To Juergen Klopp, Saturday’s much-anticipated Champions League final will rest on whether Real Madrid’s drive to win their third successive title outstrips Liverpool’s desire for their first since 2005.
“They will want to do it again. It would be big 100 percent. If we did it, it would be big, too. We will try,” said Liverpool’s manager with an understatement at odds with his belief that his team will succeed.
The narrative of young pretenders challenging the established order appeals to Klopp, who made his name taking aim at Bayern Munich with Borussia Dortmund, but Liverpool are hardly ingenues when it comes to winning European titles.
Victory on Saturday would bring their sixth European Cup and reinforce their status as by far England’s most successful team in the competition. Predictably, advice from their legion of past winners has flowed all week.
To Steven Gerrard, hero of the 2005 win over AC Milan, they must simply seize the moment; to Alan Kennedy, who scored the goal which beat Real in the 1981 European Cup final it is about courage; to Kenny Dalglish, a three-times winner in 1978, 1981 and 1984 the secret lies in understanding how to react when the pressure bites.
With pedigree like that, Liverpool are rather more than cocky upstarts out to take a swipe at Real and it will be a surprise if Klopp does not keep faith with the free-flowing brand of football that has made them the competition’s leading scorers with 40 goals.
Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma were all blown away in the knockout stages with stunning first-leg performances that delivered 13 goals, most from their frontline trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian maestro whose 44 goals have spearheaded their season.
Liverpool tend to score in bursts, often in the first half, and if they seize the initiative on Saturday Real may struggle to play catch up against a team never so dangerous as when they defend.
But the English side are unlikely to have it their own way against the serial winners from Spain.