The pressure is on Jurgen Klopp, there can be no 'glorious failure' for Liverpool boss in Madrid
THIS time the pressure is all on Jurgen Klopp.
This time Liverpool’s manager cannot walk away with glorious failure as defeated underdog, as he has done so often in the past.
Liverpool have spent £160million in the transfer market since Spurs last coughed up a penny.
Anfield’s annual wage bill dwarfs Tottenham’s by more than £100m.
The Reds finished the Premier League season with 97 points — 26 clear of tonight’s opponents in Madrid.
And this will be their ninth European Cup final as opposed to Tottenham’s first.
So lose a seventh-straight final under those circumstances and the questions will begin to get awkward for Klopp.
Even after such an epic campaign.
Liverpool were underdogs in that relentless title race against Manchester City, underdogs in last season’s final against Real Madrid – just as Klopp was so often underdog at Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich.
Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino has never won a trophy in a decade as a manager but with Espanyol, Southampton and Spurs, he has hardly been expected to.
Now he has reached the grandest fixture in world club football – not a bad old stage for a bunch of "losers".
For two Premier League clubs, neither of whom have ever won the Premier League.
Liverpool have not ruled England for 29 years, Tottenham for precisely twice as long – since their 1961 Double.
Yet after two of the most dramatic comebacks in European history at the semi-final stage, here we are at the Wanda Metropolitano for a night of guaranteed legend.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER FINAL
The charismatic Klopp had his smile on full beam here as he defended his record in showpiece matches.
The German believes his team have matured significantly in the past 12 months, since a defeat in Kiev which he has written off as something of a fluke.
What had Klopp learned from last year’s final?
"That a bicycle kick from 18 metres can also be a goal," he said of Gareth Bale’s worldie.
All three Real goals had been "strange", said Klopp.
The other two came courtesy of goalkeeping howlers from Loris Karius – who has since been shunted on to make way for Liverpool’s most significant upgrade, £67m-man Alisson.
"We’re a year older and that’s a good thing," said Klopp.
"Trent Alexander-Arnold has 50 more games in his legs and we’re all more experienced.
"The boys performed in last season’s final against clear favourites but last year we surprised ourselves by being in the final.
"We were always flying at home but really under pressure at Manchester City, at Roma.
"The boys have since made this step of being more consistent – that’s the reason for 97 points, and now we should be consistent again."
'I COULD WRITE A BOOK…'
Klopp tried to look on the bright side regarding his status as a perennial runner-up.
He said: "Every year my wife asks when our last game is so we can book a holiday.
"But every year except one since 2012 I’ve been in a cup final. I must have the world record for semi-final wins.
"I could write a book about it but nobody would want to read it."
All that stuff about "losers" is largely nonsense, of course.
Klopp and Pochettino are two of the world’s most-coveted managers, who have transformed their clubs, thanks to their sheer strength of personality.
It is no coincidence that two men blessed with such ferocious will, who insist their players have the fitness and spirit to fight to the end, inspired those semi-final comebacks against Barcelona and Ajax.
Both English clubs were without their leading scorers – Mo Salah and Harry Kane – on those momentous nights too.
Salah will be present tonight and Kane is also likely to line up.
Poch would be a brave man to leave out England captain Kane, who insists he is fully fit after an ankle injury he suffered against City in April’s quarter-final first leg.
This has been a ridiculously good Champions League knockout stage, featuring some extraordinary escapology.
If Harry Houdini had been booked to do the half-time entertainment in Madrid tonight, they’d all yawn and tell him to jog on.
Klopp promised a "proper match between two proper football teams, built step by step" – although one at a much greater expense than the other.
Spurs could easily have won when they last met at Anfield in March, in one of the season’s most exciting and high-quality matches.
A Hugo Lloris blunder handed Liverpool a 2-1 win and the Reds have since been spotless – winning every league match and Champions League tie over two legs.
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The tempo is unlikely to be as high in the searing Spanish heat but this final still promises much.
After such remarkable routes here, both clubs could be forgiven for believing victory is fated – that they are destiny’s children, that their name has been on Old Big Ears all along.
But, somehow, either Klopp or Pochettino will end a season of over-achievement with empty hands once more.
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