Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool’s eventful run in this season’s Europa League has left them perfectly equipped to handle the pressure of Wednesday’s final against Sevilla in Basel. Liverpool produced memorable performances against Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal to reach their first European final in nine years. And it now presents a chance for Klopp to end his first season at Anfield on a real high.
“We had special games, we were under pressure at home against Villarreal because we were 1-0 down [from the first leg].” he said in his pre-match press conference. Then we were under pressure in Dortmund, we were under pressure at home against Dortmund in the game. But these boys always did a perfect job, so why should I change?
“I am sure they are ready and that is what I want them to feel. We feel good, I’m really pleased for the boys – I am really pleased I can be part of this moment with this team.
“When I came here, there was a big amount of doubt about these players and now I am really happy they could show how strong they are. Tomorrow is a big opportunity to make a final step, not the final step, but the final step in this season. To achieve something great.”
Liverpool finished the Premier League season in eighth position, meaning victory on Wednesday offers a last chance to garner a place in the Champions League for next season. Speaking before the final, Klopp suggested that that the team’s progress in the Europa League had negatively impacted their Premier League form.
Certainly there was evidence of that on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday when Klopp made wholesale changes to his lineup in a 1-1 draw with West Brom.
Instead, it has been the cup competitions that have offered Klopp his best moments in his first season, having also reached the Capital One Cup final when losing to Manchester City. It has been a similar story for Sevilla. Unami Emery’s team disappointed in the league, finishing seventh and remarkably not winning a single away game.
But they now have the Copa del Rey final to look forward to on Sunday against Barcelona, and before that yet another final in a competition which Sevilla have made their own in recent years.
At Basel’s St. Jakob-Park they will have the chance to become the first five-time winners of the Europa League, or its former incarnation the UEFA Cup, having won it four times in the previous 10 years. They can also become the first team to win the trophy three times in a row and the first to win any European competition three season in succession since Bayern Munich did so with the European Cup in the mid-1970s. And Emery is determined to take that chance to put their names in the record books.
“Every time football gives you a chance you have to take it,” he said. “What we have achieved in recent years is wonderful but you can't stop there; you have to relive it, you have to experience it again. The Sevilla fans know this: they look upon the club as their second wife or second girlfriend.
“We want to grow. We can change history and have our names recorded in the history of the competition. We must find a balance, though, to keep our emotions in check so we can be fully focused. We'll need it.”
Sevilla will be missing long-term injury casualties Michael Krohn-Dehli and Bennoit Tremoulinas. Liverpool, meanwhile, look set to have striker Divock Origi back after injury.
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes