LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool have turned the corner just in time for Real Madrid’s visit to Anfield to play the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash — a repeat of last season’s final.
Madrid were crowned European champions for the 14th time in Paris after a 1-0 win in a match overshadowed by organizational failings on the part of UEFA and the French authorities that put fans’ safety at risk.
Liverpool, who narrowly missed out on an unprecedented quadruple last season, have suffered a hangover during the current campaign, out of both domestic cups and 19 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal.
But back-to-back wins over Everton and Newcastle have lifted the mood around Anfield and given Klopp’s men a shot at qualifying for the Champions League next season via a top-four finish in the English top flight.
“It’s the Champions League, it’s one of the biggest games in the world. It will be a top football game and I’m really happy we can play it now,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference on Monday.
“If it had been four weeks ago maybe it would’ve been different, but life is all about timing and maybe we found our feet right in time for this game.
“Now we have these two results and hopefully we can build on it, but we need to play two super games to get through.”
Madrid have been Liverpool’s conquerors in the Champions League three times in the previous five seasons.
The European champions won the 2018 final in Kyiv 3-1 and by the same score on aggregate in a quarterfinal tie between the sides in 2020/2021.
But Carlo Ancelotti’s men rode their luck to win in Paris, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois picking up the man-of-the-match award for a series of stunning saves.
“We played this final in Paris and I didn’t watch it back since then until this weekend,” said Klopp. “Now I know why I didn’t watch it back. It was proper torture because we played a good game and could have won the game.
“They scored a decisive goal, we didn’t and it was the reason. You could see in this game how experienced Madrid is. How little they are fussed when the other team has chances.
“They don’t lose confidence for one second, that is what you can learn from them.”
An independent report into the chaos surrounding the 2022 final published last week cleared fans of any responsibility.
European football’s governing body UEFA and the French authorities were blamed for failures “which almost led to disaster.”
But Klopp does not believe those scenes should impact Tuesday’s clash, given there was no animosity between the sets of supporters or clubs.
“I don’t think we needed the Paris game to make this a special game,” said Klopp.
“As a sportsperson we lost the game and that’s the good thing about sports — we want to put things right. That’s what we try. Nothing was the responsibility of Real Madrid or our people.
“If that game wouldn’t have happened this would be a massive game tomorrow night. Our people are football people and Real Madrid are in town. Celebrate this event in the best possible way.”