On Saturday, Liverpool fans celebrated the return of Rafa Benitez, welcoming back a manager who in his first season at the club led the Reds to glory in the Champions League. Today, the team look to take one more step towards doing something similar under Jürgen Klopp in his first year in charge.
"When I arrived in October, Basel was not a real thing to think about," began Klopp when asked about helping his new club all to the cusp of a European final in his first season in charge. "Now it’s not that far away. We got here because we deserved it, and now again we have to show we are strong enough to get though."
This time around it may be the Europa League rather than the Champions League that Liverpool are trying to win, but the two previous rounds, against Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, provided both match-ups and football that wouldn’t have looked at all out of place in Europe’s premier cup competition.
Now, Liverpool take on Villarreal with a chance to advance to the final, and Klopp says it is his side’s ability to focus on the game at hand and their respect for the competition—a respect that has helped them to get this far already—that will provide the foundation for how they approach a stubborn Villarreal side tonight.
"It’s not a time to think about what kind of experience it would be to go through in the semi-final or out in the semi-final," he added. "It’s not a moment to think that the experience against Dortmund in the quarter-final is what we need again. It is not about this. This is only about a chance to go as far as possible. That’s all.
"It is important to understand my players are in this semi-final because they were always ready for this moment. They never thought about the next round. We are here because we respected the tournament. We have done our best in each round. That’s why we’re here. Why should we change our way now?"