Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp insists his current Liverpool team is stronger than that which lost the 2016 Europa League final as the Reds get set to face their conquerors Sevilla.
It’s the one night Liverpool fans daren’t think of, a loss that is truly unbearable, easily the lowest moment of Klopp’s time in charge of the club.
That night in Basel, where the UEFA Europa League trophy, along with an elusive opportunity to return Champions League football to Anfield was lost at the hands of Sevilla still haunts the hearts of many Reds’ fans – and you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the same applies to the players.
Fast-forward 16 months to the present day and Champions League football has been earned the hard way by Klopp’s Liverpool, who are set to kick off their campaign against their Europa League final opponents, and though it is a challenge to make weary more than a few Reds, the German is looking forward to it with the confidence that his side are much stronger than they were in Basel.
“I think we have proved it already we are stronger than we were in the final,” Klopp said, according to the Liverpool Echo.
“At the time it was a terrible defeat but we took a big step. We have changed a lot of things since the final, but it is always this way and they have made progress too.
“Last season was another very successful season for them so it is a really interesting challenge for us.
“For me, the most important thing is this is a proper Champions League game and nothing else, not Europa League, not a final from two years ago, it is real Champions League.”
As if overcoming the nightmares their big loss to the side now lead by Eduardo Berizzo is not challenging enough, Liverpool have had to cope with the disappointment of being demolished 5-0 by Manchester City in the Premier League and all the criticism that came as a consequence.
Despite his regrets from the afternoon at the Etihad, Klopp has been careful to maintain a positive stance, warning his players not to dwell on the defeat but to instead display the right attitude in responding positively tonight.
“I told the boys after the game for me the result wasn’t important,” the Reds manager said.
“The result was the result of our performance as it is always is, but I was only angry after the first half because we didn’t give the game another direction when we could have.
“It is a little bit harsh to say we were the better side but we had the better opportunities (before the red card). We didn’t build on it, and that is more what we spoke about.
“The criticism (of me), whoever said it was right. I felt the same after the game. Maybe I should have changed things. In the second half I had a big part (in our performance).
“We have to respond of course. This is another competition. We have to show the perfect attitude. But also we have to enjoy the tournament because it is a special tournament, the biggest in Europe, and we have to ensure we enjoy being here.”
Having already shown what they’re all about when it comes to Europe’s grand competition in their two-legged qualifier against Hoffenheim – arguably putting in the most impressive display of all the qualifying sides – Liverpool will expect of themselves a performance to not only entertain what should be a packed Anfield Stadium but to salvage redemption and an all-important three points.