WATCH: Uefa Champions League - Jurgen Klopp unmoved by 'underdog semi-final' tag as Liverpool prepare to face Roma
Jurgen Klopp savoured the sense of confounding expectations again as he looked to secure the twice-in-a-lifetime achievement of reaching the Uefa Champions League final.
The German, who was a runner-up with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, takes Liverpool into a meeting of surprise semi-finalists against Roma at Anfield on Tuesday night.
While two constants in the latter stages of the competition, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, meet, Liverpool are at this stage for the first time in a decade and Roma the first since 1984.
This has been branded “the underdog semi-final” but Klopp shrugged off that label.
“If anyone thinks we two are underdogs, who cares? We are in the semi-final and we can go to the final," he said. "You will see the excitement of both teams.”
Klopp admitted he was surprised to see Roma progress, adding: “I do understand people think the semi-final would normally be Barcelona against Manchester City but it is not. I came up the stairs at Manchester City and someone told me Roma won 3-0 and I thought that was not possible because it is Barcelona. They have all our respect.”
The Liverpool manager’s optimism meant that he is relishing the occasion. “If you cannot enjoy these moments then there is something wrong with you,” he said. “People talk about pressure or a once-in-a-lifetime chance. If I go to a final, it is the second time in my lifetime and no one thought that was possible.”
Klopp was in relaxed mood, punching the air when the interpreter translated his answer that he would not be a suitable appointment for Serie A clubs because his Italian only extended to ordering spaghetti in a restaurant.
He contradicted himself when pledging to stay at Anfield – “we will see what happens, que sera, sera, but not in the next four years for sure” – and then he instigated a round of applause when the translator faithfully turned a 350-word answer into Italian.
An exile from Italy occupied thoughts, with Mohamed Salah crowned PFA Player of the Year after scoring 41 times in his first season since leaving Roma.
“It is a fantastic achievement,” Klopp said. “When Kevin de Bruyne plays the season he plays, it is even more special. The players know how difficult it is to score that many goals and be involved in that many goals so I really think it is well deserved.”
Klopp said he expects Liverpool’s prolific Egyptian to be marked closely by his former colleagues.
“I am pretty sure the Italian defenders are famous for not having friendly games so I think Mo will feel early in the game that they are not his teammates any more and then he can strike back in a football way,” he said. “It is a normal game but it is quite special. You know more about the other team than you usually do. I had it with Dortmund.”