BASEL, Switzerland: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is confident the Reds can end a difficult season on a high note and claim their first European trophy in 11 years by beating Sevilla in the Europa League final on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Sevilla arrive in the Swiss city of Basel aiming for a hat trick of victories in the competition. They are also looking to win the trophy for the fifth time in 11 seasons, having also successfully defended their 2006 title in 2007.
Liverpool were struggling before Klopp’s arrival earlier in the campaign, but he insisted his faith in the players’ abilities was there even before he joined the club.
“I came here because I was really convinced about the qualities of these players and this squad, despite the doubts people had,” he said.
“When I came here there was a big amount of doubt about these players and now I am really happy they can show how strong they are.
“It is a big opportunity to make the final step this season and achieve something.”
Klopp owns a loser’s medal from the Champions League finals in 2013 when his Borussia Dortmund side lost to Bayern Munich and his Dortmund side also lost the German Cup final in 2014 and 2015.
After collecting another runners-up medal in February when Liverpool lost the League Cup on penalties to Manchester City, the German admitted he has “a little too many silver medals” at home.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could play a part at St Jakob-Park after returning from a knee ligament problem at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, while Divock Origi, preferred to Daniel Sturridge up front in the Europa League, is waiting on the sidelines.
He came through training unscathed on Monday following a recent ankle knock and Klopp said: “We will see after training with Divock, we will see how he feels and then we will make a decision.”
With a chance to make Europa League history — no team has claimed three consecutive titles — Sevilla are not lacking in belief themselves and Liverpool midfielder Emre Can admitted: “Sevilla know how to play in the Europa League.”
Frenchman Kevin Gameiro, Sevilla’s top scorer this season with 28 goals, has managed seven in just eight Europa League outings.
But coach Unai Emery is looking for all his players to step up: “We can change history and have our names written in the competition’s history books.
“All my players have special characteristics and we need the best of them against Liverpool; we need everything they have.
“We must find a balance, though, to keep our emotions in check so we can be fully focused. We’ll need it.”
Sevilla might be chasing history, but they are fully aware of Liverpool’s former glories and Emery added: “Liverpool are among the best 10 teams in the world. They have a great history – they have won the European Cup five times, the UEFA Cup, English league titles.
“The team have changed under the new coach, they are a happy team. They’re like Athletic Bilbao the way they press and give 100 percent.”
Liverpool are chasing a first European trophy since a stunning comeback to beat AC Milan in the final of the 2005 Champions League.
Memories of that night in Istanbul remain fresh, and Klopp added: “The longer you don’t win anything, the harder you try.
“We already know about the desire of our supporters. We know how much they want to win this cup.
“We have a big chance and winning tomorrow will make it much more easy for you to see it as a success — and I try to help.”