Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool’s astonishing European fightback proves his side will not give up hope of winning the Premier League until Manchester City have the trophy in their hands on Sunday.
Klopp’s team staged arguably the greatest comeback in Champions League history on Tuesday when they thrashed Barcelona 4-0 to overturn a 3-0 semi-final first-leg deficit.
With an all-English Champions League final against Tottenham set for June 1, Liverpool can pour all their energy into one last push to win their first English title since 1990.
The Reds are one point behind leaders Manchester City heading into their final game of the season against Wolves at Anfield.
AFP/File / Paul ELLIS
Liverpool mounted an astonishing comeback against Barcelona to reach the Champions League final
City will retain the title if they win at Brighton but a draw or loss for Pep Guardiola’s men would open the door for Liverpool to be crowned champions if they defeat Wolves.
Given Brighton’s lowly position, the odds are firmly on a City coronation, but Liverpool boss Klopp says this week’s astonishing Champions League drama showed anything can happen when the pressure mounts.
Not only did Liverpool author a fightback for the ages, but Tottenham scored three times in their semi-final against Ajax to go through on away goals after trailing 3-0 on aggregate with just 35 minutes left.
“It’s been a week of big football moments. But from our point of view it could be a big football moment on the weekend — the week is not over yet,” Klopp said.
“I think at the start of the week most people expected me to be sitting here and saying ‘OK, after not being in the Champions League final, it’s difficult to be champions’. Well now we are in the final and it is still difficult.
AFP/File / GEOFF CADDICK Liverpool are chasing their first English top-flight title since 1990
“We are not used to moments of glory but we win from time to time. Focus is not a problem. The only thing we can do is win this game.”
In virtually any other season, Liverpool, who have 94 points and have lost only once in the league, would have been champions by now.
Having secured successive Champions League final appearances, the sting of failure will not be quite so sharp if Liverpool do not get a helping hand from Brighton this weekend.
But do not tell that to Klopp and his players.
Reflecting the togetherness and desire fuelling their remarkable season, Klopp revealed Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson will all play through the pain barrier against Wolves.
– ‘It’s only pain’ –
Salah missed the Barcelona game with a concussion, while Henderson (knee) and Robertson (calf) both suffered injuries in that match.
“The famous three words of this week in the dressing room is ‘It’s only pain’. Very important for all the young lads to learn,” Klopp said.
Liverpool fans will be glued to their phones for updates from Brighton as the drama unfolds on Sunday, but Klopp just wants his team to focus on Wolves.
“Maybe our supporters shouldn’t celebrate the result before it’s 3-0 for Brighton and 87 or 88 minutes played, all the rest is only information, nothing else,” Klopp said.
The manager is still waiting for the first trophy of his four-year Liverpool reign, but that pales into comparison with his club’s nearly three-decade title drought.
When Liverpool last won the league, it was their 10th title in 15 years — a period of dominance that came to an unexpected end when Kenny Dalglish resigned as manager in February 1991.
In the barren years since then, Liverpool have finished second four times, most famously falling just short when Steven Gerrard’s slip in a defeat against Chelsea allowed City to sneak past them in 2014.
While Liverpool have a special relationship with the European Cup, which they have won five times, this is a club raised on legendary boss Bill Shankly’s demand that “the league is our bread and butter, that’s the one I want”.
Winning their 19th title would spark delirous celebrations across Merseyside and, after what he has witnessed this week, Klopp senses one last miracle could be on the cards.
“Both teams have to win their games. That’s not sure (to happen) in the moment, so we have to focus on that,” he said.