Football: Red-letter day for Klopp's Reds

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp (right) will hope his side can control the Europa League final in Sevilla’s half with his trademark game plan of high-intensity pressing.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp (right) will hope his side can control the Europa League final in Sevilla’s half with his trademark game plan of high-intensity pressing.PHOTO: REUTERS

Europa League win will boost Liverpool boss' popularity, but Sevilla are hardly pushovers

BASEL • Juergen Klopp, who has breathed new life into Liverpool in his seven months in charge, would seal his place in the hearts of the club's supporters if he pulls off victory over Sevilla in tonight's Europa League final.

It would bring Liverpool's first European trophy since the famous comeback win against AC Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005.

Sevilla are no easy opponents though. Klopp will be up against coach Unai Emery, whose side have won the last two editions of the tournament and hold a record four Uefa Cup/Europa League triumphs, all in the last decade.

Emery said: "We have the chance to play two finals and, despite the difficulty our opponents will cause us, we are determined and determined to enjoy it."

In comments to uefa.com, he added: "The fact that this is our third consecutive final demonstrates how focused and hungry we have been to do well in the Europa League, and win it."

Sevilla had a relatively easy path to the final, beating Shakhtar Donetsk 5-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals, but they have endured a disappointing domestic campaign, finishing seventh in La Liga.

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    Liverpool have won two European finals against Spanish sides: Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup and Alaves in the 2001 Uefa Cup.

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    The Reds have lost only one of their 14 games in the Europa League this season, in the semi-final first leg against Villarreal.

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    Spanish clubs have won seven of the last 12 Europa League/Uefa Cup editions. Sevilla are four-time winners and two-time defending champions, while Atletico Madrid have won twice and Valencia once.

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    Sevilla have won three of their eight European games against English teams.

Liverpool's domestic season has also been average, after they finished eighth in the Premier League, their lowest finish since 2012.

It means that the Reds have one last chance to qualify for Europe next season.

Win the final, and they will be automatically through to the Champions League group stages. Lose, and they will be out of Europe completely. It is, to say the least, a do-or-die match.

Klopp has proved a master of the big occasion, however, knocking out Manchester United and Villarreal as well as his old club Borussia Dortmund en route to the final, with his trademark game plan of high-intensity pressing.

He will be looking for the same high-octane performance against Sevilla, saying in his pre-match media conference: "There will be challenges all over the pitch.

"There will be a lot of fight, for sure. You cannot win a Cup with just a little bit of playing football.

"We already know about the desire of our supporters. We know how much they want to win this Cup.

"We would really love to be the team that makes these dreams come true.

"I can promise that we will try everything. The problem is, Sevilla will do the same."

Klopp would need to be wary of Sevilla's attacking threat.

Forward Kevin Gameiro is Sevilla's biggest dangerman in his team's counter-attack and has had a superb season in the Europa League with seven goals in six appearances.

The Frenchman possesses sublime finishing and he has an ability to find key passes together with team-mate Ever Banega, the gifted Argentinian playmaker who has clocked up an 85 per cent pass accuracy rate in the Europa League and supplied the goals.

Liverpool, however, have shown that they can control the game in the opposition's half, notably against Villarreal in the semi-finals, in which they had 60 per cent possession and won 3-0.

Klopp must ensure that the same is repeated and not allow Sevilla to go on the counter.

Asked if he has a plan, he said: "We have to be organised at the highest level.

"The mental side is a big influence, but we have done everything to be perfectly prepared.

"My target is that nobody talks about decisive players of Sevilla after the game, they talk about ours."

The German must also decide whether to start with captain Jordan Henderson, who has just returned from a knee injury.

Divock Origi is also available having come through training unscathed on Monday following an ankle injury.

If all goes well, Klopp could sign off on his first season and rubber-stamp his red revolution with Basel 2016 remembered forever in Liverpool's record books.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LIVERPOOL V SEVILLA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Red-letter day for Klopp's Reds'. Print Edition | Subscribe