Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists their duel with Roma for a place in the Champions League final should not be seen as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Tonight: Anfield, 7.45pm
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)
TV: TV3, BT Sport
Bet: Liverpool 1/2 Roma 5/1 Draw 10/3
The Reds tonight face the Italian club in their first semi-final in Europe’s elite club competition for a decade, but their manager stressed he will not be building it up to be all-or-nothing for his players, more a stepping stone on the path to further success.
“I make the pressure higher? I tell them it’s the only chance you ever have in your life, so use it. Would you love to hear that before a game?” he said. “[It’s] not a once-in-the-lifetime chance. I am already for the second time in the semi-finals and if I go, I will be the second time in the final. That’s pretty rare.”
The two clubs have significant history, with Liverpool having beaten the Serie A club at their own Stadio Olimpico ground in the 1984 European Cup final, while their most recent meeting in 2002 saw the Merseysiders progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Prior to that, the Reds were also victorious in the knockout stages of the 2001 Uefa Cup on their way to winning the trophy.
However, Klopp said that will not have any bearing on this tie.
“When was the final? ’84? Most of the players were not born then. Was Milly (James Milner)? Maybe Milly, I am not sure. Maybe he just looks older (Milner was actually born in 1986),” he added.
“I really like it, but these things happened as the stories of those boys. I love that we go to Rome, a fantastic city and a beautiful stadium, the Stadio Olimpico, an historical place where you hear stories of 1,000 years ago.
“If it helps, we will use it, but I think the boys need real things, not the good old stories, even though they were brilliant. We only talk about it, because we hope it helps. The spirit of Rome.”
Klopp’s sides have developed a habit of blowing teams away in concentrated spells, highlighted by their three goals in 19 first-half minutes to take the quarter-final leg away from Manchester City.
The German likened it to the manner in which the great Manchester United side of the 1990s and 2000s operated.
“Is there something with Alex Ferguson, Man United. At a specific time they scored, always twice?” he said.
“Score, score? That is the opportunity. Score once, do it again. Use the momentum in the game. Of course, we talk about, of course we want to use that, but you still have to score.
“The team is a really enthusiastic team. In a good moment, they jump and that’s really good to see.
“On the other hand, that’s why the two Man City games were really special. We dealt with the very difficult circumstances in the two halves here and there on a high level.
“That brought us to the semis, not that we can score one, two, three in a row.
“In the moments when we are not in charge of the game, we are still in the game, that’s a very important thing and that helped us massively.”
Mohamed Salah will again be key to Liverpool’s hopes, but Klopp expects the newly-crowned Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year will get a rough ride from his former Roma team-mates. The 41-goal forward faces his old club for the first time since his £38m move last summer.
Italian defenders have a reputation for their uncompromising approach and Klopp alluded to that when discussing Salah’s situation.
However, he also thanked the Serie A club for helping make the Egypt international the star he has grown into since arriving in England.
“Players change clubs, managers change clubs. I had it with Dortmund two years ago, already,” Klopp said. “It is a normal game, but it feels quite special, because you know much more about the team than you usually know, and you are more interested in the other team than you usually are.
“I am pretty sure Mo follows the whole season of Roma, as he had a fantastic time there and he became the player there which we have now here, so big credit to all the staff and the players at Roma, because they are all part of his development.
“Italian defenders are famous for not having friendly games, so I think Mo will feel pretty early in the game they are not his team-mates any more and then he can strike back in a football way.”
Klopp said it was already a special campaign for record-breaking Salah after his individual award, but he wants him to achieve something with the team.
“It’s great, but the season is not finished and there are a lot of things to come, but I am sure it is a nice boost for him,” the German added. “In this season, when Kevin De Bruyne played the season he played, it makes it even more special.
“The players know how difficult it is to score that many goals and be involved in that many goals, so I think it is well deserved.”
This is a semi-final which few predicted at the quarter-final stage.
Liverpool overcame runaway Premier League champions Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate, having laid the foundations with a stunning 3-0 win at Anfield, while Roma sprang an even greater surprise by overturning a 4-1 deficit to eliminate Barcelona on away goals with a 3-0 second-leg victory.
Not that Klopp entertains the underdogs tag.
“I am really not interested in what people think, but I do understand probably a lot of people would have thought this semi-final would be Barcelona v Manchester City, but it is not, because it is football. I came up the stairs at Manchester City and someone told me Roma won 3-0. I thought in a second ‘not possible’, because the opponents were Barcelona.
“We did something similar at City. They played an outstanding season, but in these two games we deserved to win. Maybe our situations is similar.
“We both have the chance to go the final and that is all I need. If anyone thinks we two are underdogs, who cares? We are in the semi-final and we can go to the final. That is all I care about.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved