"The bigger the pressure, the cooler I get," Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp told UEFA.com, adamant that the key to success in finals is to enjoy the experience.
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Just seven months after replacing Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp is set to lead the Reds into a UEFA Europa League final against Sevilla. The stakes are high, but the 48-year-old knows from experience that the best way to win a big match is by enjoying it.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to have made it to the final?
Jürgen Klopp: Pretty good. When I came here I couldn't imagine that this could happen because there was still a long way to go. But I like this tournament. The whole European journey has been really easy for us to enjoy. We've had big, wonderful Anfield nights and my team has put in some fabulous performances. I'm pretty proud of the lads because it's been difficult. It's always difficult – there's no easy way to go to a final.
UEFA.com: You did not get a pre-season with this team. Does that make reaching the final even more satisfying?
Klopp: That's not what I think about. It's my job to help the players to improve and to develop them. I could say what I want, but if they don't listen we have no chance; and these players have really listened. From the first day I came here, I saw this great character in the team. What we had to build was mentality; you have to use your character, especially in difficult moments, and that's mentality.
UEFA.com: Liverpool fans are famously passionate; what does it mean to be taking them to a European final?
Klopp: A lot, as we could all see in the European games. I'm really happy for all of us, for the whole Liverpool family, that we've been able to do something like this, and that we can show that being together and sticking together, working, suffering and celebrating together, makes a difference.
UEFA.com: Do you take a special approach when it comes to preparing for finals?
Klopp: It's a 50-50 situation – nobody is favourites, nobody is already halfway there. It's an intense game with all the circumstances – the hours before a final, and things like this – but for me, the bigger the pressure, the cooler I get. I know it's not about forcing it with all you have; it's about the game. The game works with joy, with confidence, with working together and dreaming together ahead of the game, and doing everything to make the dream come true with the work you do on the pitch. Nothing is guaranteed but everything is possible, and for me that's always enough to really look forward to a game. So I am quite excited about the opportunity we'll have in Basel.
UEFA.com: What are your thoughts on Sevilla?
Klopp: They're very competitive and very difficult to play against. They're good at counterattacking and defending, which you would expect from a Spanish team. They're very experienced – I'm pretty sure the average age of their team is two or three years older than our side. They're a really good side: good strikers, experienced defenders. Two good clubs, two big clubs, playing against each other for a big cup – that's how football should be.
UEFA.com: What sort of match do you expect?
Klopp: Intense, of course. 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'. You have to show that you're really ready for the big moments.