LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has described Liverpool as the best team he has taken to a Cup final and believes defeat in Kiev last May focused their mindset on winning this season's Champions League.
The Reds are aiming to become champions of Europe for a sixth time - and their manager to break a sequence of six consecutive final defeats - when they face Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday.
Klopp insists his team are completely different from the one that endured a painful 3-1 defeat in last season's final against Real Madrid, when he claimed Liverpool were happy to simply surpass expectations and reach the Ukraine capital.
Now, the German maintains, his team will be satisfied only with lifting the first trophy of his Anfield reign. And he has the best opportunity to end that wait on Saturday, given the quality and character at his disposal.
"I don't like to blame my other teams. I love them all. They all gave everything, but I have never been part of a final with a better team than this," the 51-year-old told a news conference on Tuesday.
"Our boys mixed our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant, exceptional, and it brought us to where we are. I would say nobody believed more in this team than the team themselves.
"That is why we are here."
Every team that lose a final think they will put it right. It's like a medicine that tastes disgusting. But it helps you. It can reinvigorate you.
JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, believes his side have reacted positively after falling at the final hurdle last season.
AN EXCEPTIONAL SQUAD
I don't like to blame my other teams. I love them all. They all gave everything, but I have never been part of a final with a better team than this.
KLOPP, bullish about ending his poor record of six straight Cup final losses with Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.
Klopp has lost all three finals he has reached with Liverpool, in Europe and domestically, and he also tasted defeat in two German Cups and a Champions League final with his previous Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund.
He noticed a determination to put things right after the loss to Real as soon as the players resumed pre-season training last summer.
"It had a big influence on us," he said. "When we stood in the queue in the airport in Kiev on the way home, all in tracksuits, heads down, disappointed, there were a lot of different emotions. But the plan was, we come again. Now we are there, that is just incredible.
"I think every team that lose a final think they will put it right. It's like a medicine that tastes disgusting. But it helps you. It can reinvigorate you.
"You can use it as extra motivation and that's exactly what we did. If you look at it now, it's not a bad thing that we lost the final last year.
"It was the kick-start for the development of this team. From the first day of pre-season when we were all together, it was a big step for the boys. This team is not even to be compared with the team of last year. Last year, we wanted to be in Kiev. This year, we wanted to win it wherever the final is. There's a big difference just in our mindset."
The Liverpool boss confirmed Naby Keita will miss the final with the groin injury he suffered during the second leg of the semi-final at Barcelona while Roberto Firmino, who missed Liverpool's past three matches because of a muscle problem, is on course to play.
Klopp, who is aware that Spurs are no pushovers, also admitted that a Champions League triumph would rank as the highlight of his career.
"We know it's difficult, Tottenham knows it's difficult, so let's play a game and win it," he said.
"The biggest moment of my career was getting promoted with Mainz in 2004. But winning the Champions League with Liverpool? That would make me think of something new."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, DPA