Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp keen to change European perception of Club World Cup
Klopp was criticised for taking his first-team squad to Qatar and leaving a youth team to get beaten by Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits winning the Club World Cup will do little to change the attitude towards it back home – but for him and the players it is currently the most important competition.
Klopp was criticised for taking his full first-team squad out to Qatar and leaving behind a hugely-inexperienced youth team to get beaten 5-0 by Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
However, victory for Saturday’s opponents Flamengo in the final will be greeted as the greatest day in the club’s history, having already won the Copa Libertadores, Brazilian championship and state championship.
Back in 1981 they beat Liverpool 3-0 in the final of this competition in a previous form but doing so again would be regarded as an even better achievement by fans of the Rio de Janeiro club.
It is a discrepancy Klopp would like to address but accepts he probably cannot.
“The situations are different from Flamengo and us,” said the German, who will make a late decision on Virgil Van Dijk’s fitness after the centre-back trained on Friday having missed Wednesday’s semi-final against Monterrey.
“Flamengo got sent here with a clear order to win it and to come back as heroes, we got told stay at home and play the Carabao Cup. That is a massive difference.
“When Flamengo go back, and if they win, they will have a proper party – we play Leicester City. That is how it is.
“The view in Europe is different to the rest of the world and I’d very much like to change that.
“Will it (a Liverpool victory) change the view in Europe? Probably not. Liverpool fans want us to win, most of the other fans don’t really care.
For us it feels really special. We feel the tension in the situation but we feel it as a massive opportunity and we want to try it Jurgen Klopp
“We cannot make the competition bigger for us but for us it is the most important because it is the only game we play tomorrow.”
“For us it feels really special. We feel the tension in the situation but we feel it as a massive opportunity and we want to try it.”
While Klopp has stressed the significance of the match, having flown more than 3,000 miles to take part in this competition, he is keen not to build it up to more than it is.
This trophy, in its various guises, is the one piece of silverware which the club has yet to lift as even the great side of the 1980s (twice) and the 2005 Champions League winners came up short.
But Klopp will not be telling the players this is their chance to make their mark on history.
“That is not something I will use in a meeting: that we can become a legend if we win the competition,” he added.
“That keeps your mind away from the necessary things. If someone sees the boys as legends afterwards then great but you cannot go for being seen as a legend, just win football games.”
— Carl Markham (@carlmarkham) December 20, 2019
At @LFC training where everyone - @VirgilvDijk included - apart from @GWijnaldum is present. That doesn’t mean much considering Van Dijk was present for open training on Tuesday and left as soon as the media left and closed session began pic.twitter.com/dHzb2EctKk
Liverpool scored an added-time winner to book their place in the final, yet another in a season of late interventions which have seen Klopp’s side establish a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League after 16 wins and one draw.
But when it was suggested to the Reds boss that meant they went into the game with an edge over their opponents, he said: “We have a psychological advantage? I don’t know.
“We try to prepare solutions for the problems we have: sometimes we know about them and sometimes we face problems all of a sudden and we have to find solutions.
“We don’t see us as a team who cannot lose a game, we see ourselves as a team who has to work their socks off to have a chance to win the game and that is what we try all the time.
“Everything we do, everything the boys eat, the numbers of hours they sleep, the recovery, the training we offer them, giving them time off for their mind to think about something completely different – we do these things only to create the best possible basis to win the next game.
“While we are doing that we try to have a good time together otherwise it would be a bit boring.”