Interview'For the whole club' - Jürgen Klopp on Liverpool's return to Wembley
If Liverpool can overcome Chelsea and lift the Carabao Cup this weekend, Jürgen Klopp would consider it a triumph produced by the whole club.
The manager used 29 different players in the competition as the Reds navigated a run to Wembley by beating Norwich City, Preston North End, Leicester City and Arsenal.
Three goalkeepers contributed across those five ties, while the Academy crucially supplemented the senior squad when required as the next generation of talents grasped their chance and helped steer the team to the final.
Which is why, should Liverpool get their hands on the silverware in London on Sunday afternoon, ‘everybody deserves to be a part of this journey’.
“All the different games were obviously difficult and we made a lot of changes, played a lot of kids,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com during a special cup final preview.
“So if – a big if – we win the competition then it’s a competition really for the whole club and especially for the Academy as well because we used players from the U18s, we obviously used players from the U23s. They are all really good and that’s why we used them, but some of them made obviously a proper impression, like Tyler [Morton], for example, like Kaide [Gordon], for example, like Conor [Bradley], for example – not to miss anybody.
“So it’s a really important competition and I think we used it the right way, but that we changed so much is not because of the competition, it’s just because of the amount of games we have. That’s why it’s so difficult to get through.
“In this moment in time, even with two players out [Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota], it’s the first time that we would have the squad to play maybe two mainly senior teams, which was never possible before. That’s why we had to do what we did and we came through and everybody deserves to be a part of this journey.”
Liverpool return to Wembley for a domestic cup final for the first time since 2016, when they were beaten on penalties by Manchester City in this same tournament during the early phases of Klopp’s tenure.
The Reds are also progressing nicely in the Emirates FA Cup this term, with a fifth-round home tie against Norwich immediately following Sunday’s showpiece versus Chelsea.
Asked what it would mean to him to end the club’s wait for a success in either competition, Klopp said: “Everything, absolutely everything. How I said, it’s really big.
“The thing with it is, if you don’t have the numbers players-wise, you cannot force it; I cannot force the early rounds in the League Cup and say, ‘We have to play the same players again’ and then three days later we play Premier League and Champions League. Everything is important at this club so you have to try to navigate. And yes, then you play against a League One side or a Championship team.
“And we had very often, that’s the truth, the draw where we played away at United or Chelsea or whatever but we still had to do the same stuff. And then you go out and then I can understand that people think it’s because we are not bothered but that is not true and was never true.
“That makes it even sweeter that we now made it, the second time we are in this final – there are for sure worse records out there. And we are really happy about the fact we have made it. You could see after we won in the semis, the dressing room was really buzzing. It’s a big one.”
Inside Emirates: Reds reach Carabao Cup final
Klopp is no stranger to cup finals, of course, with the Reds aiming to claim a fifth major honour of his reign following Premier League, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup titles.
There will nevertheless be butterflies in his stomach over the coming days, he confirmed, and added meaning to this contest following the extended period of behind-closed-doors football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You face a lot of challenges on the way and then when you make it to the final, then it’s big and I know the people are buzzing as well,” he said. “So, we can play a final in front of a full stadium, which is great as well, so yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.
“I said before, I never can get used to a full stadium at Anfield, for example, because it is so special each and every time. But I never got used to empty stadiums as well, so the difference couldn’t be bigger.
“When you go for these kind of things then you want to have the people around. This is the moment where we have that for the first time in a really big event and yeah, I’m pretty sure our people will be in a good shape.”
Just shy of 33,000 supporters will be inside Wembley to roar on Liverpool come the 4.30pm GMT kick-off against Thomas Tuchel’s Blues.
And Klopp is eager for his players and the fans to feed off each other’s passion in the pursuit of ensuring it’s the Reds celebrating at the full-time whistle.
“They are outstanding, they helped us in each situation during the season, during the last season especially when they were not here but then came [back] a little bit,” the boss said of the supporters.
“We know exactly how they will push us and we know that we have to do our job as well, so that is what I love most about the moment in the club: that we all feel really, really, really connected and that means we all support each other.
“We know we do it for the people, but we do it for ourselves as well and the people do exactly the same, they do it for themselves but for us as well. So let’s just try to perform on a world-class level in the stands and on the pitch.”
Read the second part of our pre-final interview with the manager on Sunday morning here on Liverpoolfc.com as he anticipates a special occasion for Caoimhin Kelleher and analyses the opposition standing in the Reds’ way.