Klopp on the cusp of something special
Uplifting manager deserves victory and chance to build his Reds dynasty
LIVERPOOL v SEVILLA
(Tomorrow, 2.30am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Adam Lallana revealed one of Juergen Klopp's favourite words this week - Passive.
Liverpool's manager uses the word a lot, probably too much, because its very existence eats away at his competitive soul.
Since succeeding Brendan Rodgers in October, Klopp's rousing team talks and Churchillian speeches have all shared a common theme.
Play passively and you don't play again. Defend passively and you're dropped.
Klopp doesn't understand the concept of inertia. He believes in perpetual motion - always moving, always striving, always improving.
His touchline theatrics are a study in positive provocation. He rants, but never raves. He laughs with his players, not at them. His antics are often exaggerated, but never cartoonish.
He knows exactly what he's doing and his resurrected Reds love him for it, each one desperate to reward him with the silverware that he thoroughly deserves.
With the obvious exception of Claudio Ranieri, no other manager has taken a ramshackle, disjointed squad of uneven talents and temperaments and made them greater than the sum of their parts in such a short timeframe.
Klopp has steered a nondescript Liverpool side towards two cup finals in eight months through sheer force of will. He doesn't expect perfection, but he always demands performance.
A German once stood before a group of Liverpool lads and screamed at them to "mach schau".
So The Beatles "made a show" for their Hamburg promoter and went on to rule the world.
Klopp believes his Reds can do the same, via a Europa Cup final victory against Sevilla tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
A win would represent both a coronation for King Klopp and a stepping stone towards a dynasty. Build it and they will come.
A trophy-winning Liverpool, playing in the Champions League and led by a truly talismanic character ticks every box for an unsettled superstar looking for a new home in the English Premier League.
Chelsea and Manchester United are in disarray and out of the Champions League. Manchester City are once again all dressed up with nowhere to go, until Pep Guardiola arrives, his brand slightly tarnished by his failure to win the Champions League in Munich.
Leicester are lightning in a bottle, unlikely to strike in the same place twice. Tottenham lack the cachet and Arsenal are Arsenal, that irritating group of effete artists forever in search of a backbone.
But Liverpool have always had the heritage, the song, those legendary European nights and that sign - This is Anfield.
No further explanation needed. No sales pitch required beyond a little trophy success and a charismatic manager.
At the start of the season, the Reds boasted neither, just an overpriced, underwhelming squad and a confused coach drowning in his own jargon.
By tomorrow morning, they could have both.
Combine a Europa Cup triumph with Champions League qualification and Klopp, and suddenly Liverpool are the most attractive proposition in English football.
Every club have cash to burn. Some even have title winners in their dugouts. But only one have Klopp.
Not even Guardiola has matched the Herculean feats of the irrepressible German. The Spaniard makes great footballers play consistently great, but Klopp takes good players and makes the team great.
He elevates expectations until dizzy heads are smashing through talent ceilings across the pitch.
Before Christmas, Lallana was on his way out of Anfield, a poster boy for Rodgers' erratic spending and suspect judgment.
Under Klopp, the England midfielder has rediscovered himself on the right wing, complementing his obvious ability with an improved work ethic.
Lallana doesn't run any faster, just more often and with greater intensity: same player, different attitude. That's the Klopp way.
Roberto Firmino was written off as a lightweight Brazilian, spending his early games flailing around like a kite caught in the breeze.
Emre Can was a lost boy in search of the right position and Dejan Lovren provided the comic relief, a clownish defender who epitomised the circus left behind by Rodgers.
Along with Lallana, all four were magnificent against Villarreal in the semi-final at Anfield, where Klopp played both tactician and ringmaster, demanding more from his players and the paying punters.
Klopp pounded his chest on the touchline. He slapped the club crest. He controlled the Anfield cauldron, adjusting its volume and intensity whenever appropriate.
These are not cheap gimmicks, but the natural extension of a manager devoted to his philosophy of "emotional football".
Klopp doesn't nurture cold, detached robots, but players who feed off the emotion of the occasion without ever losing their heads. He wants winning hearts and minds.
After just eight months, the Reds remain a work in progress, but their relentlessly intense surge towards the Europa League final has provided a tantalising glimpse of what's to come.
Liverpool really are on the cusp of something special.
A return to Europe's elite beckons.
Only Sevilla stand in their way.
'I proved our doubters wrong'
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp is confident he has fulfilled his promise to make doubters believers, ahead of the Europa League final against Sevilla tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
In his first press conference back in October, the German made the pledge after insisting he saw qualities in the squad he inherited from Brendan Rodgers where others saw none and would ensure people - players, the public, critics - changed their opinion.
And on the eve of the club's first European final for nine years, Klopp believes he has delivered.
"I came here because I was really convinced about the qualities of these players and this squad, despite the doubts people had," he said yesterday. "To see how they have reached this final gives me a really good feeling.
"When I came here, there was a big amount of doubt about these players and now I am really happy they can show how strong they are and it is a big opportunity to make the final step this season and achieve something.
"I don't feel the pressure. I cannot change. I feel opportunity, I feel the pressure of the game and developing players.
"I don't think I've ever felt doubt around me. If that's right, I don't know, but it makes me completely free to make decisions and for my team and myself to be free to develop together.
"I am really pleased for the boys and that they can be part of the moment with this team.
"We have a big chance and winning tomorrow will make it much more easy for you to see it as a success - and I try to help."
Liverpool are favourites to win in Basel, despite Sevilla looking to become the first team to win the competition for three successive seasons.
This current Reds side lack similar European experience, with even Klopp's record in finals nothing to write home about.
The German has lost his last four, but intends for that to change in Switzerland.
"I don't think, to be honest, I deserve some luck," he added.
"There are only two possible things in a final, you win or lose. The only thing is the performance.
"You would have seen that all the teams I was involved with have done really well.
"I am not frustrated by my final record, it could be a little bit better. I was for sure not happy after finals when I didn't win, but when it's over, it's over.
"And I know we performed to the right level and they were very close games. At home, I have a little too many silver medals, that's true. But it's better than having no medals.
"For me, when you try hard, and keep trying, then you get there eventually."
Klopp is confident his players, who lost February's League Cup final to Manchester City on penalties, can deal with the expectation in a 35,000-capacity stadium which is likely to house around 20,000 - double the number of tickets the club received - Liverpool fans.
The German also believes that the Reds are hungrier than their Spanish opponents to end an 11-year wait for an European trophy.
"The longer you go without winning anything, the harder you try and the more likely you are to succeed. That's what I believe," he said.
Klopp will make a late decision on the fitness of striker Divock Origi, who returned to training in the last couple of days after a month out with ankle ligament damage.
"We will see after training with Divock, we will see how he feels and then we will make a decision," the Reds boss said. - PA Sport.