The Champions League final is just over two weeks away, and former Liverpool stars Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman and Gary McAllister are confident Jurgen Klopp’s team can bring the big trophy trophy back to Anfield against Real Madrid in Kiev.
With the curtain falling on the Premier League season on Sunday, the former Reds were in Dubai as part of “LFC World”, presented by Standard Chartered. The final interactive fan experience of the season will take place at Barasti Beach with viewing party for the Liverpool’s last game of the season against Brighton and Hove Albion on May 13.
New Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, who inspired the Miracle of Istanbul in 2005, will be cheering on the Reds in the final before focusing on his job in Scotland.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance, “ he said. “I wouldn’t say on current form we’ll be going into the game as underdogs at all, although Jurgen and the boys would want to go in as underdogs because it will take that little bit of pressure off. But I think the form they’re in and how they performed in the last two games Roma and the form that the front three players are in, we go in with every confidence we can get the job done.”
“In 2005, we were the underdogs, and rightly so, against a fantastic Milan side, but if you go in with confidence and belief and never give up, I’ve experienced it, it can be done.”
A win or draw against Brighton will guarantee Liverpool a top four spot in the Premier League and Champions League football for next season. Though fans are already looking ahead to the final in Kiev, McManaman is in doubt that Real Madrid’s desire will be no less than Liverpool’s despite winning three of the last titles.
“Real Madrid thrive on this particular tournament,” he said. There’s no way they’ll go into this tournament thinking because we’re more experienced we’re better than Liverpool. Liverpool are a big name across European football, and they are a big name in Madrid. They’ll certainly be ready for it.”
The former England international won the trophy with real Madrid in 2000 and 2002, but he expects the Liverpool supporters to take over Kiev.
“Definitely. Liverpool fans, although they’ll be given 16,000 odd thousand tickets, there’ll be 40,000 in the stadium, easily,” McManaman said. “If you went to Istanbul or you went to Athens… you’ll see there will be more than 16,000 in red.”
McManaman combines his time working with the club around the world with punditry duties, and had a prediction for the World Cup in Russia.
“I think one of the European teams will win it,” he added. “I have no big inkling about it, I just think someone like Spain or France, they’ve got the quality and experience to win, and it’s in a European country of course. In Russia there’ll be a lot of travelling involved, but I think they’re better equipped than Argentina or Brazil at this moment.
He also had words of encouragement for his fellow countrymen.
“I think England will be ok,” said McManaman. “They qualified really well. I don’t think they’ll win it, but I only want to see England play well, do themselves proud. I watched them in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, travelling around, and they were awful. It was a time to forget watching your national team play in different countries.
“But Gareth’s great and the fact that we haven’t got any superstars at the moment, we got Harry Kane but no real big players, that will suit us down to the ground,” he added. “We’ve got a good group and we should qualify and get out of the group stages, and then it’s who you’re going to play. As long as they play well, as long as they play attacking football and I enjoy watching them, that’s all I want really. I don’t want much, I just want to enjoy watching them, cause they haven’t done it for the last eight years.”
McAllister, who will become Steven Gerrard’s assistant at Rangers next season, is keen for Liverpool to wrap up Champions League qualification against Brighton with the minimum of fuss.
“I travelled back with the team after the game in Rome,” McAllister said. “They’re obviously delighted, and they’re excited to get to Kiev, but the overriding thing is that they know the importance. The players moved on to the Chelsea game, obviously the result went against us, but the importance of the Brighton result, all the hard work that’s been done, they can finish that off by getting appositive result. So they know that’s key, and then they’re looking forward to the final, like any footballer should.”
McAllister won the Uefa Cup with Liverpool in 2001 after a famous 5-4 win over Alaves, in which he scored a penalty. Last week’s qualification in Rome brought back memories of Liverpool’s famous European nights.
“There’s so many memories that are associated with a club that has a rich history of winning trophies,” he said. “Flags, and scenes of players going to the flags, sometimes in Olympic-like stadiums with the track, it just evoked a lot of memories. And yes, in Dortmund against Alaves, also I could see the Kenny Dalglish goal at Wembley when Souness put him in, the players going to the fans at Wembley. The game in Paris, the other one in Rome, they’ve got so many.”
McAllister believes that in Kiev, Liverpool will play the only way they know.
“I think they’re be massive respect for Real Madrid, but if you watch Liverpool and you watch Jurgen Klopp’s teams quite closely, you can see that respect and they have a tactic to deal with the opposition, he said. “But they will concentrate more on getting their own performance level up there. We’ll attack, but I think Madrid will do the same, I think it’ll be an open game.
And a final prediction?
“Everybody at this club just wants a Liverpool win,” McAllister said. “If it’s the scruffiest 1-0 win, I’ll take it.”