Doha (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has responded to suggestions the Club World Cup doesn’t matter by insisting Saturday’s final against Flamengo represents a “massive opportunity” for the Anfield club.
Klopp’s team have taken time out from their Premier League title push to come to Qatar for a competition that is viewed differently in Europe to the rest of the world.
While Flamengo fans have travelled to Doha in large numbers to back their team’s bid to become the first South American winners since 2012, few Liverpool supporters would rather see their side lift the Club World Cup than win a first English title in 30 years, or retain the Champions League.
“It is not an advantage or a disadvantage, but the situation is different. Flamengo got sent here with a clear order to win it and to come back as heroes, and we got told to stay at home and play the Carabao Cup,” Klopp said at Friday’s pre-final press conference at the Khalifa International Stadium.
His comments came after Liverpool sent out a team of academy players for their League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa on Tuesday, losing 5-0, while their senior squad travelled to Doha for Wednesday’s 2-1 semi-final win over Monterrey of Mexico.
“The view in Europe is completely different to the view in the rest of the world, but that view has changed for me since I was here.
“For us it is really special now. We are here so we want to give it a proper try. Yes we feel the tension in this situation but we feel it’s a massive opportunity.”
While for Flamengo the game comes at the end of a successful season in which they won the Brazilian title and the Copa Libertadores, Liverpool are not even halfway through their Premier League campaign.
After Saturday’s final they will return home to prepare for the traditionally busy festive period in England, with next Thursday’s trip to second-placed Leicester City the first of three league games in eight days and a Merseyside derby FA Cup tie against Everton following on January 5.
“If Flamengo goes back and they win they will have a proper party, and we play Leicester City. For us it’s different but who cares, that’s how it is. It’s the most important in the moment because we are here,” Klopp added.
– Jesus for president? –
Liverpool may have won the European Cup for the sixth time in June, but they have never won this competition, losing the final to Sao Paulo in 2005.
They also lost to Zico’s Flamengo in the old Intercontinental Cup in 1981, Bob Paisley’s team featuring the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness being beaten 3-0 in Tokyo.
“We are making this big for ourselves because this is important, a chance to put our names in the history of the club,” said Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson, who watched as a 14-year-old fan when his team, Internacional, beat Barcelona to win the trophy in 2006.
“I think there were more than 10,000 Flamengo supporters here for their last game but it’s not just big for them, it is big for us also.”
Klopp is hopeful Virgil van Dijk will be able to play after illness kept the Dutchman out of the Monterrey game, meaning Jordan Henderson partnered Joe Gomez in central defence.
He was also full of praise for their Portuguese coach, Jorge Jesus, who has had a remarkable impact in his six months in charge.
“He has obviously done an incredible job since he has been there. I think if there were an election at the moment he could become president of Brazil, even if he’s from Portugal,” the German joked.
“The work he’s doing in Brazil, and that he did before in Europe, gives him the opportunity to go to a European club again if he wants, but maybe Rio is such a nice city that he wants to stay.”
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