LONDON (Agencies): Jurgen Klopp says his current Liverpool team are the strongest side he has taken to a final as he plots Champions League glory against Premier League rivals Tottenham on Saturday.
Liverpool are preparing for their second successive Champions League final after a run that included an incredible comeback to overturn a three-goal first-leg deficit against Barcelona in the semi-final by winning 4-0 at Anfield.
It will be Klopp’s fourth European final as a manager, having been a Champions League runner-up with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, before losing the Europa League final with Liverpool in 2016.
Their run to Madrid this year has been marked by a never-say-die spirit, with Klopp suggesting that his team of 2019 is better than those that have lost his three previous European finals.
“I don’t like to blame my other teams (for the European final defeats),” said Klopp, whose side lost out to Real Madrid in the final last year. “I love them all. They all gave everything but I have never been part of a final with a better team than this.
“I am not so surprised by this because our boys mix our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant.”
However Klopp, speaking at Liverpool’s training ground Tuesday, made clear that he has yet to surpass his first major achievement as a manager, leading minnows Mainz into the Bundesliga for the first time in their history 15 years ago, on a minimal budget.
– Career highlight? –
Asked if Saturday’s final marked the pinnacle of his career, the manager, whose side finished a single point behind champions Manchester City in the Premier League, said: “If I win it, yes. It would be different to the last finals.
“Is bringing the team to the Champions League final (in itself) 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… and the fact was that nobody needed us in the first league.
“If I win the Champions League, though, I will have to think about this question again.” Klopp is hopeful that forward Roberto Firmino will be fit to play a part in Saturday’s final, having missed the final three matches of the season with a muscle issue.
Midfielder Naby Keita, however, will not recover from his adductor injury in time to face Tottenham.
“No chance for Naby,” Klopp said. “Naby is really progressing well. We will see how it will work out for him for the Africa Cup of Nations. “Bobby was part of training last week, really good, everything looked fine. He will be fine, I am pretty sure.”
Klopp expects a close contest against a Tottenham side that Liverpool beat home and away in the Premier League during the season, winning 2-1 on both occasions. He said: “It will be very tight. The quality of Tottenham and us is pretty similar. The distance between us is consistency.
“Emotions will be completely different. You have to use the emotions but in the right circumstances. Bringing ourselves in the right mood is the job we have to do.
“We know about Tottenham a lot but after three weeks (without a game to prepare), I would have known the name of the groundsman of Barcelona if they had been the opponent.
“We know it is difficult, Tottenham know it is difficult, so let’s play a difficult game and let’s win it.”