Jurgen Klopp has urged his Liverpool players to take their “outstanding opportunity” in the Europa League final – and hopes a win can give his players the confidence to improve in the Premier League next season.
Klopp has guided the Reds to the showpiece in Basel on Wednesday – and the German admits winning the competition was always one of his targets for this season.
“Of course we were in the tournament, so it was possible,” he said at a media briefing on Friday morning to preview Wednesday’s final. “I told the boys, when we played the first time, that 148 teams or something started and only 10 or 15 could win it – so let’s try it.
“Right from the start it was all about winning. Now we’re in the final and we have the same target.”
Klopp hopes Liverpool’s experiences in Europe – in particular the epic come-from-behind success against Borussia Dortmund – gives them the confidence to improve in the Premier League next season, though the Reds boss stopped short of suggesting they could mount a title challenge.
“We’ve shown what we’re capable of in the Europa League. It’s an outstanding opportunity for us. We will be ready 100% and it’s important we enjoy it,” he added.
“If you cannot be number one, one of the best four teams, you still have to develop. The Premier League goes on next year, so we will play again, so we can use each experience for this year for next year. That’s what we will do. It’s a good atmosphere around Liverpool and that has made me optimistic.”
Klopp refused to discuss his line-up in Basel, but admits there’ll inevitably be disappointment around his squad.
The German hopes that injured pair Divock Origi and Jordan Henderson can return, while Danny Ings, who has been sidelined since October, could also feature.
“When they started playing football they knew there’s a number where the line up ends. I don’t want to disappoint any of them,” Klopp said.
“To be honest I can do a lot of things in my job but I cannot do what everyone wants. That’s clear.
“It’s all about Liverpool, the best performance, line-up, and we will see after the game. We came here altogether so if you can feel you were an important part…hopefully I have to make a few difficult decisions because it means we will have a lot of options.
“There are three players who might come back. We have to see. I haven’t made final decisions. We will see about Danny Ings and if he’s ready for West Brom.
“With Divock [Origi] and [Jordan Henderson] Hendo, they are both in a good way. Hendo has done a bit more.
“We will see what happens over the coming days. I have to take what I get.
“They are pretty close. If the final was one week later now we’d be talking but it will be close. I’m not sure, we have to wait.”
Liverpool have the matter of a final Premier League clash of the season at West Brom to negotiate first – and Klopp has warned his players they cannot afford to go into the game with Wednesday on their mind.
Sevilla have posted back-to-back wins of late, but Klopp insists neither teams’ form will count for little on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it is relevant but that’s just me. They are strong, that’s how it is. We are strong too. If we play our best, it’s a real open game, and open games you can win. If we don’t play our best, it will become difficult. It’s about doing the right things in the right moments. We are prepared but we have to do it, and that’s special.”
On Liverpool’s form, Klopp said: “We had great atmospheres, maybe the greatest in the world in this moment.
“It’s been more difficult to enjoy Liverpool football last few years. This team has given those moments back. That’s nice, that’s one of the signs we spoke about. We can use that.”
Klopp was of course beaten on his last European final – the 2013 Champions League final when Bayern Munich beat his Borussia Dortmund side at Wembley.
“I feel good. I know I lost the Champions League final but I also know we could have won it,” he said. “Everyone who saw it knows it was quite close.
“I’m confident, I was in a final and we played really well. I’m looking forward to this final.”