Big interviewJürgen Klopp's FA Cup final preview | 'We want to be the best version of ourselves'
Jürgen Klopp has outlined Liverpool’s determination to conclude a special Emirates FA Cup journey in glory at Wembley.
For the second time this season, the Reds will face Chelsea in a domestic final on Saturday, with Klopp’s side bidding to add the FA Cup to the Carabao Cup they won back in February.
Ahead of another trip to the national stadium, the boss sat down with Liverpoolfc.com at the AXA Training Centre to preview the clash with Thomas Tuchel’s team.
Watch the in-depth interview below, or read on for a full transcript…
Watch: Klopp's FA Cup final preview
Jürgen, it feels like there is a huge game every few days at the moment but the FA Cup final is very special so how are the levels of anticipation here?
So, it’s a big expectation, to be honest. It is our first FA Cup final but we played two Carabao Cup finals – once we lost, once we won – so we have a little bit of a sense of the atmosphere, which is absolutely great. I loved the Carabao Cup final this year, it was an incredible game, it was against Chelsea and 120 minutes – madness! So, yeah, massive game coming up and you are right: final after final after final, but we make differences still. That’s a real final, there is no game coming after. So yeah, we are all really looking forward to it. It will be big.
So many players have helped Liverpool reach this final. How proud does it make you that the whole squad, including some debutants from the Academy, have contributed?
‘Second’ competitions like the Carabao Cup, I loved it so much, and now the FA Cup the same. That’s what I love most about it: that we really can say we are here, we arrived in the final and we used the full squad pretty much, and the extended squad if you want. Massive experience for the boys, for Kaide [Gordon], for Elijah [Dixon-Bonner], my God! I can remember his face when he came on and all these kind of things. It’s just great and the boys, the first-team players, they see it exactly the same. Always when you have this kind of journey it brings you closer together. We always [did] it but never for that long, to be honest. It started as a similar experience but ended earlier, so this year it is really special and it is a big one. It is our first one and we are a different kind of team than we were in the past. These boys are now really ready to go for the biggest prizes and the FA Cup is a massive prize. So, we will try to be the best version of ourselves and bring it home.
Another important day on the journey was the fourth-round win over Cardiff City, which was a massive day for Harvey Elliott as he returned from injury with a goal…
True, true, true. You remember that, I didn’t know that anymore! [I remember] the last game we played in the FA Cup was City at Wembley but yeah, it’s true, it was massive and now I even know how he scored the goal. It was wonderful how his dad reacted in the stands, massive! All the games were difficult because then already the schedule was insane and playing all these games, we had to make changes, otherwise we have no chance. It is not about the individual quality you might have on the pitch, it is about the spirit and the desire you can create on the pitch to fight an opponent for whom it is the game of the season. So that’s why we were really lucky with our decisions we made before the game because the teams were always really, really ready and that is why we are here.
After that was Norwich City, a resilient Nottingham Forest and then Manchester City in the semi-final. Meetings with Pep Guardiola’s team are always eventful but you put in a very accomplished performance...
Yeah, we played only a couple of days before in the league against them. When you know how you shouldn’t do it, it’s always good that you can show immediately how you could have done it in the first place – and that’s how we started the game pretty much. It was a completely different game, so that was great. But you’re right, Nottingham, for example, was absolutely incredibly difficult. We knew it before. Nottingham obviously flying under Steve Cooper, playing a super season, maybe didn’t start that well but then since Steve is there. Then you go there in the middle of, I don’t know which games we had, knowing we have to win each Premier League [game] and these kind of things, and going there, making changes...
It was my first game at Nottingham, incredible atmosphere, so all these kind of things. It’s typical FA Cup. Away games in the cup competitions are really tough because the people really make some special stuff. Whichever away crowd it is, it’s always intense and difficult. That’s why it’s so special that we arrived here, with all the games the boys played around it. That we arrived in the final is really massive, a great achievement already but, of course, we know what we have to do.
Inside Wembley: Man City beaten in semi-final
You’ve already had two experiences of Wembley this season. How does it feel to walk out there and see the Liverpool end with all the flags and hear the songs? Describe those emotions...
I said it after the Carabao Cup final, it was no different to the Champions League final three years ago. No difference. It was blue and red, bam, both went for each other, so easy to see where we were and the others. Massive atmosphere, really, and I expect exactly the same again. It’s outstanding. Wembley is a great stadium. It would be nice if it could be a bit closer to Liverpool, to be honest, because it’s always a proper trip, but that’s the only negative thing I can say about it. People always said I’m not the biggest fan of the domestic cup competitions – that’s not true, it just never happened. Now this year it happened the second time. I honestly can’t wait to feel the atmosphere again. Let’s give it a go against an incredibly good opponent, unfortunately – but that’s the nature of the thing that in the final you barely meet teams that cannot play football.
It’s obviously a rematch of the Carabao Cup final. So in terms of Chelsea’s mindset, how do you see them approaching it? They might feel they’ve got a score to settle...
‘A score to settle’, I’m not sure. It was the longest penalty shootout I’ve ever been part of! I know Thomas obviously and I know the players want to make a successful season out of it. It’s a good season – they qualified for the Champions League obviously. Last year they won the Champions League, this year they got knocked out by the other team who is in the final, which I think can happen. So, [they] played a really good season in a difficult year. Yes, they want to go for it, definitely. And they have quality and a lot of players. You don’t know how they will start, all these kind of things, different options, all these things. So, preparation will be interesting.
That final was settled 11-10 on penalties. If it went that far this time, would you be confident of scoring 11 spot-kicks in a row again? It was quite some feat...
Yeah! What can I say? Did I think we need 11 before that game? No. And there were a few when I thought, ‘Oh really, yes they shoot as well?’ But they were all flying that night, so that was great. But that’s how football is and that’s what I don’t like about penalty shootouts – there’s very often one loser, if you want, and the outside world sees it as the one who fails in this moment. I don’t like that but it’s part of the job. So, let’s decide it in the 90 minutes – that would be great.
Watch: The incredible story of the Carabao Cup final
How do you define success over the course of a season? Is it simply about trophies, or do you see a much bigger picture?
There’s not only one way to see it. There’s an obvious way to see it: you win pretty much everything – that’s impossible, very difficult at least. And then the other thing, you have to see what you’ve won and you can have a think about it, ‘Was it success?’ This season so far, I think we all agree, is a very successful season. But without winning anything, it will not be the season, so that’s how it is. We won the Carabao Cup already but we are Liverpool, we are a world-class club, we have a world-class team, so it’s difficult to define a season as absolutely perfectly successful if you win the Carabao Cup only with being in all the other finals. So we know that. The decisive part is coming now, no problem at all. The season, until now, it’s the first time ever a team fought for the title and was in three finals – so there’s a reason for it because it’s really difficult and really intense. Being here is good, but the icing on the cake is still missing and we are working on that now.