Wednesday 21 August 2019

Klopp hails Liverpool as best team he's ever managed as he confirms Firmino fitness for Champions League final

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is pictured during a Champions League final press conference at Melwood. Photo: Reuters/Craig Brough
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is pictured during a Champions League final press conference at Melwood. Photo: Reuters/Craig Brough

Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes he is taking the best team he has ever managed into the Champions League final -  but knows quality does not guarantee success.

Of the seven finals Klopp has contested he has lost his last six and while he rated his Borussia Dortmund team defeated by Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final as his best, the current Reds side surpass them.

And he admits beating Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday would be a new career-high for him.

"I don't like to blame my other teams. I love them all," said Klopp.

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino

"They all gave everything but I have never been part of a final with a better team than this.

"In different times, for different reasons my teams were good as well. I am not so surprised because our boys mix our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant.

"In the five-six days between Barcelona (losing the semi-final first leg 3-0) and Barcelona (second leg, winning 4-0), nobody believed more than the team themselves.

"That is why we are here. It is a sensational situation. We wanted it really desperately.

"It looked like it slipped through our fingers in the group stage, we struggled in the away games (losing all three) but did it in the most mature way, winning 1-0 against an Italian team (Napoli).

"You have to remind yourself from time to time how strong my time is."

A dejected Jurgen Klopp after last year's Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
A dejected Jurgen Klopp after last year's Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

Klopp is leading the side into his fourth final with Liverpool but after last season's heartbreak against Real Madrid in Kiev there is optimism he can end his barren run.

He admits the final in Kiev, which was characterised by two mistakes by goalkeeper Loris Karius and a brilliant overhead kick by Gareth Bale, is a motivating factor.

"I remember standing in the queue at Kiev airport after the final in our tracksuits with our heads down and everyone was disappointed about the situation," added Klopp.

"There were a lot of different emotions but the plan was we come again, we will be there again. Now we are there that is just incredible."

Should Klopp guide the Reds to a sixth European Cup he would go down among the club's greats.

Even then he had to think about whether it would be his clear highlight.

"If I win it, yes. It would be different to the last finals," he added.

"To bring the team to the Champions League final is the biggest moment in my career?

"No, that was 2004, getting promoted with Mainz. If you had known the money we had, the circumstances we had, nobody needed us in the first league."

Liverpool have been boosted by the return to fitness of Roberto Firmino, who has missed the last three matches with a thigh problem.

It means Klopp will be able to named a virtually fully-fit squad with only Naby Keita (adductor) missing.

"No chance for Naby. Naby is really progressing well. We will see how it will work out for him for the African Cup of Nations," said Klopp.

"Bobby (Firmino) was part of training last week, really good, everything looked fine. He will be fine, I am pretty sure."Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino should be fit to face Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday's Champions League final in Madrid.

Firmino missed Liverpool's memorable semi-final win over Barcelona and the final game of the Premier League season against Wolverhampton Wanderers with a muscle strain but he has responded well to his return to training said Klopp.

"Bobby was part of training last week then we took him out and will be in training from tomorrow again. From what we saw so far he looked good. He will be fine, I'm sure," the German told a news conference today.

Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said Firmino was crucial to Liverpool's way of playing.

"Really important, he sets the pressing from the front. We try to follow him. When we have the ball he is like an extra midfielder so we try and follow him in both ways. He is also an extra defender," Wijnaldum said.

The 28-year-old stepped into the Firmino role during the second half of Liverpool's stunning 4-0 win over Barcelona, scoring twice. While he would be willing to take on that duty again, he said he was more comfortable in his usual central midfield position.

"I prefer to play in the midfield but if the manager needs me I will play anywhere. That is a really difficult position to play. I think Divock (Origi) or (Daniel) Sturridge is a better option but if the manager needs me...," he said.

PA Media

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport