Our Liverpool blogger Dave Tindall reflects on how the tide has turned between Saturday’s Champions League final and last season’s heartbreak, in his latest Red Letter.
So, here we go again.
One year on from the heartbreak of Kiev, Liverpool are gearing up for a second straight Champions League final.
Red v White once more but this time it feels very different.
Often, the brain can play tricks and re-write history so I decided to check out what I wrote in this column 12 months ago.
And there it was. The early excuse. The attempt to mask impending disappointment.
“Even if we get beat on Saturday, we’ve sprinkled stardust on the tournament this year,” I wrote. “It’s been one of my favourite ever seasons as a Liverpool fan.”
Well, this year, there are no “even ifs” or “haven’t we done wells”.
We are the favourites to win it. We have long-term and very recent European history to draw upon. And we finished 26 points above Spurs in the Premier League, beating them home and away.
So it’s Tottenham and their fans who can do all the ‘wow, we’re in the Champions League final’ shtick.
For us Liverpool supporters, this is business. There’s a trophy to be won rather than an occasion to be experienced.
And that shapes my pre-match feelings.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING THERE BEFORE
Like last year, there still seems a weird void between the end of the Premier League season and Saturday and this time it’s even longer. A Champions League final in June?!
But, again referring back to May 2018’s Red Letter, there is a big difference in my clarity of thought about the outcome.
“I’ve got two conflicting thoughts,” I said ahead of the Real Madrid game. “They’re there for the taking or they’ll have too much know-how for us.”
Unfortunately, the answer was ‘b’ although, whether you’re a Reds fan or not, there was some seriously weird sh*t going on in that final.
Our star man cunningly ushered out of the match by the evil Sergio Ramos with less than 30 minutes on the clock, Lorius Karius literally giving them two goals with monumental howlers and Gareth Bale, who Real Madrid fans don’t even like, scoring a one-in-a-million worldie overhead kick.
Just one of those elements would have been weird, but three!
And yet Kiev is not something to be forgotten or buried deep in the mind. The players, as Jurgen Klopp might say, “can use this”.
Firstly, there are the pre-match benefits. The media circus, the night before, the coach ride to the stadium, the pre-game warm-up, those key moments in the bowels of the stadium as the clock ticks toward kick-off time. All these will be familiar. We went through them 12 months ago.
TRENT’S DEFINING MOMENT
Take Trent Alexander-Arnold. Last year, a teenage kid living out a fantasy, playing on the same pitch as Cristiano Ronaldo in a Champions League final.
This time, a better footballer with a Champions League final and World Cup already on his CV. Still excited but the wide eyes now steely and focused.
And while the logic of our extra experience and head-to-head record against Spurs (we’ve lost just one of the last 14 against them) is a huge factor, it’s Trent who also provides me with the slightly more esoteric viewpoint of Saturday’s final.
I’m calling it the defining moment. That part of the script when something happens so out of the ordinary that you just know it’s your turn.
Manchester City had one in the Premier League when Vincent Kompany strode forward and lashed a 30-yarder into the top corner against Leicester. They still had to see that match out and win their final game but when the City skipper did that, deep down we all knew.
And I have that exact same feeling about Trent’s brilliant piece of quick thinking from a corner which caught the Barca defence napping and allowed Divock Origi to lash in the decisive fourth goal at Anfield.
While Origi’s first and Gini Wijnaldum’s quickfire double were memorable, there was something deeply unusual about that fourth goal. Something even more than it being the strike which secured our place in the final.
There may well be a Spurs fan writing a ‘White Letter’ column, claiming that Lucas Moura’s 96th-minute winner shows why their name is on the cup.
But, to me, that was just a late goal. Sure, a dramatic one but the Trent/Divock Barca winner was on a different level. A piece of art.
And so, after a Premier League season which saw us gain 97 points and still not lift the title, it’s time to get what we deserve.
Klopp has been sensational for us since joining in 2015 but we need the bottom line of silverware.
Let’s start filling that trophy cabinet again with the biggest of the lot.
Get the latest personalised Reds products on our new TEAMtalk Liverpool shop!