Wednesday 29 January 2020

Klopp urges Reds to rediscover winning habit

German wants trophy after catalogue of near-misses

Kolo Toure puts his best foot forward yesterday during Liverpool’s training session at the Madrigal ahead of tonight’s clash with Villarreal. Photo: Getty
Kolo Toure puts his best foot forward yesterday during Liverpool’s training session at the Madrigal ahead of tonight’s clash with Villarreal. Photo: Getty
Divock Origi is unlikely to play due to injury despite taking part in training yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool's heroic victory over Borussia Dortmund will count for nothing if his side do not use the experience to win a major trophy.

Klopp arrives in Villarreal for the Europa League semi-final first leg tonight seeking to maintain the momentum of an epic win and reverse a worrying recent trend for Liverpool in the latter stages of major tournaments.

Since winning the FA Cup in 2006, the Merseysiders have reached the semi-final stages of major competitions eight times. Just once, in the League Cup in 2011, have they gone on to lift a trophy.

The catalogue of despair includes the 2007 Champions League final, the 2012 FA Cup final, this year's League Cup final and semi-finals in all three of these competitions. Liverpool were also beaten in the semi-final of the Europa League in 2010.

Many in the current squad are awaiting their first medal and, for Klopp, the impetus of the last-gasp win against his former club must mean more than a single, glorious night.

"It is not the moment to think that the experience against Dortmund in the quarter-final is the experience we need, it is not about this," said the German.

"It is the only chance in 2015/16 to go as far as possible. That is all. Of course, when I came (to the club) in October, Basel (where the final is held) was not a real thing to think about, but now it is not that far away, so we could (get there).

"Experience is nothing to talk about, it is not to buy. It is only to collect and use. It is not that you say what it means for next year or in two years. Each game you win, in each difficult game you win, it is the best thing you can do in your career and you can take the benefit from it.

"If you go through it could be good experience, but if you use it in the wrong way then it is bulls**t. Sorry, but it is nothing and you don't need it."

Villarreal manager Marcelino says Liverpool are favourites for the tie - a reflection of how far the Reds have evolved since struggling to draws with Sion, Rubin Kazan and Bordeaux at the start of the competition.

Klopp, meanwhile, believes Liverpool are facing one of the strongest teams in Europe.

"It is important to understand my players are here in the semi-final because they were always ready for the moment," he said.


"They never thought about the next round, so it is important that I show them the respect they've earned. That means I don't need to speak to them about things they obviously do really well. We only spoke about the semi-final. Nobody thinks we are halfway there or something. We are here because we respect this tournament.

"What Villarreal have shown each week, being fourth in the Spanish league, is the highest level of football. They are unbelievably strong, with really good balance.

"We should not hope that they will only make wrong decisions. We have to be prepared for our best game and that's what we will try to do."

Klopp must alter the spine of his side in the absence of the injured Divock Origi, Emre Can and, most significantly, Mamadou Sakho, who has opted not to challenge a failed Uefa drug test.

Sakho did not request a 'B' sample be investigated before a deadline on Tuesday, which means a charge of a drugs violation is inevitable. It is understood he will offer mitigating circumstances for having taken 'fat-burning' pills.

The defender could be banned for two years should his defence of ignorance prove unsatisfactory. His season is over and, in all likelihood, his chances of playing for France at Euro 2016.

"We are all collecting information to clear the situation as much as possible and then we have to wait until the next steps," said Klopp. "We can't force anything, we have to wait. What we have done so far is to do what we think is right."

Klopp was at least able to add Christian Benteke to his squad after the Belgian's recovery from a knee injury, although he is likely to start on the bench.

A self-confessed fan of 'emotional' football, even Klopp could not have envisaged the scale of events in the 48 hours prior to this game.

The Hillsborough tragedy touches everybody at Anfield but for Klopp, who respectfully emphasises he is still a newcomer to the club and the city, there was a delicate balance to negotiate between respecting the importance of the inquest verdict while ensuring any reaffirmation of football aspirations did not seem trivial under the circumstances.

"It was a very big moment," said Klopp. "I am pleased for the families, so happy they got the justice they wanted. Twenty-seven years is an unbelievably long time, but it shows us all if you are ready to fight for the truth and have the patience to wait then it can happen."

Villarreal v Liverpool, Setanta Ireland & BT Sport Europe, 8.05

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