…
Make the semi-final the final and I’m completely fine with that! Make it over two legs and… what can I say? I am completely happy with that! With the competition, I don’t know what people want to change. It is normal, if you don’t have enough to do then you think constantly about things you can change. I love the competition, but, to be honest, as a kid in Germany when I loved it and it was the Cup of the Champions I loved it as well. I like the group stages, I like the qualification model and stuff like that. I think the right teams play in it, each team has the same chance to go through. I love it [this tournament]. I still cannot make a decision [about it], but for me it is fine.