Liverpool face holders Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev on Saturday, looking for their sixth triumph in the competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, who saw off Roma 7-6 on aggregate in the semi-final, face 12-time champions Real, who were winners in Cardiff last year and in 2016 in Milan under Zinedine Zidane.
Before locking horns with his Real Madrid counterpart, Klopp has laughed off suggestions Zidane – who has an all-star team at his disposal – has limited tactical coaching knowledge.
“If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane has not a lot of tactical knowledge and then people think the same about me that would be really funny,” Klopp said.
“The two managers in the Champions League final have no clue about tactics? What would that say about the game?
“For me, Zinedine Zidane is one of the best five players of all time in football. I’m longer in Liverpool than he is at Real Madrid and he can win the Champions League for the third time. That’s never happened before.
“Unfortunately I have to accept that he is as brilliant as he was as a player.”
Klopp has lost his last five finals, three with Borussia Dortmund before moving to Anfield in 2015, and two in his debut season with the Reds.
It’s a record Zidane is keen to extend as he targets a “beautiful” third successive European crown.
Zidane said: “I’ve always been a good competitor, I like to compete and behind all that is a lot of hard work – not only on my part but also the players.
“If you like to compete and want to work hard you can achieve what we are doing. For me this is entirely normal.
“This is beautiful. This is my passion. To reach a final is not easy and, at the same time, we are delighted to be able to play another final.”
Klopp confirmed he had no new injuries concerns ahead of Liverpool’s final training session in Kiev.
Long-term absentees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Joe Gomez (ankle) and Joel Matip (thigh) are not available but James Milner and Emre Can are available after overcoming injuries.
The Reds’ starting line-up is likely to include only Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren and Milner from the team which lost the Europa League final two years ago – none of Klopp’s squad has played in a Champions League final.
By contrast, Ronaldo could become the fifth player to win five European Cups, while Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Isco are all looking for their fourth Champions League medals.
The 12-time winners will be at full-strength in Kiev, with the only issue for Zidane to address concerning who out of Bale, Benzema or Isco will partner Ronaldo in attack.
- This is Real Madrid’s 16th appearance in a European Cup/Champions League final, more than any other side in the history of the competition.
- Indeed, they’ve won it a record 12 times, losing only in 1962 (vs Benfica), 1964 (vs Inter) and 1981 (vs Liverpool).
- This is Liverpool’s eighth European Cup/Champions League final, three more than any other English side.
- Liverpool have lost just two of their previous seven finals in the competition, vs Juventus in 1985 and their most recent one against Milan in 2007.
- Real Madrid are the first team since Juventus (1996-1998) to reach three consecutive European Cup/Champions League finals, while they could become the first team to win it three years in a row since Bayern Munich (1974-1976).
- This will be a repeat of the 1981 European Cup final, which Liverpool won 1-0 thanks to an Alan Kennedy goal. It will be the third final to have been played in the competition as both the European Cup and Champions League, following Ajax vs Juventus and Ajax vs Milan.
- That 1981 final was the last time Real Madrid lost the showpiece – they’ve won each of their six finals since then, all in the Champions League (1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016 and 2017).
- Spanish sides have won their last six major European finals against English sides (excluding Super Cups), most recently Sevilla beating Liverpool in the 2016 Europa League. However, Liverpool were the last English side to beat a Spanish side in a final, triumphing 5-4 over Alaves in the 2001 UEFA Cup.