Jurgen Klopp seated through the Champions League final loss to Real Madrid for the first time but believes things are different for Liverpool now.
It was an evening that, for varying reasons, Liverpool does not recall with any great fondness.
And, for more than eight months, Jurgen Klopp had no particular urge to watch again last year’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
While Reds supporters were last week being officially exonerated by the independent report into the chaos off the pitch in Paris, matters inside the Stade de France that night were no less encouraging for a Liverpool side who outplayed their opponents but were ultimately undone by the only goal from Vinicius Jnr.
But with Real once more the opposition in Tuesday’s round of 16 first leg at Anfield, Klopp was compelled to review the defeat.
“I didn’t watch it back since then until this weekend and the thing I realized immediately was now I know why I didn’t watch it back – but I had to,” says the Reds boss.
“It was proper torture because we played a good game and could have won the game – and that’s the decisive word because we ‘could’ but didn’t because they scored and we didn’t and that’s the decisive reason. Unfortunately, yes, I watched it by myself. I watched the game back, knowing exactly what will do and we had to win this game.
“But we saw how experienced Madrid are and how little they are fussed by the fact when the other team has chances. They don’t lose confidence in one second, they know ‘our chance will come’ and they defend with legs. That’s what you can learn from them.
“Real Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world, one of the most successful for sure, won this competition I don’t know how often, super-experienced.”
Real – who have been European champions 14 times – demonstrated last season with their progress against the odds over Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Manchester City on the way to the final they are more than adept at coping with almost every situation.
And while they have not quite hit the heights in La Liga this season – they trail leaders Barcelona by eight points – their European nous is undisputed.
“Generally I don’t think you can make this team panic,” says Klopp. “There were enough reasons: the chances we had and the saves Courtois had to make, somebody could think ‘oh my god we have to close this gap’. But what held us a little back was the fact that it was a final, we did not take enough risks in little moments, we were not adventurous enough, and we were super protected because of the counterattack threat – rightly so as we saw with the goal.
“Analysis is always super easy, especially a year later, but when I watched it back, there was a feeling of here and there and with an extra spark we could have made this thing (happen). But again it is Real Madrid, we cannot play this game without respect. The white shirts and the badge on the shirt. There was Modric, Kroos, Casemiro, Benzema, Valverde, all of them are world-class, now they have Tchoaumeni, Camavinga, it is a good set-up team and that is why it is so difficult but it doesn’t mean it is not possible.
“We tried it in the final, but in the rounds, before they played City and PSG and both games looked like: game over! It wasn’t and that is their quality. Some of their players won the competition five times so they probably think they own the competition and they are probably right. But we still want to give it a try.”
Successive victories over Everton and Newcastle United have changed the mood at Liverpool after a tortuous start to the calendar year, with any suggestion of approaching the tie with a sense of trepidation now banished.
“I am really happy we play it now,” says Klopp. “Four weeks ago it would have been different but life is all about timing and maybe we found back our feet in time. Now we have these two results and hopefully, we can build on that but now we need to play two super games.
“If we don’t play our best we don’t have a chance. Real Madrid doesn’t have to play their best and still has a chance We still have to prove that point, that is how it is. After Real is Crystal Palace and we need results.
“We were already in a similar situation directly after the World Cup break with the two wins, but we look like now we are there. It looks different, we feel it, we see it, and it helps the mood massively. For Tuesday night, whatever we have done at the weekend I would expect us to fight with all we have.”