A great deal of ink has been spilled about Jurgen Klopp and his less-than-great return in finals. Of course so few of those “think” pieces include the fact that Klopp’s charges were so often underdogs. And the funny thing about underdogs is that they generally aren’t favored to win.
Such was the case going into last year’s Champions League final, coming up against a far more experienced Real Madrid side. And Liverpool were threatening to take the lead, when the “experienced” Sergio Ramos decided he’d had enough of dealing with the annoyance of having to defend Mohamed Salah. And then again, the annoyance of having a fully functioning goalkeeper on the other side.
So it goes.
Regardless, now the shoe is on the other foot. Now Liverpool are the ones with the muscle memory of what it’s like to play in a final, and Tottenham are the ones set to make their first appearance on the biggest stage in world football. No matter what happens, Spurs should be thankful they’re not coming up against a violent psychopath.
On this experience, and how last year’s appearance shaped the squad, Joe Gomez thinks there has been a mentality shift throughout the team.
“I definitely think we go into this final in a different place,” Gomez told the club’s official website. “It’s still a Champions League final and they’re always separate occasions and you have to approach it with the same mentality.
”But I think this year speaks for itself and the growth in the team has been massive.
”[Klopp] shows and emphasises the fact that we’re a different team and we can’t go into thinking that we’re the same team.
”In that sense, we can take the confidence from that, but still have the desire to win one because we know what it means for this club and we want to get the sixth star.”
Not only has Klopp had a full extra year to train the existing squad, but also a few new key players, including a fully functioning goalkeeper.
Last year’s defeat has fuelled this year’s incredible form, both in the league and down the stretch in the Champions League. Above all else, Liverpool have shown the ability to bounce back from adversity throughout the season, including within individual matches.
Whereas the injury to Mo Salah essentially derailed the Reds last year, this year’s squad completed an unprecedented semifinal comeback without Mo or Roberto Firmino. Fucking mentality giants, indeed.
None of this guarantees success in the final, of course. Anything can happen in a one-off game on a neutral pitch. However, if things aren’t going Liverpool’s way early (perhaps Jan Vertonghen going knuckle-deep again into Bobby’s eye socket?), these Reds have shown the ability to deal with adversity far better than last year.