Belfast Telegraph

Klopp focused on a game that no-one in Europe apart from Reds fans care about

 

Special game: Jurgen Klopp says playing in the Club World Cup final is a massive opportunity for Liverpool
Special game: Jurgen Klopp says playing in the Club World Cup final is a massive opportunity for Liverpool
Alisson Becker

By Carl Markham

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 Flamengo, their opponents in the final this evening, 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 yesterday, 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.

"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, 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." 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 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."

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, however, is keen to make history. As a Brazilian, he is well aware of how important the competition is.

"When I was young, at 14, my former club Internacional became Club World Cup champions in 2006 and I watched it as a supporter," said the international.

"I was so excited at that time. Then I started to dream of this. Now I am here, with this big opportunity to win it for the first time with Liverpool against a big club.

"You can feel how much Flamengo want this. They had more than 10,000 fans on Tuesday (for their semi-final).

"But this is not just big for them. This is big for us also. We want it. We want to win it."

Flamengo midfielder Everton Ribeiro says if they win the players will dedicate the Club World Cup to the 10 academy players who were killed in in a blaze at the Sao Paulo club's training ground in February, the worst tragedy in its 123-year history.

"We will dedicate this title to the players and their spirits. We will do our best to win the title. We will never forget those young players.

"It is a sad story in the history of Flamengo and it is a source of inspiration and motivation to exert all our efforts."

Liverpool vs Flamengo

Club World Cup final

Khalifa Int Stadium, Tonight, 5.30pm

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