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Because it's Liverpool, they have a chance: How Klopp and his players are embracing their shot at history

4:00 PM MYT 18/04/2022
Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2021-22
The Reds reached the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday, and are still in with a chance of an unprecedented quadruple

With a puff of the cheeks and a nod of the head, Jurgen Klopp somehow managed to sum everything up perfectly.

“Happy?” he had been asked as he made his way to the Liverpool team bus, ready for what we can safely assume was a rather satisfied journey back to Merseyside.

His response said it all. He was happy, for sure, but he was plenty more besides.

Drained, perhaps, after such an energy-sapping day? Emotional, surely, having witnessed the celebrations at the end of it?

And focused, most definitely, on the challenges which lie ahead.

Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City may have been a big one, but bigger victories await them, and Klopp and his players know it.

They are enjoying the ride, but the reality is that they are 11 games from immortality, the prospect of an unprecedented quadruple looming ever larger as they tick off the games, one by one.

“It’s something that everyone would dream about,” said Virgil van Dijk, talking to a gaggle of reporters in the Wembley mixed zone. “But nobody did it before, and there’s a reason for it - because it’s almost impossible.”

It does not take a genius to find the key phrase there, does it? Almost impossible.

Almost.

It takes the mind back to one of the most famous team talks Klopp has ever given, at the Hope Street Hotel a few hours before the second leg of the Champions League semi final against Barcelona in 2019.

Liverpool were 3-0 down from the first leg in Catalunya, but when they gathered for their pre-match meeting, Klopp delivered one of his greatest performances.

“The whole world thinks it’s impossible,” he told his players. “And let’s be honest, it probably is impossible.

“But because it’s you? Because it’s you, we have a chance.”

That speech could certainly apply now, almost three years on. Liverpool’s quest to win all four major competitions - the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League - looks impossible, and probably is impossible. But with this team? With this team, they have a chance.

Just how big a win Saturday will prove to be, only time will tell. The general consensus is that it was Pep Guardiola’s men who looked the more convincing in both league meetings this season, but it was Klopp’s side who exerted their authority at Wembley, stunning City with a deadly mix of hunger, intensity and quality, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.

“One of the best halves we ever played,” Klopp called it. Trent Alexander-Arnold said Liverpool were “outstanding”, insisting they had learned the lessons of last week’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium, executing their gameplan by pressing high and hard early on.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team run over City like we did,” the England full-back suggested.

City, of course, have excuses for their performance. There was no Kevin De Bruyne, an unused substitute, in their side and no Kyle Walker, who limped through the mixed zone wearing a protective boot on his left ankle. Aymeric Laporte, Ruben Dias and Rodri were left out, as was Ederson, with stand-in goalkeeper Zack Steffen enduring a nightmare on the big stage.

And they have plenty to look forward to themselves. They are still in pole position in the Premier League, needing to win their last seven games to guarantee a fourth title in five years, and there is every chance that it will be they who stand in Liverpool’s way should the Reds edge past Villarreal into the Champions League final. The Merseyside/Manchester box set is far from over.

Liverpool’s players, though, look and sound as though they are up for the challenge. “This is always the best time of year,” said Alexander-Arnold. Van Dijk agreed, urging fans not to worry or fret, but to enjoy the moment.

“It’s quite special what’s going on,” the Dutchman said. “And hopefully we will all remember these times in 10 or 20 years when we look back.”

Even Mohamed Salah, whose recent goalscoring dip continued at Wembley, was smiling as he made his way to the bus. “I’ve missed you guys so much!” he joked with reporters, though in typical fashion, he politely declined the request for an interview. Understandable really, given we all know what the line of questioning would have been.

No such worries with Van Dijk, who spent a good half an hour on media duties. The Dutchman even found time to mock Andy Robertson, who he said had picked up sunburn during the game. “He’s Scottish, that’s why!” joked Van Dijk.

Several of City’s players, including club captain Fernandinho and striker Gabriel Jesus, fronted up to the media too, but others beat a hasty retreat. John Stones exited with his hood up, Phil Foden wore a face like thunder, while Steffen barely raised his eyes from the floor. Their journey north will have been a sombre one.

At least they have a chance to bounce back swiftly. Both sides have midweek Premier League fixtures, Liverpool taking on Manchester United at Anfield on Tuesday before City entertain Brighton 24 hours later. A slip now could prove fatal, for either team.

Liverpool, for sure, will hope that Saturday’s win has opened up a few doubts in Guardiola’s mind, and that it has peeled a layer of confidence and self-belief off his side.

If nothing else, it has raised questions over certain members of City’s squad. It would be a surprise, for example, if we saw Steffen, Fernandinho, Nathan Ake or Oleksandr Zinchenko much between now and the end of the season.

On the flip side, City will hope that the weight of history and the intensity of the schedule catches up with Liverpool. For all the Reds’ incredible feats this season, there are still big hurdles to overcome, and the prospect of a glorious failure, if we can call it that, is still there.

Klopp’s side handles pressure well, but they have never known a situation like this before. No team has.

And that’s what will make the next few weeks so fascinating. History beckons for Klopp’s red machine.

Will they have one, two, three or four trophies in the cabinet come the end of May?