PARIS — Liverpool vs Real Madrid. Paris. Champions League final. Does it get much bigger, and better, than this?
No. It doesn’t.
[ PREVIEW: Liverpool vs Real Madrid in UCL final ]
As the sun shone on the Stade de France on Friday, Jurgen Klopp’s smile matched the mood as the Liverpool boss spoke to the media in the northern suburbs of sprawling Paris.
The relaxed and happy demeanor of the Liverpool boss seeped into his players as Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all smiles as they spoke to the media, then his team out in their training session laughed, joked and couldn’t have been more in control.
That is because of one thing: Klopp and Liverpool have ‘learned how to win’ and that is why they look like they are supremely comfortable ahead of this mammoth final in Paris.
Klopp on Liverpool’s progression since 2018
Asked by ProSoccerTalk about that defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev in 2018 and what has changed for his team and how they could help them on Sunday, here is Klopp’s monologue, which he delivered with a few smiles and then more than a few reflective gazes as he looked back on how far they’ve come over the last four years.
“In the world out there, whatever you do, you have to gain experience. So, on the first day when you do a job it’s not that you say, ‘Oh my God, that was the best day in my life and I knew everything that I had to do.’ But then from there you go and maybe you have your first little success here, little things you achieve there and then all of a sudden you are on a big stage and you have to deliver,” Klopp explained.
“We delivered that night but the circumstances hit us and we couldn’t react and we couldn’t react because it was a long season as well that time, when we arrived pretty much on three wheels. I think we didn’t have a full bench, I am not 100 per cent sure but maybe we could not fill the bench completely. But players came back from injuries, key players came back from injuries, and then what happened to Mo happened and the goals we conceded happened. Our goalie had a concussion – I know nobody thinks about that but he had a concussion, it was proven afterwards, not during. And so things happened.
“So it was important and you have to learn to win. You have to. You can wait for that and everybody tells you, ‘You have to do it now, you have to do it now.’ But I said it a couple of times, I had to learn it the hard way. Thankfully the last few we could win and we all had to learn that and this team learned it. The problem what we have now is that we face a team that never lost a final. Once in my life someone told me the more often you win something the more likely it gets you will not win it anymore – I’m not sure Real Madrid thinks like that but I have that dream a little bit, that it’s the case.
“The boys developed in the last few years enormously. The club is in a good place, everybody is connected, all these kinds of things. We know we are part of a big club, a massive club and meanwhile the boys are exactly the right players for this big club, people saw that slightly different when I arrived. So we are in a good moment and we are ready for this final and ’18 was important but ’19 was more important. So, let’s see what we can do.”
Revenge in the air as confident Real Madrid stand in Liverpool’s way
Klopp was also asked about Mohamed Salah calling for revenge for Liverpool’s defeat to Real in the final in 2018 and he didn’t exactly back down from it, as he acknowledged that Salah’s injury in that final left him with a particularly feeling of revenge.
“It’s normal that he wants to put things right. We want to put things right. We didn’t forget what happened that time,” Klopp said. “It’s just a while ago and we cannot come here and tomorrow I show the movie of that game and it’s enough motivation for the game, that makes no sense. We have so many reasons that we give our absolute everything tomorrow night and this might be one reason but not the reason.”
As for Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti, Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo were just as confident, laid back and relaxed in front of the media as the Liverpool contingent and that tells you everything you need to know about this final.
Both teams are used to winning. Both teams expect to win. Both teams have been here so many times before.
“We know that when Real Madrid play in finals they win them. Now I’m on the right side,” Courtois said when asked about losing a final to Real when he was an Atletico Madrid player back in 2014.
That sums up the confidence in both camps ahead of a showpiece final which has no favorite.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid. Paris. Champions League final. The whiff of revenge and confidence in the air. Yep, it really doesn’t get much better than this.