Jurgen Klopp says the Liverpool side he will take to the Champions League final against Tottenham is the best he has managed in such a tie – but how does it compare to the previous finalists the German has taken charge of?
In his final press conference before travelling to Madrid, Klopp said: “I have never been part of a final with a better team than this.”
We’ve taken a look at Liverpool’s stats from the current Champions League campaign in comparison to the Reds side of last season and the Borussia Dortmund team of 2012-13 to see if Klopp’s assessment stacks up.
There is a sense that Klopp has transformed Liverpool into a much more controlled side in comparison to last year, and that is perhaps borne out by them scoring far fewer goals yet still managing to make the final again.
In their 12 Champions League fixtures this season, Liverpool have scored 22 goals via nine different goalscorers. Their headline front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are their joint top scorers in the competition with four goals each.
They have still put plenty of teams to the sword, scoring three or more goals in five games, including games against PSG, Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
However, these numbers are well down on last season when they bagged 40 goals via nine different players in their 13 Champions League fixtures. Again the Reds’ front three were joint top scorers, but they all reached 10 goals, more than double what they have to date this time around.
There are perhaps slight outliers in these figures due to big 7-0 wins against Maribor and Spartak Moscow in the group stages, but they scored three or more goals in seven games.
Interestingly, this season Liverpool have scored exactly the same number of goals at this stage of the competition (22) as Klopp’s Dortmund had in 2012-13.
Again, Dortmund were able to count upon nine different goalscorers, but they were much more reliant on one player in particular as Robert Lewandowski led the way with 10, with Marco Reus the next most prolific on four.
That Dortmund side also scored in the fewest amount of bursts, bagging three or more goals in four fixtures.
Klopp: “I have never been part of a final with a better team than this. Our boys mixed our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant, exceptional, and it brought us where we are."
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) May 28, 2019
One notable area of improvement for Liverpool this season has been in their defence, consisting mainly of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez/Joel Matip and Andy Robertson, with Alisson Becker in goal.
Klopp was unable to pick such a consistent backline last term, with Robertson taking time to establish himself at Anfield, uncertainty over the goalkeeping position and Van Dijk not arriving until the January transfer window.
While the Reds actually kept one more clean sheet in the competition last season (six to five), they conceded four more goals (16 to 12).
Klopp’s Dortmund side, with a back four of Lukasz Piszczek, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic and Marcel Schmelzer, sit somewhere in between his two Liverpool sides in this regard.
In the 2012-13 Champions League, Dortmund kept just four clean sheets, the fewest of the three teams, but conceded a middle ground of 14 goals.
Given they are now favourites for the final, it seems remarkable to think back and remember that Liverpool only just scraped out of their group.
The Reds picked up nine points and ended with a goal difference of plus two after winning all their home games but losing all three away fixtures.
It must be said that their group of PSG, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade was much more difficult than the three teams they faced last season in Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor.
After drawing twice with Sevilla and away at Spartak, Liverpool ended on 12 points, with a mammoth plus 17 goal difference courtesy of the two aforementioned 7-0 wins.
Arguably the most impressive group stage performance under Klopp came from his 2012-13 Dortmund vintage, who topped a group containing Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax with 14 points and a plus six goal difference, having gone undefeated.
Liverpool’s more controlled approach this season could be seen in their knockout victories over Bayern Munich and Porto, in which they produced two composed first-leg displays before sealing the job in the return fixture.
This was, of course, followed by a Klopp and Anfield special in the stunning comeback against Barcelona in the semi-final as Liverpool overturned a 3-0 first-leg defeat.
In comparison, last season’s knockout stage characterised the gung-ho nature of that Liverpool side, as the Reds blitzed Porto, Manchester City and Roma with big first-leg victories, only to have to endure some nervy moments in the return fixtures against City and Roma.
Klopp’s Dortmund, meanwhile, were given plenty of frights in the earlier rounds of the knockout stages, trailing twice in the first leg against Shakhtar Donetsk before snatching a 2-2 draw before a 3-0 blitz in the second leg and requiring two ludicrous stoppage-time goals to beat Malaga in the quarter-finals.
The first leg of the semi-final saw a Klopp masterclass in a 4-1 thumping of Real Madrid, but they were forced to hang on at the Bernabeu as Los Blancos won 2-0.
If the corresponding league campaigns are anything to go by, this is by far the best team Klopp has taken to a Champions League final.
Liverpool may not have claimed the Premier League title, but they finished on a record 97 points for a second-placed side, just one point behind champions Manchester City.
That tally is 22 points more than last season when City, Manchester United and Tottenham all finished ahead of the Reds.
Klopp’s Dortmund, meanwhile, had a season to forget in Bundesliga, finishing second on 66 points, 25 points behind winners Bayern Munich, who completed a clean sweep of trophies, including victory over Dortmund in the Champions League final.