Liverpool ready for next step in Champions League final
MADRID (AP) — Jürgen Klopp saw last year's loss in the Champions League final as a starting point for Liverpool.
Now he feels it's time for the next step, to finish the season celebrating instead of lamenting.
Liverpool will be seeking its sixth European title when it faces fellow English club Tottenham on Saturday in Madrid.
"This year we learned a lot," Klopp said Friday. "We are a completely different side to last year, so the final was not too important for our improvement, the final was like a starting point again for the next steps. That's how we saw it, that's how we wanted to use it, and that's what we did.
"We had to make a step. The boys made the step," he said. "The boys were consistent, and that led us here, and we should be very consistent tomorrow as well."
Tottenham, meanwhile, will be playing in its first Champions League final, and for coach Mauricio Pochettino the time to win is now.
"The moment you get to the final, it's about winning the final," he said. "We trust in ourselves."
The north London club, which hasn't won an English title since the 1960s, made a remarkable run to its first Champions League final. Spurs eliminated Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the quarterfinals and came from behind to get past Ajax with a stoppage time away goal in the semifinals.
"It's amazing to go back 10 months, when we started the preseason, and to believe one day we would be here," Pochettino said. "The most difficult thing is to arrive in the final. That journey is the most difficult."
Liverpool, one of Europe's most successful clubs, also needed some heroics to return to the final, reversing a 3-0 first-leg defeat against Lionel Messi's Barcelona in the semifinals.
Klopp said Liverpool has matured significantly from the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in last year's final in Kiev, having made all the necessary adjustments to be able to win its first European title since 2005.
"We are much more mature. It's a good thing we are getting older, from all points of view," said Klopp, who also lost a Champions League final while coaching Borussia Dortmund in 2013. "We are a year older, we have players like Trent (Alexander-Arnold) who has 50 games more in his legs, he has more experience in football."
Klopp said there was not much the team can take from the actual final last year. It was a different opponent and different circumstances, but it gave the squad a mental edge going into this year's match.
"The boys performed in that final, it was not like we had no chance," Klopp said. "(We played against) a clear favorite, so that was OK, that helped us as well. But last year we were surprised about ourselves a little bit that we were in the final. We weren't as consistent as we are now. That was the main thing that we had to develop."
Klopp is set to have Mohamed Salah available for Saturday's match after he missed the second leg of the semifinals because of a concussion. The Egyptian forward had to leave last year's final in the first half because of a shoulder injury.
Klopp said Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino has regained his fitness and also will be available, but the coach didn't say whether he will start.
"If Pochettino says his exact lineup, call me and I will tell you our lineup as well," Klopp said. "If not, then I thought I'd keep at least a few question marks open."
Pochettino kept the mystery about his own lineup, not saying whether he plans to start with striker Harry Kane after a long injury layoff.
He guaranteed that no matter who plays, the goal will be the same and Tottenham will be ready.
"We are so ready, we are prepared," Pochettino said. "We want to write history in football, and we know very well what we need to do."