Liverpool embark on their first European final since 2007 when they clash with perennial Europa League winners Sevilla in Basel this evening. The Spaniards will be going for an incredible third title in a row. They love the competition so much that many joked that they wanted to exit the Champions League early this term, just to win this tournament again!
It may all seemed stacked against Jurgen Klopp’s men. After all, the Spanish sides dominate Europe. The previous two Champions League winners have been from Spain, this year’s will also be, while seven of the proceeding 12 winners of this competition have hailed from the same nation. Even the Reds manager conceded that La Liga teams are the best in Europe in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, it is a testament of how far that the German boss has brought this group of players that they are even here at all. The pointless memes and stats that went around earlier in the season showing that Klopp and Brendan Rodgers had almost identical records and so on were complete and utter folly. This Liverpool team, made up of men that the manager has not chosen himself, has somehow made it to a European final and a League Cup final.
Yes, there have been some stinking showings in the former Borussia Dortmund boss’ tenure. Losing at home to Palace wasn’t great, being defeated 2-0 by Newcastle was even worse and that tepid showing at Swansea recently, well it is better not to say.
However, the Liverpool fans will forgive all that should they lift that trophy aloft this evening. In fact, they have already made peace with this season, no matter what happens. The supporters can see they are moving forward. Klopp has given them a hope and an excitement around the club that Brendan Rodgers could no longer harness after coming so close to the title.
Klopp has handed the fans one of their greatest ever European nights already with that incredible win over BVB, something that has endeared him to the supporters only further. Imagine how strong that relationship will become if his side are crowned Europa League winners in Switzerland.
It’s a game that Liverpool should revel in. This Sevilla team, although excellent in front of their own supporters are beyond tragic away from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
They did not win a single away game on the road in La Liga this season. That is an incredible stat, even Aston Villa won on their travels once this term. In fact, Los Rojiblancos have only registered a single victory away from home in the Europa League and Champions League combined in 2015/16. They even lost to Norwegian side Molde.
Now, granted this is not technically an away game but Sevilla’s clear mental fragility when not playing in front of their own fans can only breed confidence in a Liverpool team that will have the backing of far more supporters than their opponents. Basel will be turned into a mini Merseyside today and that can only suit one club.
The importance of this game in terms of next season is huge. A Champions League place is at stake but, perhaps even more than that, it could signal the start of something very special at Anfield. A combination of working with Klopp and the Champions League makes it hard for many players to turn down a chance to play in front of the Kop. Either way, the harmony Klopp generates and needs in order to succeed has already been forged at Liverpool.
Seven months ago when he arrived at Anfield the charismatic former Mainz defender said he wanted to turn everyone from doubters into believers. Well, he has taken another manager’s players and in that space of time made it to two major finals. If you can’t believe after that, you may as well give up.