Vic­tory in tonight’s Europa League fi­nal could be the start of some­thing very spe­cial at Liver­pool

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Adrian Back @aidy­back

Just five months ago Jur­gen Klopp grabbed the hands of Divock Origi and Jor­dan Ibe as he led the Liver­pool play­ers to­wards the Kop to thank fans for their sup­port.

On the sur­face it seemed a strange move given the Reds had re­quired a last-minute Origi goal to se­cure a 2-2 draw with West Brom.

Klopp was ridiculed in some quar­ters for ‘cel­e­brat­ing’ a draw, but de­fended the move by say­ing it was “for the re­la­tion­ship of the team with the fans”.

That re­la­tion­ship has blos­somed, thanks in large part to some mem­o­rable Euro­pean nights.

The at­mos­phere at An­field was elec­tric as Liver­pool over­came bit­ter ri­vals Manch­ester United, but even that paled in com­par­i­son to the eu­phoric scenes as Klopp’s old club Borus­sia Dort­mund were sent pack­ing thanks to an in­jury time win­ner from the much­ma­ligned De­jan Lovren.

It was one of the most dra­matic come­backs An­field had ever wit­nessed as Liver­pool were twice left need­ing three goals to ad­vance. But on a night packed with drama and emo­tion, Lovren sent the fans wild with ec­stasy.

That vic­tory en­cap­su­lated what makes Klopp and his teams so spe­cial. The enig­matic Ger­man roared on from the side­lines, his play­ers re­sponded and so did the crowd.

He was chief cheer­leader, cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery tackle as if it was the win­ning goal in a Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal.

There were sim­i­lar scenes as Liver­pool brushed Vil­lar­real aside at An­field and now the sup­port­ers are dream­ing of an­other ma­jor Euro­pean ti­tle. It has been 11 years since the Reds last tri­umphed in Europe, over­com­ing AC Milan in one of the most dra­matic fi­nals ever played.

Two years later the Ital­ians got their re­venge, deny­ing Liver­pool a sixth Euro­pean crown. In the nine years since that fi­nal in Athens, the only sil­ver­ware added to the An­field tro­phy cab­i­net is the League Cup in 2012. It has been a tough decade for the red half of Mersey­side but there is a feel­ing the good times could re­turn un­der Klopp. On the do­mes­tic scene there were glimpses of bril­liance, the big away wins at Manch­ester City, Chelsea and Southamp­ton show­ing what Liver­pool are ca­pa­ble of. But there’s also mad­den­ing in­con­sis­tency with de­feats com­ing against New­cas­tle and Wat­ford. But since the turn of the year the Reds have found more con­sis­tency and de­spite los­ing in the League Cup fi­nal, there is a grow­ing sense that Klopp is build­ing some­thing spe­cial. “The man­ager has given us be­lief again, he has changed the men­tal­ity of the play­ers,” de­clared goal­keeper Si­mon Mig­no­let.

“When you see him on the pitch, he’s re­ally ex­pres­sive but he is very calm, very in­tel­li­gent, and at half-time he al­ways analy­ses the game un­be­liev­ably,” added the ex­pe­ri­enced de­fender Kolo Toure.

Cer­tainly Klopp has man­aged to squeeze ev­ery last ounce out of a squad that seemed des­tined for the scrap heap when he first took charge.

En­gag­ing, quirky and pas­sion­ate, Klopp has in­spired his charges and has ev­ery­one at the club be­liev­ing that suc­cess is just around the corner.

“In the team meet­ing be­fore [the League Cup fi­nal] he said: ‘This will be the first of many fi­nals we will have to­gether.’ The way he said it, the words he used, you just be­lieved there would be more fi­nals,” re­called Adam Lal­lana. “We were on the los­ing side that day but I cer­tainly learned from it and I’m

sure the other play­ers did too. We will be bet­ter for it and more pre­pared for this fi­nal.”

Lal­lana is one of the play­ers who has ex­celled un­der Klopp. The tal­ented mid­fielder had been in and out of the side un­der Bren­dan Rodgers and there was lit­tle end prod­uct.

Un­der the for­mer Dort­mund boss Lal­lana has thrived. He works tire­lessly, ha­rass­ing the op­po­si­tion and his qual­ity on the ball has been there for all to wit­ness.

The play­ers now be­lieve, the sup­port­ers have faith, but now it is time to de­liver.

Liver­pool must de­feat Sevilla in the fi­nal of the Europa League in or­der to qual­ify for Europe’s elite com­pe­ti­tion next sea­son. It will be far from easy against a Span­ish side who have won the com­pe­ti­tion the last two years.

But as Michael Owen sug­gested af­ter the win against Vil­lar­real: “There's some­thing spe­cial brew­ing at Liver­pool un­der Klopp.”

This time the Liver­pool boss will hope to lead his play­ers to­wards the fans while hoist­ing the Europa League tro­phy in the air. It could be the start of some­thing spe­cial.

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